The Weekly What??!! – A Grok Nation news roundup (week ending 1.12.18)

A quick look at some of this week's top stories
By Esther D. Kustanowitz  Published on 01/12/2018 at 1:40 PM EDT

Welcome back to the Weekly What??!! – our regular news roundup of stories you may have missed. This week, we’ve got Oprah possibly running for President, Trump tweeting, James Franco, Woody Allen, Mario Batali’s cinnamon rolls and misconduct apology, and more.  

Top of the GrokNation news today is of course Mayim’s big win at the Critics’ Choice Awards last night – luckily, she recapped it for you, exposing the honest “behind-the-glamor” secrets as she does.

What’s that? You missed the Golden Globes too? Don’t worry – I got you, boo: check out my recap with Seth, Amy, Oprah and more, from late Sunday night. After reading that, the idea of having Oprah run for president – and all the think pieces that have been written about it this week – will have a bit more context. But that’s where we’ll start this week!

Should Oprah Winfrey run for President? Not everyone’s in favor of another celebrity disrupting the political landscape running on the platform of “I have no legislative or political experience,” but it’s not because Oprah isn’t awesome. It’s because her speech, which some noted sounded presidential (in the way we used to define the term), actually sounded like empowerment: challenging us to change the world, so that children can dream of being represented in the futures they envision for themselves, so they have role models to point to as inspiration. Winfrey/Hanks 2020 or not, that’s a message worth considering. As Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, “It took a stable media genius to attempt to peel off the narcissism and solipsism of the celebrity culture in which we all seem to be permanently lodged. Maybe it’s destined that nobody will ever again be elected president who doesn’t have a billion-dollar media brand behind them. But the speech I heard last night was about using a billion-dollar media brand to remind young women of color that they, too, have the power to save us all.” Would you vote for Oprah? What if she had as running mate someone with unbelievable political experience? Vote here!

Would you vote for Oprah Winfrey for President of the United States?

This Week in Sexual Misconduct, Harassment and Assault

Every week, we hope this won’t be a category of news. But until such time as we can 86 it, we’ve got to cover it. This week, James Franco. And Woody Allen. And the shitty men in media list.  (We didn’t name it that.)

What is the “Shitty Media Men” list? And why are we talking about it? In Hollywood and in other industries, there have long been “whisper networks,” informal networks of women who had been harassed subtly warning other women about men who had been inappropriate to varying degrees. This list was of men in media, initially set up as an anonymous spreadsheet. But with the news that Harper’s is about to publish an article about this, and writer Katie Roiphe intended to reveal the list’s author, an internet buzz emerged. Initially, filmmaker Lexi Alexander tweeted that she was the maker of the list, as did another few people – resulting in an “I’m Spartacus”-style series of claims before Moira Donegan outed herself as the list’s author. Identifying the author, unfortunately, opens her up not just to verbal criticism but perhaps even to physical harm, Donegan wrote in Mashable: “People who opposed the decision by Harper’s speculated about what would happen to me as a result of being identified. They feared that I would be threatened, stalked, raped, or killed. The outrage made it seem inevitable that my identity would be exposed even before the Roiphe piece ran. All of this was terrifying. I still don’t know what kind of future awaits me now that I’ve stopped hiding.” Later in the week other “shitty men” lists began to emerge for other professions, including academia.

After The Disaster Artist actor James Franco claimed his award for Best Actor at the Golden Globes Sunday night, a number of women accused him of varying types of sexual harassment and misconduct. He subsequently addressed these concerns in the context of a conversation about the Time’s Up movement on Stephen Colbert, saying that he heard about them but did not read them and that he prides himself on taking responsibility for the things he’s  done; he doesn’t want to shut them down, but said that the accounts were not accurate. Colbert pressed him about whether there’s a way to have this conversation. See the whole clip below. Franco was awarded the Critics’ Choice award for best actor in a comedy for “The Disaster Artist,” but was not at the award ceremonies.

And now, Woody Allen. In “Time’s Up, Woody Allen,” Fast Company reporter Joe Berkowitz chronicled a few events that indicate that, after years of controversy, Allen will receive his reckoning soon.

  • Mira Sorvino (who won an Oscar for 1996’s Mighty Aphrodite) wrote a letter of support for Allen’s adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, who had previously accused Allen of sexually assaulting her when she was seven years old; Sorvino said she was sorry for not speaking out sooner and regretted having worked with Allen: “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,” Sorvino wrote. “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.”
  • In a New York Times online conversation with NYT op-ed columnist Frank Bruni and Aaron Sorkin, Greta Gerwig also expressed regret over having worked with Allen (To Rome With Love, 2012): “If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film. I have not worked for him again, and I will not work for him again. Dylan Farrow’s two different pieces made me realize that I increased another woman’s pain, and I was heartbroken by that realization. I grew up on his movies, and they have informed me as an artist, and I cannot change that fact now, but I can make different decisions moving forward.”
  • David Krumholtz, who worked with Allen on Wonder Wheel, announced his regret and donated his salary for his work on the film to Time’s Up.

Mario Batali’s apology for sexual misconduct in his newsletter came with a lovely recipe for pizza cinnamon rolls. This ludicrous fact is true, so the Everywhereist decided to make the rolls, with more than a pinch of social commentary. In a really creative essay, she makes her way through the recipe, discovering its flaws and using those moments to interweave harassment stories from her past:

“I think about the time that I was an intern at a local news station, and assigned to hand out cake while celebrating some milestone (it had to do with the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.) One of the producers I’d been working with closely walked up to the table.

‘Do you want a piece?’ I asked.

‘Yeah,’ he said, looking me up and down. ‘Oh, you mean of cake? No thanks.’ He and another male staff member laughed while I stood, holding a piece of cake in each hand, dumbstruck.

Batali does not specify how tightly to roll the dough. I do so too tightly because fuck everything.”

Some Democrats will be inviting survivors of sexual assault and advocates as their guests to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address this month said an aide to Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, who is a leader of the Democratic Women’s Working Group in the House. Initially, there had been some talk of bringing women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct to the nationally televised address “but that idea was scuttled.”

In an ever-expanding category of “POTUS said what, now??” let’s recap two salient moments.

  • Responding to the allegations in the book Fire & Fury about life in the Trump White House, 45 tweeted “I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star … to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!” As a result of this statement, Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle announced his proposed “Stable Genius Act,” which would require all presidential candidates to file a Federal Election Commission report “certifying that he or she has undergone medical examination by the medical office under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Navy.” And yes, the act is also an acronym.

  • In a conversation about immigration, when it was suggested that people  underrepresented countries in Africa and Temporary Protective Status nations, including Haiti, be given visas, he reportedly said, “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” further suggesting that maybe the US should bring more immigrants from Norway.

Mudslides have hit parts of California. Oddly, Oprah enters this story too: on Instagram she wrote, “What a day! Praying for our community again in Santa Barbara. Woke up to this blazing gas fire. then swipe left to see how deep the mud is in my backyard. Helicopters rescuing my neighbors. Looking for missing persons. 13 lives lost. #Mudslides.”  She also  posted video of her neighbors’ house calling it “devastated.” Parts of the 101 Freeway look post-apocalyptic with trucks buried in mud (see photo below). There are 8 people missing and 17 dead so far – we’re sending out good wishes to the Santa Barbara police and emergency teams that are going out to rescue people who are trapped and to clear debris.

And to end on a more positive note, here’s something cool that Kumail Nanjiani did – when the Washington Post made a headline that positioned him as the creator of The Big Sick – which he co-wrote with wife Emily V. Gordon – he corrected them, firmly, but nicely. And the Post tweaked their headline.

Watch Kumail and Emily talk about it on the red carpet at the Critics’ Choice Awards.

What have you been talking about this week? Tell us more in the comments. And have a great weekend!


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