Sunday, November 15, 2009



I recorded the film Disclosure last night on my Tivo machine and thought a particular word used in the description was a little odd, given the film’s premise. Tivo’s description: “A computer-firm boss seduces her married co-worker...” and so on and so forth. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, you may have to skip the Weird Word this week. But for those of you who are savvy about this film, seduce doesn’t seem like quite the right term. Here’s a line from Wikipedia’s description of Disclosure: “The film invites viewers to critically examine topics such as the ease with which allegations of sexual harassment can destroy one's career and whether a double standard exists when such allegations are levied by men or women.”

Sexual harassment. Now that’s heavy stuff. And what did Tivo’s description refer to it as?...Seduction?

Maybe the Tivo descriptor was written up by somebody who just hadn’t seen the film. Or maybe the writer didn’t believe a man could actually be sexually harassed by a female. Or maybe they just didn’t really give a damn. It’s a Tivo description, something I’m happy to have on hand so as not to fill my Tivo inbox with a lot of junk I don’t care about, so I’m not really griped too much by the gaffe here. But there is such a thing as a cumulative effect. Maybe little missteps like this one aren’t such big deals when they occur sporadically, and probably, without malice. But they’re still good to notice along the way, and certainly if they start popping up en masse. And, really, sexual harassment is a big, important deal and should never be referred to as seduction. Even when we’re talking about Demi Moore.


Function: verb
1 a : to meditate on or ponder a subject; b : to review something idly or casually and often inconclusively
2 : to assume a business risk in hope of gain; to buy or sell in expectation of profiting from market fluctuations
Function: transitive verb
1 : to take to be true on the basis of insufficient evidence : theorize
2 : to be curious or doubtful about : wonder

Function: noun plural but singular in construction
1 a : a report of recent events b : previously unknown information c :
something having a specified influence or effect
2 a : material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast b : matter that is newsworthy
3: newscast


I believe that most of what we’re consuming as news nowadays is actually Speculative Entertainment, also referred to as opinion-oriented programming. I prefer the term Speculative Entertainment and would like to offer it up as a labeling suggestion. That way, when we’re watching these kinds of news-ish programs, we know it and can go out and get our bona fide news elsewhere.

According to Bill Carter, (CNN Drops to Last Place Among Cable News Networks, Media Decoder), real news is becoming old hat. Strictly the facts has given way to speculation, exaltation, evisceration - whatever get the juices flowing. Here’s what Carter says of the October 2009 viewer polls: “The results demonstrate once more the apparent preference of viewers for opinion-oriented shows from the news networks in prime time.” And, “ ...CNN executives acknowledge, viewers seem to be looking for partisan views more than objective coverage.” Scary when one considers that Speculative Entertainment, or opinion-oriented programming, is not subject to regulation research or truth in reporting. Scarier still when one considers what this says about the American public: we’re becoming hate-aholics. Junkies looking for our next hit of outrage. An Us Versus Them brigade where Them is identified ad hoc and according to the will of whatever media mogul or producer stands to benefit.

I’m pro-voice, so don’t believe Speculative Entertainment needs to be stopped. Hey, everybody’s got to make a living somehow. But we’ve got to become more discriminating about what we put in our heads. We need to recognize hate when we see it and leave it on the plate. We need to develop a taste for the mild-mannered and the polite. For that which hath no agenda, no shouting and no prejudice. For that which leaves no bitter aftertaste.

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