Monday, October 5, 2009

Other People's Sex Lives

Posted by Fraulein

Ever since then-President Clinton was practically burned at the stake by our highly-principled news media for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, I've been fascinated by the pull that this type of adultery story seems to exhibit. I totally understand the concern that a person in a position of power could abuse that position to demand sexual favors from staff members. If that had been the case with Clinton, then yes, my journalistic instincts tell me that would have been a story. But with a willing, adult-age partner, where is the story? A guy cheated on his wife? These things do happen. Dog bites man. Not a story.

I've been reminded of all this in reading the tons of ink spilled on the David Letterman adultery story. Unless I’ve missed something, it doesn’t seem that any of the women Letterman apparently slept with have accused him of demanding sex in return for job perks or promotions or continued employment. Nobody is saying he preyed on underage staffers. So why the hell does anyone care? Did the guy break any laws? If not, why does the media feel inclined to beat this story to death? I guess in this case the answer is the same as it usually is: this story is being over-covered because it’s an easy story to cover. (Our media is nothing if not lazy.) There’s ready-made video with Dave’s noteworthy on-air discussion of the events, in an effort to take control of the narrative from the guy trying to blackmail him. And as much as we love our celebrities in America, we love seeing them beaten down even more. A humiliated celebrity is far better news fodder than a famous person on top of the world.

That said, I find the Associated Press’ hand-wringing in the above-linked story quite interesting. What must Dave do to keep women viewers, the AP wonders? Speaking as a (sigh) middle-aged married woman, I have to say that nothing about this whole thing bothers me, aside from the media’s over-reaction to it. Letterman’s sex life concerns me precisely as much as Bill Clinton’s sex life concerned me back in the 1990s: not one goddamn bit. Why shouldn’t I keep watching Letterman’s show? Don’t I have more pressing things to worry about? How immature am I supposed to be, exactly?

The last thing I want to waste time worrying about is other people’s legal, consensual sexual activities. Period. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. But the media will never admit that most people simply don’t care about this stuff.

Cross-posted at Purple Ink


Broadway Carl said...

Excellent post, Fraulein.

I let this non-story go without comment because I feel the same exact way. Who cares? And I'm glad you have the same exact perspective I have despite being of the opposite gender.

I had a discussion with a good friend and co-worker who was actually upset about it. He felt betrayed by Letterman, who makes a living mocking others caught in similar situations. He went on further to explain that when Clinton was caught, he really didn't care after the years long witch hunt to find anything on him (Whitewater, Vince Foster "murdered", etc.) and was questioning why he had a double standard. Perhaps age was a factor back then, or that he was single during the Clinton years but married now.

The blackmail attempt was the real story, with Letterman participating in a sting with police for the better part of a month. I felt the adultery wasn't really a story because although Letterman would poke fun at someone that was caught in a similar situation (blackmail excluded), it was never a matter of being holier than thou, like Larry "Wide Stance" Craig who is "not a homosexual", or David "Big Boy Diapers" Vitter, or Mike "Let My Dad Pay You Off" Ensign, and the list goes on and on.

All those Family Values, Moral Majority hypocrites made themselves targets because they think their shit doesn't stink. Letterman knows everyone has to wipe their own ass, and in my opinion, it really does make a difference.

Fraulein said...

This is the thing -- in this case, I suppose there actually was one newsworthy angle -- the extortion attempt. But to write a story on this aspect of it without dragging in all the other details just requires more subtlety than most journalists these days seem to be capable of.

And, in fairness, it is a tough juggling act. It's not like you could write the story without mentioning Letterman's affairs at all. But for a skilled writer, it IS possible to avoid injecting this "holier than thou" tone, and making it sound like the affairs themselves are or should be worthy of concern by anyone other than Letterman's wife. This is the part I object to in the coverage of this whole thing. SUCH deja vu to the Clinton years!

NowhereMan said...

Celebrities,be they talk show host,actors or athletes are should be judged solely based on what they do in their profession.People who obsess over them really should get a life which is the reason I no longer buy a newspaper.Newspapers no longer cover the news.They are just gossip tabloids which have led to the ever increasing dumbing down of our nation.Unfortunately,we have become a country that talks more about the gossip page than anythimng thats discussed on NPR.I will agree though,I love it when morality preaching politicians or the Ted Haggerts of the world are caught in moral or financial scandals.I never get tired of reading that.