Sticking to The Times once again as well as similar subject matter to my last post, I came across an article titled “Franken and Trump, Hiding Behind Their ‘Jokes’” by James Poniewozik. The article takes a harder stance on Franken than Goldberg, even going so far as to cite Franken’s excuses as in line with the same phenomenon of celebrity immunity that spawned the Trump Access Hollywood tapes last year. In both instances, Poniewozik points out that the men claimed that their actions were excusable because they were meant to be jokes rather than serious sexual advances. Poniewozik writes that the historical effectiveness of this excuse shows how our culture has developed comedy – or entertainment, overall – as a space in which things that were otherwise unacceptable are able to be explored, at least as far as men are concerned, women often being unaware of their role as the object in their jokes. As it turns out, entertainers have gotten away with a lot of terrible things in the past, if the stream of allegations against prominent men over the past few weeks is telling of anything, which hopefully signals an end to Comedy being an excuse for depravity (Poniewozik specifically cites Louie CK’s misconduct as a prime showing of this, which I find especially interesting as I am currently attempting to fit CK’s scandal into my final project, so Poniewozik’s perspective on it was insightful).
Poniewozik’s writing engaged me on a topic that I felt I already had read more than enough about. He’s the chief television critic at The Times and publishes both reviews of TV shows as well as critical essays on the development of TV culture. Before starting at The Times in 2015, he wrote on similar topics in Time Magazine, and, as it turns out, attended the University of Michigan, where he majored in English. While it always feels cool to see a professional in the world with a degree from Michigan, it is especially warming to see that a man with a job I would love to have had the exact same education as myself. For that reason – on top of his proven writing ability – I will definitely keep my eye on Poniewozik’s work going forward.