Quote of the day...

"The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it" - Ayn Rand

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nora Ephron: Miserablist

"why would someone so talented with words, so capable of expressing truth in the most comical and beautiful ways write such a horrendously insulting parody of Condoleeza Rice?"

I try very hard not to resort to name calling when having a disagreement, and to respect the opinions of every one who feels compelled to express them. It's not always easy. Being a conservative / libertarian in Boston, I am often outnumbered when it comes to discussions revolving around the fine, and not so fine, points of US policy, local government, and social issues. However, somehow I have managed to never attempt to win or end a discussion or disagreement with an insult. In return, I have had more than my fair share of nastiness thrown at me, even by my good friends (often, the final "insult" is to shut down after something like "you're just a Republican! so what's the use?"). Sadly, I have lost friends simply because my pro-capitalist philosophy happens to be more oft in agreement with the Republican agenda than with that of the Democrats.

That being said, most of my friends are equally respectful of my views, and I daresay I have helped them see the world from a different point of view.

Again, it is not easy to take the “high-road” and not to resort to the sort of name-calling that seems to come so easily to most of the talking heads on TV. It is very difficult at times. But I make it work. I refuse. And I grow a little stronger every time I don’t give in to such childish behavior.

However, there are certain people who exhibit such a lack of restraint, such an intellectual void that causes them to transcend normal, civil discourse that I can’t help but believe that they are intent making everyone as miserable as they are. For the purposes of this blog, a Miserablist is someone who seems like a rational, reasonable person, who has exhibited true talent in communication, but who is unable to support their ideas and opinions without insulting someone.

In my mind the term “Miserablist” is not an insult. It is a description.

Nora Ephron is responsible for many wonderful, funny, and touching films and books- her contribution to “When Harry Met Sally” has earned her my gratitude forever! So why would someone so talented with words, so capable of expressing truth in the most comical and beautiful ways write such a horrendously insulting parody about Condoleeza Rice? You can read “Condi’s Diary” here.

In short, it portrays the Secretary of State as an air-head, totally unaware of her own culpability in the current war, as well as her own achievements within the current administration. She is “drawn” with the intellectual capacity of a 12 year-old. When one of her “rivals”, Harriet Myers submits her registration, Ephron’s Condi is euphoric: “A big victory pour moi. They forced her out. Goodbye Harriet, good riddance to you and your royal blue suit” Of course, Ms Ephron does not dare to try to explain why Condi would consider this a victory. So we are left to assume that Nora knows best and it must be funny!

After an exchange where Nancy Pelosi asked Madam Secretary what personal sacrifice they (both Pelosi and Rice) would be making for this war since they could not offer their children or husbands (I’m being nice!), we are treated to this: “…[Karl Rove and Tony Snow] were calling to ask about what Barbara Boxer said to me at the hearing. I felt so dumb, Dear Diary. It turned out she had really insulted me, but I was so busy wrinkling my forehead I hadn't really clocked it.”

Huh? Condoleeza Rice sincerely and elegantly avoids distraction from the discussion, and Nora draws her as too stupid to realize when she is being insulted.

There is much more, but you can read for yourself.

How does a respected journalist, screenwriter, author, director, etc, use her talents in such a horrendously childish way? Envy? Ephron graduated from Wellesley, a fine school. However Rice earned her PhD and won several prestigious awards when she was Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. Her accomplishments are too many to list here, but you can see the full list here. I don’t think any of these accomplishments and contributions are greater than Ephron’s.

So why would someone with so much talent use such a vile vehicle to dress down such an accomplished woman?

I think it’s quite clear. Insults in the guise of comedy cause the audience to lose focus. It’s easy to make a point without backing it up if the reader is laughing or appalled. Clearly Ms. Ephron does not have the intellectual gravitas to truly stand up to the (outstanding, in my humble opinion) Secretary of State.

Nora Ephrom- This week's Miserablist.


GCL said...

First, thanks for the visits and posts on my blog. Second, where's your sense of humor?

Nora Ephron's piece is hilarious --clearly no one thinks of Condi as a silly 12 year old. Close your eyes and for a second you'd almost buy the war, and magic beans from her. Such is the power of her speech.

This isn't an attack on Condi -- it's an attack on her politics. And a really lighthearted one at that.

Loosen up.

James Henry Bailey said...


I do have a sense of humor. I promise! And perhaps if this had been played out on a Saturday Night Live skit, I would have found it funny. But only if the actors and writers had infused it with real mannerisms of Ms. Rice, which in turn would make it a true parody.
Parody and political satire require great skill. Just because Nora Ephron wrote this, does not make it funny. She failed in writing a satire and only succeeded in writing a cruel parody.

But this was not a skit on SNL, or The Daily Show, or any such venue. It was presented in the context of a political blog among dozens of serious and thoughtful writers. In fact, if almost anyone else would have posted Condi's Diary, I would not have given it a second thought. I would have chalked it up to yet another Bush Admin. hater who is unable to support their assertions with facts, so they resort to such childish measures.

The real problem I have with her post is that Nora Ephron is fully capable of expressing herself as an artist, without lowering her form to such nastiness. I am confident that she would never have been so flippant about Madeleine Albright. And if Rush Limbaugh had written the exact same thing about Albright, he would have been vilified instantly, and rightfully, because it relies on sexist stereotypes to depict a remarkable, strong woman.

Any object of art must be viewed as an extension of the artist's morals (and Nora Ephron is an artist). I'm afraid in this case, Ms Ephron exposed her blinding hatred of the current administration with a cheap, inartistic shot.

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