Monday, February 16, 2015

Feelings journalism

Joyce Wadler says here exactly what I was trying to get at here, only better. The difference between sophisticated, sex-positive (Dan Savage-approved) entertainment and mainstream may be overstated. More on this later, perhaps elsewhere.

Katie Johnson, meanwhile, offers supporting evidence for the phenomenon Amanda Hess discussed, wherein the "50 Shades of Grey" franchise relies on the hate-fandom of people whose hate-enjoyment comes from setting themselves apart from the "constructed Other of the ‘vanilla’ housewife," as some "50 Shades" scholarship (cue the CCOA outrage that such a thing exists) brilliantly if jargonishly puts it.

Johnson's review of the new movie is feelings journalism taken to the extreme. Based on the fact that her fellow movie-goers were wearing sequined clothing and various observations (or stereotyped assumptions, it's unclear) about the town where she saw the film, she projects all kinds of attitudes onto the audience:

If you’re going to spend two plus hours watching one dimensional characters act out the not so nuanced fetishes of handcuffs and ass slapping, you might as well go somewhere where you can enjoy the show around you. 
In our case, that show consisted primarily of women. Most had come in groups, presumably to dilute their feelings of guilt and embarrassment, while others had their submissives – er, boyfriends – in tow.
 Emphasis mine. It continues:
We opted out of the Valentine’s Day weekend screenings because we weren’t interested in seeing conservative couples taking note on how to spice up their holy sanctioned marriages. Instead we showed up on a Thursday night, opening night, because we wanted to see the die hards; the fans who felt obliged to see their unspoken favorite series brought to the big screen, the ones who left the kids at home and told their husbands they were at book club.
These details - the spicing of marriages, the book-club evasions, are things Johnson has, by all accounts, made up. Not "made up" in the Scandal In Journalism sense, but made up in the unhelpful-speculation one. It's one thing to say something like this to set the scene (and if an author wishes to situate herself as hipper-than-thou, I mean, it can work, but it's dicey, given the YPIS accusations it invites), and another to spend an entire piece attributing views to a group of people you haven't interviewed, based on what they seemed as if they might be thinking. It makes me think of the thing in - allow me a mass-market moment here - Gone Girl, where Nick and his sister - both back home in Missouri after stints in NY - decide to call their bar The Bar, ironically, thinking their cleverness will go over the heads of the rustic locals. It does not.

But back to Johnson's review. There's more along these lines - e.g., "I spent the majority of a sex scene involving whips watching the 60-year- old man behind me stare open eyed and open mouthed as his wife held his hand" - but this was the clincher:
[J]udging by the enrapt faces of the audience members, something told me they could have cared less about the emotional complexities of Anastasia and Christian’s relationship. I looked around the room during the the film’s raciest moments and registered looks of secret acknowledgment and endearing shock. They were completely absorbed by acts that are never discussed in casual conversation, or not in Mesa anyway.
Now, one might point out that Wadler's piece, which I thought was fabulous, is also the product of the author's imagination. Both pieces are examples of fiction in journalism. But... we're not meant to actually believe Wadler had an encounter with "a young woman on an ice floe." Whereas Johnson's presenting her speculation as fact.

No comments: