Bari Weiss, Grimes, the Red Scare lady who wasn’t on Succession, and two more contrarian “feminists” got together, and as with a terrible movie or restaurant for rich people, the only good thing that can come out of it is a well-turned hatchet job review. Fortunately, in this case we get two! Lorraine Ali:
Has the sexual revolution failed?
Five women took to the stage at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday to debate an impossibly broad question with the promise of fireworks for an animated crowd, members of which paid up to $165 a ticket to witness a verbal brawl between cultural provocateurs.
Let’s stop here — one hundred and sixty five dollars to watch what is essentially a not-even-mid live podcast? Jesus Christ. Gotta give Bari this — she is very good about not leaving any sucker’s money on the table.
If you’re looking for smart, incisive, even plain provocative dialogue about those questions, stop reading here. There was little to no daylight between the panelists’ views, and they were tethered by a common goal: calling attention to their own brands by sitting on the shoulders of the very movement that afforded them the freedom to sit on that stage and talk in circles.
As for the contentious viral moments that organizers might have hoped to leverage into financial support, followers or cultural cachet, those never happened. The audience of 1,600-plus, all primed to cheer the speakers’ adversarial views, found less and less to react to as the panel digressed. Rowdy millennials in Camille Paglia T-shirts, stoic middle-aged men in promotional “Free Press” baseball caps and well-groomed seniors in the pricey seats up front instead witnessed a group of like-minded women mostly agreeing with one another. There’s an art to skating on the edge of right-wing rage while pretending to be a nondenominational outsider, a skill Weiss has tried to harness over the years with varying degrees of success. Wednesday’s event was a prime example of what it looks like when the act falls flat.
If there’s anything more depressing than someone paying $165 to watch Politically Incorrect Lives, it’s owning a Camille Paglia t-shirt.
I recommend the whole review, and that goes for Kerry Howley too:
The alt-right’s inchoate longing for sexual repression in the absence of religion remains mysterious. Fifty-six percent of the audience, polled beforehand by text at an event featuring four ambitious women and moderated by a queer married media mogul, agreed that the sexual revolution had “failed.” The debate was drawn from Louise Perry’s book, serviceably titled The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, which takes as its presumed reader an extremely credulous liberal raised up in isolation from any information beyond the feminist blogosphere circa 2004 and who needs to be informed, at truly extraordinary length, that men are, on average, physically stronger than women. Women have been pressured to “fuck like men,” a situation that leaves alpha males very happy but all women depressed, abused, vulnerable, and commodified. If there is nothing here that went unsaid by Kay Hymowitz or Christina Hoff Sommers in the dark heyday of the hookup-culture think piece, at least everything sounds better in a British accent.
Banality is like entropy; everything collapses into it in the end. And so the organization premised on relentless self-congratulation for the capacity to offend leaves us with this: respect mothers. Once, at a transhumanist conference, I listened to a man with magnets in his fingers bemoan the conformism of even those brave enough to radically alter their corporeal selves. The world provides infinite ways to modify the human body, he was saying, but all anyone wants are bigger breasts and bigger muscles. A debate requires a pose, a character, a strong narrative presence separate from the speaker’s well-armored sense of self. It’s a performance, not a reveal; theater, not therapy. What would Paglia say about this soft chthonic inability of four women to disagree with one another? Are we fated to meld into one sensible neoliberal? Faced with infinite choice, will we retreat to the safety of steroids and breast augmentation?
If the “debate” was merely boring, the special guest comedian is one of those guys who think stand-up isn’t so much about “telling jokes” as “being the biggest asshole you can possibly be”:
There was a darkness in the room destined to remain untapped by talk of multigenerational housing. The person reliably in character was Tim Dillon. His targets were the “unhoused” (a word he said just as you imagine he would say it), the Ukrainian people, and trans children. Onstage, he mocked the idea that L.A.’s 70,000 homeless were suffering because of housing policy or the economy. “You’re going to give that guy a job?” he asked, and he began to shake, as if he were a mentally ill person with a tic. The Ace Theater boomed with laughter, a thousand bodies convulsing right back at him, blonde beach waves straight from the dry bar bouncing with mirth. That energy hit the stage. He kept shaking. This was not the sound of “offense,” but its opposite, the release of people hearing something they had long wanted to say, reassuring themselves that they are not culpable for the misery they Lyft beyond. The problem with all this freedom is the problem Khachiyan identifies, the problem that the sadness you feel is your own, and the broken society in which you live is a world your choices shape.
“The Ace Theater boomed with laughter”? You know what — I’m fine with Bari ripping these people off.