EPISODE 127: HOLLYWOOD CHEAPSKATES
Published January 12, 2018
Aminatou: Holler! I'm back, baby. [Laughs]
Ann: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Aminatou: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Ann: I'm Ann Friedman.
Aminatou: And I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: Whew, new year, new order. How're you feeling? [Laughs]
Aminatou: You know, I feel great. The only thing I've achieved today is making a sandwich and going to therapy so all in all, great.
Ann: Those are big achievements. They're, you know, there are many days when many people in the world do not achieve those two things.
Aminatou: [Laughs] It's true. It's true. Just going to therapy every week, it's life-changing as they say.
Ann: On this week's agenda we discuss red carpet activism and grapple with the prospect of Oprah 2020, plus this week in menstruation free tampons for students in Illinois and California.
Ann: Are you like out of holiday chill mode or are you still in TV binging mode?
Aminatou: Girl, first of all those two things are not exclusive. [Laughs]
Ann: I really -- I was projecting there. I'm sorry.
Aminatou: Yeah. I love that you're like, you know, for us other kinds of people usually when we watch television it's because there's downtime in the world global order. So I was telling you earlier that I've been super homesick and the way that I've been dealing with that is by watching Jacques Cousteau documentaries. [Laughs] And honestly, Ann, it's been very healing. So the documentaries have been great but I watched Silent World, the movie.
Male: To make this film they roamed deep under the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean in a mysterious realm, the silent world.
Aminatou: It's like a Jacques Cousteau [0:03:36] movie and I think it's like 1956 and it's the first time anybody did like underwater cinematography. I mean it's a documentary but it's kind of terrible. It's like you can't take humans anywhere. Like I remember watching it as a child and I was like oh my god, this is great. And now I'm watching it as an adult and I'm like why are these people chucking sticks of dynamite in the water? Why are they being such assholes to the local ecosystem? You literally cannot take humans anywhere. If you get tired of watching Life Aquatic over and over again, watch . . . we're the real source.
Ann: Two things to say to that. I've been eagerly waiting for Blue Planet 2 to be widely available in America. I think it's happening in a few weeks. Also while you were talking I admit I just had to do a Google search for Jacques Cousteau creeper to make sure that there were no skeletons that we left unacknowledged.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Oh, man, that would've been really hard for me because Jacques Cousteau is definitely a childhood hero.
Ann: Well, this is the Google that we have to do.
Aminatou: I know! It's the Google that you have to do all the time. But you know what, though? I was talking to one of my little cousins recently who I was trying to explain Jacques Cousteau to him and he was like "I know, I know." He's like "Your generation was raised on Jacques Cousteau. I was raised on Attenborough so the production values are higher." [Laughs]
Ann: The Attenborough generation.
Aminatou: I was like oh, I love my little French cousin so much! He's right, it's like Jacques Cousteau narration is 10 out of 10 but David Attenborough production values are unbeatable.
Ann: It's true, but do we really give David Attenborough credit for those production values? I feel like that win goes to the BBC, I won't lie.
Aminatou: Yeah, it also just goes to it's not 1956.
Aminatou: At the bottom of the ocean. I'm going to give that win to technology and progress. But, you know, poor Jacques Cousteau. He really thought we were going to be living in water world. I was watching all these old interviews with him and he was telling Time Magazine in the '60s how one day we're going to take a pill so we can live underwater or whatever. And I was like sir, our phones don't even work correctly. No.
Ann: I mean a lot of futurist predictions from the mid-20th century are kind of laughable, both land and sea-wise, you know?
Aminatou: I know.
Ann: Like the idea that we're going to be on hoverboards and also living underwater.
Aminatou: Yeah. My only futurist prediction is one day we're going to get a tortilla chip that does not break under the weight of the guacamole you need to put on top of it.
Ann: Wow. Cue the sounds of thousands of listeners furiously emailing you about their favorite chips that withstand a chunky guacamole.
Aminatou: Yeah, don't tell me about any of those ones that look like baskets. No thank you.
Aminatou: You know what I'm talking about?
Aminatou: How now they have all these chips that look like chip receptacles.
Ann: Oh, yeah.
Aminatou: Like what are those things called? Those things make me so angry.
Ann: Yeah, basically if your scoop technique is not already on-point.
Aminatou: Yes, scoops. They're called scoops. Those things. [Laughs]
Ann: Innovations we didn't need.
Aminatou: Yeah. I'm just like make a battery that works. Let Jacques Cousteau -- people live under the water.
Ann: Yeah, Jacques Cousteau was like we're all going to live underwater and somebody else is like we're going to have hoverboards and in reality all we have is rampant sexism, racism, and some scoops.
Aminatou: I know, and iPhones that don't work. It's crazy.
Ann: Oh my god, it's so true. We can't even go down that path. I'm ending that there. We can't talk about that.
Aminatou: Okay, so that's literally what's going on with me, therapy, Jacques Cousteau, and that's it. Tell me about the news, Ann. What's going on?
Ann: Well I did have a moment. I was out at an event-type thing that was running concurrently with the Golden Globes and someone was like "Aren't the Golden Globes happening right now?"
Aminatou: Ann, what event runs at the same time as the Golden Globes?
Ann: Jibz Cameron/Dynasty Handbag's Weirdo Night?
Ann: Which is an unmissable comedic tour de force variety show if you ever find yourself in Los Angeles. I endorse it. But I was talking to someone there and they were like "Well . . ." And I said something about how I don't mind missing it because it's not my thing to watch in real-time. And they were like "Well, isn't your podcast going to talk about it?" As if it's somehow impossible to not watch in real-time in 2018 and then still see the clips of everything interesting that happened. I was like no, I'm just going to let . . .
Aminatou: See the highlights.
Ann: Exactly. The Internet's going to curate for me everything that I need to know about this multi-hour award show broadcast, and indeed it did.
Aminatou: It did. Also you know how I hate award shows so much. I think I'm turning into a Republican 100%. My gripe against award shows is they're bad because it's like going to somebody else's work party. Like you don't want to be there. It doesn't matter how fun the party is, you're like this is not my chosen career. I don't need to be here. But this year they were especially bad because we were accepting celebrities and the idiots who wrangle red carpets to talk about harassment and gender pay gap and whatever and I literally . . . I watched the E! Red Carpet Show because all I care about are the outfits. I don't watch the actual show. So I knew I wasn't watching the actual show. Also that shit starts at 8 p.m. I am not staying up that late. No thank you. But I was watching the Red Carpet Show and I literally led at my TV "Stick to acting!" and I was like is this how Republicans feel all the time? This is not okay.
Ann: It's a hard thing for me, the expectation that because you are famous for acting or for whatever, directing or doing something like that, that you will also be a great political spokesperson. As we have seen time and time again people want to use their platforms and that's great, and honestly in the modern era who has a bigger platform than people who are famous for doing things that have nothing to do with politics? But also oh my god. The expectations that were heaved upon the red carpet this year were just like what do you expect? What do you expect to really happen as a result of a kind of . . .
Ann: At the end of the day a pretty minor visual show of solidarity which I am happy to see that, but also keep your priorities in check about what you think is going to happen as a result.
Aminatou: Okay, I mean keep your priorities in check but also let's go through it. First of all when I'm kind we're banning red carpet shows. They're so inherently sexist, there's no redeeming them. People think oh, you know, there's this hashtag that was going around a couple years ago that was literally like #AskHerMore, which was asking actresses about more than who they're wearing.
Ann: Right. Who taped their boobs and airbrushed their arms? Yeah.
Aminatou: Right. Yeah, it's like do more than the mani camera or whatever. There are no redeeming red carpet shows. We're literally asking people to go up to a step-and-repeat and we're judging them by how they look. It's not going to end well. Nobody cares about what you're there to do. So this year a couple of actresses brought activists with them, and on one hand I was like wow, it's really cool to see Ai-jen Poo and Tarana Burke and all these women walking the red carpet.
Ann: Wait, you mean MacArthur genius Ai-jen Poo brought an actress with her? Amazing!
Aminatou: Yes, MacArthur genius Ai-jen Poo brought -- I don't know if you know her, Meryl Streep, she's not very famous -- with her as her date. But at the same time it looks very weird to see all of these white women with women of color accessories with them. I was like I know what you're trying to do and it's very noble but it's very fucked up that bringing up activists . . . you know, it just looked like accessorizing. And so that made me feel a little uneasy. And also clearly Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic and the rest of their colleagues are not equipped to talk about anything beyond "Who are you wearing? What color are your nails? Who was more popular in high school, you or Ansel Elgort?" They don't know how to do anything else. And so . . . [Laughs]
Ann: Literally just stating the name of the actor standing in front of them.
Aminatou: Yeah, they are not . . . and sometimes I'm like you know what? This is exactly who Hollywood deserves to ask them questions are these airheads but at the same time it was like this new movement the women of Hollywood have started, Time's Up, is on its face a really good initiative and it looks great and there's so much support. But at the same time seeing people wearing the Time's Up pin who you know for a fact are either harassers or are people who aid and abet harassers makes you feel a little sick.
Ann: Yeah. I feel like . . .
Aminatou: I think about how if Harvey Weinstein hadn't gotten caught he would be in that room in a tuxedo wearing a Time's Up pin, you know what I'm saying?
Ann: Oh, absolutely.
Aminatou: And he would've given them a lot of money. So I don't know, it's hard because on one hand when people do good things we should reward them but also it's very hard to get famous people to do good things in a really transparent and smart way. Like all of the women were supposed to wear black on the red carpet. And I was like great, you guys are supposed to look like you're going to a funeral but make it chic. So I don't know. The cognitive dissonance of all of that, you know? And I kept thinking, I was like maybe the revolutionary thing would be not to walk the red carpet or not to go to the award show. But at the same time it's like this is . . .
Ann: Or to go in like a black burlap sack without doing a bunch of makeup.
Aminatou: Right. Handmaids. Handmaids, right?
Ann: That's the real Time's Up. You don't get to look at my body in the same way anymore.
Aminatou: Totally. Totally. But at the same time, you know, it's like I also have to check my own impulse where I'm like actually this is your job and this is how you make money and this is how you support your family and this is what you like to do and you shouldn't not enjoy that because there are assholes who work with you. And also characteristically only the women were expected to have done things and know things. Like all of the men were wearing pins -- the Time's Up pin -- but the red carpet people never asked them what the pin was for.
Ann: Oh, yeah.
Aminatou: It was just like this understood . . . it's like yes, ending harassment is women's labor. Have you heard?
Ann: Yeah. And I think that goes to part of my feeling about it, which I really would love for there to be some kind of gatekeeper sometimes for things like this where it's like okay, actually there is a body, like the organizing body of this movement, when it's something concrete like this. When it's clearly something that people in a specific industry are doing, the people who are leading that effort get to decide who gets to publicly rep it. I mean this is different than something like feminism or, you know, anti-racist work that's a broader ideological. This is a very specific movement that in all the statements they've made have specific aims. So I'm like okay, what if the people in that room had said if you wear this pin these are the things that you agree to do, and if you want to wear this pin come get it from us? So that way James Franco doesn't have a pin on if you do not endorse sliding into very young women's DMs frequently. That way actors who have worked with Woody Allen don't get to wear a pin if you don't . . . and there's a thing about that where I don't think that all movements need to be policed like that but I do think in a scenario like this when presumably part of the goal is having people speak eloquently about this issue and about what needs to happen it's totally acceptable to say we're only allowing people who share our specific values to rep this specific effort within a movement.
Aminatou: I know. It's so weird to watch all these actors who have worked with Woody Allen like Greta Gerwig and Justin Timberlake and so many of them not be able to defend that choice personally but want to be part of the bandwagon of ending harassment, which I believe they're sincere about, but nobody ever wants to interrogate personal beliefs. It makes it really hard, you know? And right before the award show Dylan Farrow was tweeting and reading her tweets it was really hard to take. I was like here is a person actually that is incredibly graceful and gracious and really kind in the face of people telling her that they don't believe her story.
Ann: Right. Completely. And also, you know, it's always there. I think that's one of those things that I am always thinking about Dylan Farrow when I watch these actors squirm and kind of half-answer questions about their involvement with him. Did you happen to read the Washington Post story about Woody Allen's archive?
Aminatou: Yes. Oh my gosh, tell the people. Ugh.
Ann: So the journalist Richard Morgan read all of the boxes -- 57 years' worth, 56 boxes, wow that's confusing -- in the Woody Allen archive which is at Princeton. Apparently according to the article no one has ever sat down and read through everything in its totality, but basically it just shows a pattern of him sexualizing teen girls, a lot of drafts of stories that say originally had a super-sexualized teen protagonist maybe written up to age 18 at the time it was published, and just this idea too and I think we've seen this with a lot of men who have been brought up on charges of being a creep and way, way worse recently is the behavior is kind of out in public. You know, looking at all of his art it's not like oh, weird, we didn't see it coming. No one could've guessed. It's actually 100% baked into everything that he's produced.
Aminatou: Right. It's like the signs have been there all along.
Ann: I think also in the case of Woody Allen in particular it's perceived as complicated because it is a family matter. Like I think a lot of the half-assed responses I've seen have framed it as some kind of like . . . the way he spun it, as like a divorce drama with Mia Farrow or the idea of it being kind of like a private fight that they shouldn't get involved in whereas some of these other men who have been accused of bad behavior and identified as doing terrible things have done it in the context of work. And so I've seen some people try to write it off for that reason. And for me I'm like this is just as bad. It's horrible in a different way.
Aminatou: This is awful. It's awful, you know? And it honestly just makes you wish that somebody would be like "Actually I'm very aesthetically-aligned with Woody Allen. I think it would benefit my career to do this movie and I don't give a shit about survivors of sexual assault and that's why I'm doing this movie."
Aminatou: Like I would find that so much more refreshing and easier to deal with than people who purport to care but refuse to examine their own behavior. And to be clear there are always situations that all of us get into that are like that, but I think your point about thinking about Dylan Farrow a lot is really important because she has told her story consistently for years at great coast and she does it again in this way that it makes you feel so ashamed to not be on the right side of the story with her, you know?
Aminatou: It's just so fucked up that we live in a world where you can be like hi -- like show up at the work award show and say that you care about women's issues and then here is one woman who is literally asking you to believe her and telling you her story and you're like "Sorry, don't care."
Ann: Yeah, and I think also about Ellen Page's statement about having deeply regretted working with him which Dylan Farrow has cited as something that she was happy to see. You know, not someone -- you know, you don't have to disavow your entire career to say "I'm sorry and I wish I had made a different choice."
Gina: So in the time since Amina and Ann recorded this episode the actress Mira Sorvino published an open letter to Dylan Farrow in the Huffington Post condemning Woody Allen and that grapples with the kind of double-thinking that allowed her to work with Woody Allen as a young actress and this is her attempt to own up to both her past actions and her belief in Dylan in solidarity going forward. "I am so sorry, Dylan. I cannot begin to imagine how you felt all these years as you watched someone called out as having hurt you as a child, a vulnerable little girl in his care, be lauded again and again including by me and countless others in Hollywood who praised him and ignored you. As a mother and a woman this breaks my heart for you. I am so, so sorry.
We are in a day and age when everything must be reexamined. This kind of abuse cannot be allowed to continue. If this means tearing down all the old gods, so be it. The cognitive dissonance, the denial and cowardice that spare us painful truths and prevent us from acting in defense of innocent victims while allowing 'beloved' individuals to continue their heinous behavior must be jettisoned from the bottom of our souls. Even if you love someone, if you learn they may have committed these despicable acts they must be exposed and condemned and this exposure must have consequences. I will never work with him again. I am sorry that it has taken me a few weeks to come out in support of you," since a conversation she had with Ronan Farrow, Dylan's brother, "but it has been a process for me to own this truth and make this irrevocable break. I send you love and inclusion and admiration for your courage all this time. I believe you. I'm grateful to you and admire your integrity and bravery. One woman who has had to stand virtually alone all these years, speaking her painful truth. You're a true hero and I stand with you. In gratitude and solidarity, Mira Sorvino."
Ann: And I think that like one thing I've been thinking about is how many of these stars who continue to work with him don't need him anymore. That's the other thing. It's like . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, when has a Woody Allen movie made somebody's career in the last, I don't know, like 20 years?
Ann: Well, and I think there are also stars who are continuing to use it as a way to go from being lesser-known, or in kind of a pop realm, to be Hollywood respected or something like that. And I don't think that that's the right choice either even for them but I do think that as you say it's understandable to say look, I want to do this because everyone who is advising me and all these people who are invested in my career said I had to. But at this point there's no . . . the majority of people who have remained silent about him, it's like Kate Winslet doesn't need Woody Allen. She doesn't lose anything by saying she regrets . . .
Aminatou: Right. Cate Blanchett doesn't need Woody Allen.
Ann: Yeah. Yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah, I mean none of them. None of them do. It's just very disappointing. It's like remembering whatever that award show was a couple years ago when Meryl Streep was on her feet clapping for Roman Polanski and the many times she's called him a genius or whatever. It's like I think about that so much and I'm just . . . there are ways that you can support the terrible people in your life without making these public displays that make everybody else feel like shit, and it's so fascinating and depressing to see how famous people do not seem to understand that.
Ann: I really do vacillate though between thinking like -- and this kind of goes back to the deeper argument about celebrity feminism or whatever in general, of is it useful on a really, really low level of encouraging some people who have not engaged with this to have a conversation for the first time? Or to understand who the Domestic Workers Alliance are and who Ai-jen Poo is. Does that greater benefit outweigh the meaningless posturing that is people who protect Woody Allen wearing this pin, and you know . . .
Aminatou: I'm going to say something really shitty, but I think celebrity feminism is just posturing. Like I can't think of one example of a thing that celebrity feminism has made better that wasn't already . . . either was not independently getting there in the mainstream or wasn't bolstered by a different kind of media. I just literally cannot think of one thing that celebrity feminism has done.
Ann: I come down on it a little differently which is that I do think that a pipeline is important, from like a super mainstream "I'm not engaged at all with issues of equality," to "I'm actually working actively to change the status quo."
Aminatou: But I guess what I'm saying is I think that that pipeline is only for famous women. I don't believe that anybody who is not famous looks at a famous woman and goes "Hmm, it's cool to be a feminist now," and then decides to do it. That's an argument that's really hard for me to see.
Ann: Yeah, I don't think that happens either singularly but I actually do think the very fact that celebrities are basically bandwagon creatures -- you know, once something is safe and kind of starting to become more of a norm, that's when they get onboard. That does have an effect of saying like I do think about sometimes when I was a teenager if it was 100% normalized to use a term like feminism and to think about the political implications of your actions, or at least pretend like you're going to, right? Like baby steps. First steps. Maybe I would've been quicker to adopt that term and to live in a way that was more feminist earlier on or something. I really don't like . . . I don't know.
Aminatou: I think you watched just enough Murphy Brown that you were a feminist.
Ann: Listen, but what if Murphy Brown -- anyway, whatever, we cannot go down my special tinder Murphy Brown rabbit hole. [Laughs]
Aminatou: No, you know, listen, I obviously think that it's very important that women in Hollywood identify as feminist and know how to say that for professional reasons. But I think when you think about the activism that famous women do, after Jane Fonda I just honestly cannot think of one of them that has had an impact. And that's not . . . like I know it sounds really uncharitable and like a shitty thing to say, but it's not. Your industry writ large does not really embrace equality and doesn't really embrace people being independent thinkers and whatever, so a lot of people are shy about talking about your politics. So you just get this cocktail of people who don't really want to tell you what they're thinking. But at the same time I'm just like for all of the money that they have, look at the Time's Up initiative specifically. If you look at the breakdown of how the donations happen it's really fascinating because it's like some of the big agencies gave a million dollars each or two million dollars and then you have these individual celebrities who are giving donations as small as $500 or $1,000, which whatever. How you handle your giving is your own problem, you know?
Ann: That's like the equivalent of me buying an extra latte.
Aminatou: Yeah, but you know what I'm saying? I'm like I give more than a thousand dollars in charitable contributions every year. Hold on, let me pull up my investigative document right here.
Ann: I thought you were going to pull up your own investing receipts. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Because I'm going to name some names, you know? It's like Michelle Williams, $500. And I'm like Michelle Williams, you were in a Roman Polanski movie. Jude Law, $500.
Ann: Reparations are much higher than that.
Aminatou: You're in a Woody Allen movie. Greta Gurwig, $3000. Come on, girl. Rebecca Hall, $1000. Aziz Ansari, $5,000. Amy Poehler, $10,000. Andy Sandberg, Joanna Newsom, $10,000. I'm like you guys are a couple. You can give more money than that. Also you gave Mike Tyson, convicted rapist, a role in your thing. Charity is charity, thank you for giving your money, but at the same time it's just like are you serious? Is this what we're talking about here? So for me it's a confluence of you don't really put your money where your mouth is. You are somehow too witless to talk about something that matters with any kind of nuance. There's just no benefit of the doubt there where I'm like hmm, I just don't see it. I think one thing that really rich people can do if they don't know how to talk about issues is give money and when they're giving paltry sums of money it's like well, I don't know that you're having any kind of impact.
Ann: Yeah. And then I think that that goes back to what does it mean to affiliate with this movement? What is the threshold? Because part of me is like if it's a celebrity-led movement, you're right, the minimum buy-in is a lot higher than $500. Trying to set . . . there are lots of movements to join as a civilian who is not a multimillionaire who wants to indicate which side of this issue they are on. It's like if this is specifically about mobilizing Hollywood you need to have some different criteria. Set the criteria.
Aminatou: Whew, it's just like it's tough. It's tough, it's tough. What are you going to do?
Ann: I don't know. And all of that said, it's like it's really . . . I will be really curious. Like let's not forget that last year the issue was like -- it was the year of Oscar So White, right?
Aminatou: Yeah. Yeah, we already fixed race. We already fixed race so now we're fixing harassment, okay? Focus.
Ann: Exactly. Exactly. That is exactly my point. [Sighs] I was waiting for the one person to be on the red carpet and be like "Yeah, Oscar So White. Golden Globes So White." Like how do we deal with this, in the midst of an off-trend? I'm like you could've gotten some good publicity for another worthy issue.
Aminatou: I know, it's crazy. I watched Sterling K. Brown's speech for winning. I guess he won like best actor in a drama for This is Us. And I love Sterling K. Brown but it's 2018. People are still winning first black something in a something category?
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: That is crazy to me. I was like are we still doing this? Are we still . . . I just couldn't believe it. I was like man, the game is so dirty.
Ann: I know. Yeah. I mean what to say besides the game is so dirty? And also I was still happy to see Tarana Burke and Ai-jen Poo. What are you going to do? Those two things are both true.
Aminatou: It's true, because the game is dirty. [Laughs] That's just how it works.
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Aminatou: Speaking of the game is dirty.
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: One highlight of the Golden Globes was Oprah giving a speech. Oprah was also the first black woman to win the award that she won.
Ann: Cecil B. DeMille?
Aminatou: Yeah, I'm like I don't know how to say Cecil B. DeMille's name so thank you.
Ann: Or maybe it's Seh-sil, not Cecil. Whatever.
Aminatou: Seh-sil. I'm pretty sure it's Cecil. Not Cecille. But yeah, it's like Oprah, first black woman to win this award. Also Oprah -- have you people heard Oprah give a speech before? Oprah can give a speech about a sandwich and it will give you chills.
Oprah: I'd like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know that the press is under siege these days, but we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. [Applause] To tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.
Aminatou: So, you know, Oprah's doing that but she's also doing presidential candidate cosplay at the same time so everybody is confused. Award season is the only time that the politics people pay attention to Hollywood, you know? So they hear one person give a good speech and they're like is she running? And this impulse that we have in this country that if somebody gives good oratory that they should run for president really disturbs me. I don't understand why America is like this. It's just like did you hear the ten minute speech this person gave? Oh my god, we should put them in charge of drone strikes. That's not how it works.
Ann: No, you know what it is? We're so desperate though for anyone that even remotely seems like they could be a stable genius. It's like the things you eat when you're hungry and just can't bring yourself to make a real meal versus the meal you concoct when you're thinking correctly. This is just like anything looks good next to what we've got. And that's not to downplay Oprah because Oprah looks good next to just about anyone.
Aminatou: I know. And also Oprah, like an actual rich person who went from zero to a billion and has real money, not like Monopoly money, has been in charge of a real organization, turning a profit like an actual media genius, interviews people, you know, we stand a queen (?). It's real. And the speech was amazing. It was really insane to hear her talk about her own trajectory, going from being really poor to being Oprah and getting awards in front of Hollywood people. And you know I love Oprah like a mother but also Oprah cannot be our president. That's crazy.
Ann: Yeah. I mean it doesn't . . . honestly that's one of those things . . .
Aminatou: For many reasons.
Ann: Yeah. So I, in early spring 2017, I forget if we've discussed this, I went to Super Soul Sessions Live. Highlight of the year for me.
Ann: Where I joined many other white women in playing jimbeis. (?) But Oprah . . .
Aminatou: I'm dying.
Ann: Like in her opening remarks, she was like, you know, we were all still in post-election shock mode I think. She was trying to like, again, not exactly like her awards acceptance speech but say some things that felt deep and meaningful and acknowledging the kind of panic and pain everyone was feeling. And after she finished someone in the back was like "Oprah for president!" Like screamed it. You know, this is a thing . . .
Aminatou: Do you think that's also because white women love it when black women save them? Because I think there's an element of that going around.
Ann: Oh, for sure. I mean to be fair I do not know the race of the person who shouted this from the back of the room but demographics of the audience . . .
Aminatou: I'm going to venture. I'm going to venture and be right in my guess. [Laughs]
Ann: Yeah. I mean part of me is just like this is a conversation I'm happy to have when Oprah is like I am interested in running for president, right? Like this is a conversation I don't want to have when it's just Oprah gave a great speech. It's one of those things where I'm like you're right, there's definitely some savior complex going on. There's definitely some ooh, wouldn't it look great? We could have own celebrity. You know, kind of like worst impulses. Not like shouldn't this party be led by a woman who demographically matched the people who always carry it in elections?
Aminatou: I know. I don't think I can handle another celebrity president, but if we're going to say TV people can be presidents the only person who's qualified is Jerry Springer because he was mayor of Cincinnati. That's it.
Aminatou: Everybody else, show me your homework. You know, but it's also the kind of thing where people are crazy. First of all, why would Oprah run for president? She already has all the perks of being president and she doesn't have to do any of the bullshit. Second of all, people don't realize if you want to ruin your hero ask them to run for president. We love Oprah but this is the woman who gave us Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz.
Ann: Weight Watchers rep. Yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah, one of the worst neoliberal capitalist thinkers. Like come on, people. You know what I mean? It's like here's the game we're all playing. Focus. Focus.
Ann: Yeah. It's true. And I thought about this actually a lot in the context of Hillary and how she polled historically so much higher when she wasn't actually in the running for anything. And I obviously think for a big part of the population that is just being afraid of a woman in power, but I also think it's kind of true of anyone. It's a lot easier to idealize them when they are not in the running to lead the country. You're right, it would happen so quickly and in fact already has. You know, that photo of her kissing Harvey Weinstein on the cheek has circulated widely. As soon as you mention the name Oprah and president in the same breath, approval starts to tank because then you get real.
Ann: Then you get real about someone.
Aminatou: It's true. But at the same time I watched the Oprah Winfrey Show, pretty much every single episode, and I remember that incredible episode arc where she was down in Amarillo because those Texas cattle farmers, they tried to pin mad cow hysteria on her. They were like people aren't buying meat.
Ann: Important court case.
Aminatou: Right. They're like it's because of Oprah. And Oprah's like uh-uh. So she took the whole show down there. That's actually how we got Dr. Phil was that episode arc. Oprah wiped the floor with those stupid cattle ranchers, you know? And she was like free speech for everybody. And so do I think Oprah could be president and win? 100%. Do I want Oprah to be president? No thank you.
Aminatou: It's not even the midterm yet and we're already talking about the next presidential election. Ugh, it's so irritating.
Ann: Yeah. But also I feel like part of it too is new year, everyone wants to have a hope. There's even liquor billboards around my house that are like "Yeah, it's just another tequila the way 2020 is just another election" or some shit like that.
Ann: Yeah, exactly. Like thankfully I cannot remember this brand because I do not want to advertise for them for free, but also ugh, it's just tapping into this feeling we all have of can't we just be past it already? And it's like sorry, we have several more years of this bullshit.
Aminatou: Yeah, like a lifetime's worth of just terrible things. But you know one really funny thing that happened is once Ivanka checked her DVR, she watched the Oprah speech, then she tweeted about it. [Laughs] And she was like hashtag #TimesUp. And we're all like are you talking about your dad again? What is going on here? Sometimes I don't know if she's incredibly smart or the lights are on and nobody's home.
Ann: I mean also part of me is like maybe she recognizes what we all do, which is this is kind of a toothless movement at this point in time and it's totally safe to say that and identify with it and know that your dad will not be removed from office because he's a sexual assaulter.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Oh my god, it's just -- yeah, I'm telling you, it's either dastardly genius or the lights are on and nobody's home. There's no middle ground.
Ann: Can I say one other thing about the Oprah speech though? Which is I just loved her thank you to Gayle.
Aminatou: Tell me. [Laughs]
Oprah: Gayle, who's been the definition of what a friend is, and Stedman who's been my rock, just a few to name.
Aminatou: Ugh, you win the friend thing. Tell me. [Laughs]
Ann: I don't know, it's just like obviously Stedman -- love when she calls him Honey Graham on her Instagram, but also just . . .
Aminatou: Ann, can you believe Stedman was not Weekend at Berniesing this whole time? It's like the edibles wore off and he was like a live human being. [Laughs]
Ann: That's why Honey Graham is so funny, an inanimate . . . a sweet but inanimate partner. She definitely got top billing before Stedman.
Aminatou: Oh, it was so great. Also all of the Instagram stories of her and Gayle getting ready to go to the Globes were amazing. When she told Gayle that her elbows were ashy and she called her Ash Wednesday . . . [Laughs] Like black woman pain like you can't even understand. But I love those two so much.
Ann: I know, and nobody does . . . I know this is a totally superficial note, but formalwear plus glasses. They both are iconic for the dress-up glasses look. I can't endorse enough.
Aminatou: I know. Oprah's eyeglass game is strong.
Ann: I know.
Aminatou: It's like very . . . it's very strong. Total babe. Total babe. Ugh, Oprah Winfrey.
Ann: The best.
Aminatou: I know. I'm so happy we live in the same time in history as her.
Ann: Oh god, isn't it the truth?
Aminatou: It's the best. I don't know how I would've done reading Tumblr posts about Oprah. I'm like I'm glad I get to experience it.
Ann: [Laughs] And last note about Oprah is if you have not listened to it already you should go back and listen to the episode that She's All Fat did for us, we'll link to it in the show notes, where they talk about Oprah and dieting and body stuff including her 1988 Wagon of Fat episode.
Aminatou: Iconic episode.
Ann: Iconic but they have a really amazing discussion of other aspects of the complicated woman that is Oprah.
Aminatou: If Oprah is president we're all going to be pushing our wagons of fat every day. [Laughs] On the first day of the Oprah presidency you get a wagon and you're just going to have to dump your fat in there. Also she's going to make all of us work on Harvest Day.
Ann: I was just going to say that means we all have to toil in Oprah's fields.
Ann: Her Montecito garden.
Aminatou: Oh my god, you know how I feel about Oprah's agricultural fraud. Oh my god.
Ann: Listen, I mean truthfully how is it different than me going to the store? Oprah pays people to grow vegetables for her. I pay people to grow vegetables for me.
Aminatou: Yeah, but Ann, you don't go to Whole Foods and come back with four turnips and go "Look what I grew in my garden today." [Laughs]
Ann: Exactly. Exactly.
Aminatou: But, you know, for all of this talk I've already made up half of the Oprah cabinet in my mind so it's cool.
Ann: Oh my god, who else? Who's in the Oprah cabinet?
Aminatou: Oh my god, Iyanla is going to be surgeon general.
Ann: No! I want to die already just thinking about this.
Aminatou: Gayle is her . . .
Ann: Iyanla fix my healthcare.
Aminatou: Oh, yeah. Gayle is for Steve Bannon. Dr. Phil is going to commerce because he dresses like a clown and that's where we put all of our bad dressers. Dr. Oz is obviously going to HHS and we're all going to die.
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: Listen, it's all crazy. Oprah's gardener is going to be secretary of agriculture.
Ann: Which honestly is the most deserving role among all of them.
Aminatou: I know. I'm telling you, the one thing we won't fuck up is that. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Oh my gosh, what a mess. What a mess.
Aminatou: I hear you have some This Week in Menstruation for me.
Ann: Okay, a listener emailed us to hip us to the fact that California and Illinois school districts are now required to provide free tampons and sanitary pads in restrooms.
Ann: I know! And that's one of those, you know, it's one of these oh, kind of a little thing but not a little thing if you are going to school in one of those places and don't have to worry about this stuff anymore.
Aminatou: I know, that's great. That actually -- that's like the best news I've heard all week.
Ann: Yeah, and also especially because efforts to make menstrual hygiene products tax-free in a lot of places have stalled or have not really gotten very far and so this is one of those things where I'm like oh, great, let's skip the tax free and just go to free free. I'm totally fine with that too.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Send Ann Friedman to commerce.
Aminatou: Oh my god. Let's skip tax free and make it free free, that's your tagline for when you run for office.
Ann: I'm running. Oprah, put me in the cabinet. Here in California -- this is like another amazing detail -- assembly member Christina Garcia who is the person who proposed the legislation to remove the tampon tax and is the person who was instrumental in getting this whole free menstrual product thing in schools is known as the "tampon queen" now.
Aminatou: [Laughs] I love that. Shout out to lady legislators who do great work.
Ann: Yeah, and at the state level just keep going, right? I mean this is one of those things where we just sort of stopped hearing about these state-level bills in part because I think a lot of them were introduced as a way of signaling hello, this is how little you're doing for your constituents that menstruate. But I don't know, the best silver lining. So thanks listener for sending us this link and shout out to everyone in schools in Illinois and California who now get to enjoy this.
Aminatou: Stay in school kids.
Aminatou: I've been dying to say that my whole life. Okay, Ann, I'm going to go finish watching these Jacques Cousteau documentaries because that's my life now.
Ann: Amazing. I am going to go eat lunch.
Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, you can download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at callyrgf. You can subscribe to our monthly newsletter The Bleed on the Call Your Girlfriend website. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn, all original music is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, our logos are by Kenesha Sneed, and this podcast is produced by Gina Delvac. See you on the Internet.
Ann: See you on the Internet.