Way to go, Daily Beast. Thanks for a slap in search of a story. Stating that actress Diane Lane cannot do any more than smolder because she is “far too sexy” to portray Hillary Clinton in NBC’s upcoming miniseries is like saying the glamorous comedienne Mo’Nique would never be able to pull off her Oscar-winning turn as an abusive mother in Precious. That’s why they call it acting. Never mind the insult to Clinton, since big media misses no opportunity to point out her age, that she is not a swimsuit model or a “babe.” Can we do without one more column that grades women on their looks and nothing else?
Diane Lane is an excellent actress who got robbed the year she was nominated for an Oscar in Unfaithful (no offense, Nicole Kidman). She is now 48 years old, which is about the same age that the biopic would begin Hillary’s story. It would start with – of course — the Lewinsky scandal. Lord knows, we will hear about that until the day we all die. It will make for good theatre, if nothing else. The miniseries will also cover her tenure as NY Senator, Presidential candidate and her years as Secretary of State. And as “Diane Lane/Hillary” ages on camera? Ever heard of makeup?
Lane, after 40 years in the business deserves more respect than to be dismissed for the purpose of selling copy. And Mrs. Clinton, after 40 years of service to her country — whether you like or agree with her or not — does not deserve to be once again dragged into the public square to have her appearance picked apart. And for potential opponents who intend to focus on age-ism as a way to defeat her, baby boomers vote in droves. We have an aging populace, some of whom are just starting second careers in their sixties and seventies. They might not enjoy a narrative telling them it’s time to be put out to pasture.
But even more unfortunate than the Mitch McConnells of the world who refer to Hillary as one of the “Golden Girls,” the fact is a woman, Anna Block, wrote this Daily Beast article – another example of certain women grading themselves and their sisters on appearance first. In 2012, when then-Secretary Clinton sported a longer, less fashionable ‘do,’ complete with “scrunchy,” even women who were big fans of hers could not help but complain: “That hair!” Must every female in public view carry the banner for all womanhood? Not unlike the tale of Goldilocks… the porridge will never be just right. Ms. Block’s emphasis here is not getting us off to a good start. To see what I mean, check out the pictures Daily Beast used to advertise these two ladies. Hmmm….
I am concerned with an accurate portrayal of Hillary Clinton – not by the actress, who is more than capable of this job – but by the producers at NBC whose bias is well known. Will we get an honest depiction of the kind of media coverage she received at their hands in 2008? Or will this be an excuse once again to blame her “terrible campaign” rather than the pundits, male and female, who threw objectivity out the window to “smolder” for their favorite candidate, i.e., not her. This matters because 2008 was the year misogyny was made cool. This behavior, almost uniform throughout TV, print and social media had a devastating effect on millions on the left and right.
We still see the effects of this today. In 2013, it is shocking but not surprising that deregulation-happy Larry “repeal Glass-Steagall” Summers looks to be the frontrunner for the crucial Fed Chair position over the far more qualified, and prescient, current vice Chair, Janet Yellen. Clearly, our battles in fairly considering the possibility of female leadership are not done. Yellen’s case is by no means an anomaly. See Sheila Bair vs. Timmy “turbo tax” Geithner and Jack Lew.
With all due respect to Ms. Block, I would have appreciated a female columnist, particularly one with the reach of The Daily Beast, inquiring whether we will portray the double standard still plaguing women who seek to break past the status quo, rather than wondering if the actress in the role is “frumpy” enough.
What we don’t need, regardless of who is cast to play Hillary Clinton, is a glitz piece bearing little resemblance to the facts of her tenure. NBC’s prior record in this regard makes me distrust that they will get it right.
CNN is likewise funding a biopic to air well in advance of what they hope will be Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run. They are hiring respected documentarian, Charles Ferguson of Inside Job fame, to do the job. That is a hopeful sign. However, as pointed out elsewhere, these networks, obsessed with upping their ratings and knowing that Hillary always sells copy, may unfairly influence this race. It remains to be seen whether it will be to Hillary Clinton’s advantage or detriment, or to that of her potential opponent(s).
Much as 2008’s battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was sensationalized as mortal combat, networks will once again look for their pound of flesh. It would be preferable to focus on qualifications, policy and record, leaving the glamour or the lack thereof in someone’s appearance by the wayside.
Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin, a shocking exposé deconstructing the biased media narrative plaguing women who dare to lead.
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