The Weekly What??!!: Aziz Ansari, McKayla Maroney, & more: A Grok Nation news roundup (week ending 1.19.18)

This week’s newsy, uncomfortable, trending and odd stories
By Esther D. Kustanowitz  Published on 01/19/2018 at 11:37 AM EST

In this week’s news roundup: Expanding your awards show radar toward diversity, how Ellen Pompeo became the $20 million-dollar-woman, some badass women uniting to support Olympic abuse victims, the impending government shutdown, and the week in Trumpiness. But first we’re going to have to talk about this whole Aziz Ansari incident a little bit because everyone else is.

What happened with Aziz Ansari?

So, basically a publication no one had ever heard of before found a woman with a story about a terrible date she had with the comedian and Master of None creator, and published that story in great detail. According to the account, Ansari was repeatedly sexually aggressive and obnoxious with her, and didn’t listen to her asking him to stop or slow down. Why is everyone talking about this? Partly it’s because of increased awareness around the subject of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct, the #metoo and the #TimesUp movements, and because Ansari had previously declared himself a feminist. Ansari also co-wrote Modern Romance, a book about the challenge of modern dating, and there was an entire arc on Master of None that dealt with Dev’s awareness that his friend and creative partner was a sexual harasser. And some people don’t understand why a woman who was uncomfortable with a man in his apartment wouldn’t just leave. The story is complicated and is landing differently with different audiences. Why are there so many different takes on this? Because it’s not just another example of a man behaving badly: it’s a bigger story about a lot of things, like the different ways boys and girls are socialized around expectations in dating and sex; the blurred lines of consent; the murky definitions of ‘harassment,’ ‘misconduct’ and ‘assault,’ as well as whether ignoring hesitation, discomfort or outright lack of consent in sexual situations is considered any or all of those; whether you can call yourself a feminist and still engage in disrespectful sexual behavior; whether this story – and the way it was reported – was responsible or irresponsible journalism; and many, many more things. For a more complete rundown, you’ll want to read Vox’sThe controversy around’s Aziz Ansari story, explained.”

In “Aziz, We Tried to Warn You” (in the NY Times), Lindy West took the period of time that Ansari has been alive – 34 years – and created, essentially a bibliography of articles and books examining the concept of affirmative consent, noting:

The notion of affirmative consent did not fall from space in October 2017 to confound well-meaning but bumbling men; it was built, loudly and painstakingly and in public, at great personal cost to its proponents, over decades. If you’re fretting about the perceived overreach of #MeToo, maybe start by examining the ways you’ve upheld the stigmatization of feminism. Nuanced conversations about consent and gendered socialization have been happening every single day that Aziz Ansari has spent as a living, sentient human on this earth. The reason they feel foreign to so many men is that so many men never felt like they needed to listen. Rape is a women’s issue, right? Men don’t major in women’s studies. It may feel like the rules shifted overnight, and what your dad called the thrill of the chase is now what some people are calling assault. Unfortunately, no one — even plenty of men who call themselves feminists — wanted to listen to feminist women themselves.

As always, Samantha Bee weighed in fiercely on Full Frontal.  (The whole segment about #metoo is excellent, including the phrase, “it doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life,” but the Aziz Ansari segment starts about 4:20 in…)

Moving on to…a Government Shutdown?

At press time Friday, it seems like the US is heading for a government shutdown later today or tonight. Why is this happening? Because dozens of Senate Democrats are withholding their votes from a government spending bill that doesn’t address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; for months, they’ve been negotiating for legal status for the hundreds of thousands of DACA immigrants. Unless a DACA solution is addressed, they won’t vote for the spending bill and the government shuts down. What does a government shutdown mean? Here’s CNN to tell you:

A shutdown, however, doesn’t mean every federally funded agency, program and service will grind to a halt. Whoever works for agencies and departments that are considered nonessential, including agencies that pay out small business loans and process passport requests, will cease to work until Congress is able to agree on a bill for the federal budget. The employees in these departments would be placed on “furlough.” In previous shutdowns, everyone who stayed home was paid retroactively after an agreement was reached in Washington.
For more detail about the shutdown, and what might happen, here’s the only piece I’ve read that makes this situation easier to understand, also on Vox.

POTUS Did What, Now?? (An undoubtedly recurring feature)

While his tweeting remained more or less under control (relatively speaking for POTUS), the President did manage to make news twice this week. Porn star Stormy Daniels came out with the details of her sexual liaison with Trump in 2006, including super-icky details that we’re not getting into or linking here – but if you can’t wait for the next 50 Shades of Grey movie and want the titillating details of his infidelity you know how to use Google. Also, Trump announced the “winners” (or “losers?”) of the Fake News Awards (dubbed by some “The Fakies”) was announced, basically consisting of a list of articles that the President considered fake news.  We think this might technically make the “winners” of the Fakies “losers,” or maybe it’s a badge of honor to be identified as fake news by this particular president, in which case they are “winners.” (Even a fake awards show is complicated, these days.) Stephen Colbert – “snubbed” for a Fakie, much to his (fake?) chagrin – handled the loss fairly well, despite the disappointment.

For Your Consideration: The NAACP Image Awards

Last week I live-tweeted the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards and am looking forward to the Oscars, which I live-tweet every year. But we never got to talk about the NAACP Image Awards, which took place on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and provide a different vision of Hollywood that’s worth considering. At the Image Awards, the nation’s preeminent multicultural awards show from an African American point of view, Ava DuVernay won for Entertainer of the Year, and Daniel Kaluuya won best actor for Get Out. The Best Motion Picture was Girls Trip, for which Tiffany Haddish won Best Supporting Actress. Idris Elba won for his turn in Thor: Ragnarok. Black-ish was rewarded with multiple awards. Overlooked shows, actors and films also had their day in the spotlight: the intense film Detroit; Power, a Starz drama I’d never heard of before, took home a few honors, and Joe Morton was honored for his recurring role as Eli Pope (Scandal) where he has had some of the best and scariest monologues about power and control we’ve seen outside a White House press briefing. The event also includes achievement in music and literature, and “those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.” The awards show is on my radar for next year, and until then, I’m going to check out some of these winners.

Ellen Pompeo Gets Huge Paycheck for Grey’s Anatomy

Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy) became the highest paid woman on TV, earning $20 million for this season (about $575K an episode, plus other contractual perks and development deals). How’d she do it? While it’s not easy, it’s a lot easier when Shonda Rhimes is in your corner giving you advice like, “Decide what you think you’re worth and then ask for what you think you’re worth. Nobody’s just going to give it to you.”

In the Hollywood Reporter, Pompeo said that “In Shonda finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power, she has empowered me. And that took her a while to get to, too. It was part of her evolution. It’s also why our relationship is so special. I was always loyal to her, and she responds well to loyalty. So, she got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power. Now, what did that look like? It looked like her letting me be the highest-paid woman on television, letting me be a producer on this show, letting me be a co-executive producer on the spinoff and signing off on the deal that the studio gave me, which is unprecedented.” 

Pompeo also spoke about participating in “Time’s Up” meetings, and hearing stories from fellow actresses about how they’d been preyed upon, which Pompeo called “frightening,” but that it “confirmed that my path really was the right one for me, because I’ve chosen to financially empower myself so that I never have to be ducking predators and chasing trophies.”

McKayla Maroney Speaks Out about Abuse; Abuser is in Court Listening to Testimonies

In October, Olympian McKayla Maroney alleged abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, who is accused by more than 140 gymnasts (women and girls) of abuse. This week, she released a statement in which she said that she had been sexually abused as a teenager by Nassar, the former doctor for the national women’s gymnastics team,” and that it left “scars” on her psyche “that may never go away.” Having already been sentenced to 60 years for child pornography, Nassar pled guilty to molestation, and will be sentenced this month. According to a nondisclosure agreement Maroney signed in 2016, if she spoke out about the abuse, she’d have had to pay more than $100,000; this week Chrissy Teigen offered to pay the fine so that Maroney could speak out, and other Hollywood folk including Kristen Bell, Michael Schur (show creator of The Good Place),  and Susan Sarandon stepped up offering to split the bill with Teigen. U.S.A. Gymnastics later said Maroney wouldn’t have to pay the fine if she spoke up.

Other victims are speaking out in court, and Nassar has to sit there and listen to them read their statements – after he complained to the judge that it was hard for him to listen to these testimonies, the judge responded with “Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor, considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives.” Here are some of the women sharing their difficult statements in court.

Lunchtime poll: Have you seen the new Heathers trailer?

In this remake of the classic dark comedy, Heathers, the three bullying “Heathers” are body positive, genderqueer and African-American; while some see this as a shift in the power dynamic of high school (one teacher says, “fat kids can be popular now?”) others who are familiar with the original are wary of a plot in which the two white, cisgender protagonists begin murdering the now-diverse Heathers. Have you seen the original movie? Have you watched the trailer? What do you think?

What else are you talking about this week? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments sections.



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