It would be hard to argue that all coverage of the Oscars or of public figures in general needs to be fully devoid of ad hominem attacks, because that element of the “outrage machine” is kind of the Internet’s bread-and-butter, and it’s something of which many writers are susceptible (i.e. calling someone a “dick” instead of just sexist). Which is why, for the most part, these kinds of blog posts are easy to ignore, and chalk up to a larger Internet culture of snark or whatever. And yet, there are times when a blog post seems so ill-conceived and so mean-spirited that it’s hard to just ignore it, because ignoring it would only serve to tacitly approve its existence. Well, thanks to a post on Gawker, this is one of those times.
Leah Finnegan—who, as Gawker’s Baby Name Critic, regularly attacks rather innocuous names like “Frances,” for being like “ugly sweaters”—decided to turn her attention to someone who is out of diapers last night, and put up a blog post about director Wes Anderson’s girlfriend, Juman Malouf. The post is brief, and centers solely around what Malouf looks like. Finnegan titled it “Wes Anderson Brought His Girlfriend to the Oscars, She’s Pretty I Guess,” and goes on to call Malouf “‘alt’-looking,” which she followed with a “HMMM.” Although Finnegan says nothing explicitly mean (Finnegan claims to be “impressed by [Malouf’s] hair, which looks natural, her face, which looks natural, her willingness to be myopic in public, and her vintage wedding dress”), the mere act of posting something like this on Gawker, with the words “she’s pretty I guess” in a headline, and with unflattering photos is an invitation for commenters to lash out at the physical appearance of a woman whose crime is… what? Not fitting into Hollywood standards of beauty? It’s ridiculous.
Of course, much like with the Baby Name Critic-posts, Finnegan could claim that it is us who don’t understand that she is mocking what other people mock, that she’s reappropriating the type of ridicule that all public figures—be they director’s girlfriends or newborn babies—face, in order to expose just how gross it is, and that we’re just not smart enough to get that. Maybe. Or maybe, Finnegan is using her platform at Gawker to malign the looks of a woman for no real reason other than to get page views. Maybe.
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