Well, I guess Santa won’t be leaving less sexist journalism in my Christmas stocking this year.
I wrote a few weeks ago how I was hoping that entertainment journalists might start looking into better interview questions for women now that more female-led superhero movies are slated for release, but apparently legendary interviewer Barbara Walters isn’t going to use her retirement to help that cause. Nah, she’s going to stick with shitty, sexist interviews of women because why contribute something valuable to pop culture when you can just be basic?
That’s right: I called Barbara Walters basic.
Babs’s annual list of her Most Fascinating People was just released, her special airing this past Sunday on ABC. While there is no reason to take issue with the people on the list, here is what she said about choosing accomplished human rights lawyer Amal Clooney as her most fascinating person of the year, emphasis mine:
“How do I introduce her? I guess the question is, ‘What does it take to fascinate one of the most fascinating men in the world?’ She is known primarily through her spouse, and while we know little about her, we know a great deal about him. And he has fascinated many women — especially me.”
So, really, the most fascinating person is George Clooney, but all he did this year was release Monuments Men and get married, so that wouldn’t have made any sense. But, hey! For appearance’s sake, let’s make his wife the most fascinating person! What does she do again? Doesn’t matter. She’s so pretty!
Amal Clooney does plenty of things that make her fascinating and worthy of celebration. As a human rights lawyer, she has worked on behalf of Julian Assange and former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymonshenko and is part of a commission investigating war crimes in the Middle East. She is an actual international crime fighter and a movie should be made about her life, and she hasn’t even hit 40 yet. Amal Clooney is fucking amazing. She was amazing when she was Amal Alamuddin and she will continue to be amazing, and it has nothing to do with who she married. In fact, her being so amazing is probably why George Clooney married her.
But aside from my irritation over Walters’s pandering to the bored housewives of America, she has made me agree with someone writing sarcastically on fucking RedState.org and I can barely stand myself:
That’s all it takes, folks, for a woman to be the most fascinating person of the year. Just marry the right man. See how much feminism has changed things.
But Walters’s marshmallow fluff piece doesn’t stop there. Scarlett Johansson was also on the “most fascinating” list and rightly so. She proved that Marvel’s audiences were ready for a movie that starred a female superhero when she co-starred in Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year; that was half a Captain America movie, half a Black Widow movie. But she also headlined Under the Skin and Lucy, establishing herself as a legitimate action lead beyond the Marvel Universe. Johansson is incredibly fun to watch and one of the most entertaining actors working today. She has a great sense of humor and is probably just a few years away from a role that will get her some big, shiny awards.
So what did Barbara Walters ask her about during her interview?
“Did you mind being thought of as ‘sex, sex, sex’?… Do you like your body?… Any parts you don’t like?”
Awesome. Thank you, Barbara. I’m going to ask my great-aunt which vibrator she recommends, and then I’m going to develop an eating disorder just to live with myself.
Interestingly enough, Walters introduces this interview saying that Johansson keeps things “close to the vest” when it comes to her personal life, so I guess that’s an indication that the interview should totally start with questions about the actress’s personal life: her engagement and marriage, which was secret, and her infant daughter, who I’m guessing declined a request to be interviewed.
I get it. I know that Barbara Walters is not about going for the hard-hitting questions when she does these specials. This is a woman who asked Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she thought she was. (Hepburn was actually the one who kinda-sorta prompted that question.) But since she’s post-retirement and has nothing to lose, can’t Babs just go ‘nads to the wall and do better? She couldn’t get Moammar Gadhafi to look her in the eye when she interviewed him. This just seems lazy. Even George W. Bush is doing something interesting with his retirement (if you consider painting doggies interesting). Can’t Barbara Fucking Walters do better than this? YES (mostly). But she’s choosing not to. She’s choosing Basic Journalism. And that’s infuriating because this is when we could use some old school journalistic tenacity.
RELATED: Believe me, I know there are much bigger problems with journalism (and pretend journalism) when it concerns covering women and that only strengthens my argument for better journalism.