Back in 2006, Brad Pitt announced during an interview with Esquire magazine that he will only tie the knot with his (perhaps, still) girlfriend Angelina Jolie when "everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able." (It's assumed he was talking about gays and not, say, first cousins or fathers and daughters - although he did leave it rather open-ended.)
Well, best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert isn't that dedicated, because she just got married to her boyfriend of many years (after swearing "never, ever, under any circumstances" to marry again after her first, bitter divorce), but she did throw out her two-cents during an interview with Time magazine on Nov. 4.
"A lot of heterosexual couples are reluctant to get married," asserted the woman who penned "Eat, Pray, Love" and the new "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage." "There's a sense of, Why should I have access to this when my friends who have been together just as long as me don't?"
Teenagers don't need to ask their friends anymore about sex. Now they can just turn to CBS' medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton.
On Jan. 6, Dr. Ashton met with a group of teenage girls on CBS' "Early Show" to advertise her new book "The Body Scoop for Girls" - a book that anchor Maggie Rodriguez said "parents of daughters really appreciate." But most parents that watched this segment were probably more shocked than appreciative.
When Dr. Ashton met with the group of girls, she asked them, "Did any of your parents ever come to you guys and say, ‘We expect that you don't have sex until fill-in-the-blank age' .... 18, 19, 20, whatever?"
Not a single girl said yes, but 14-year-old Mercy Baez spoke up and said, "In this generation, ya know, almost every teenager already has sex by seventh to eighth grade ... and so, it's like, if you haven't had sex already, then you're the weird one and you stand out because you haven't."
If Ashton had any reaction to that statement, it was edited from the tape. Instead, she answered this question from 13-year-old Pam Segall: "What type of contraception do you think is the most effective?"
To parents working to raise their children and teens in a world inundated with so much media - from video games to movies to music to the thousands of youth-oriented books published each year - a little help from experts is welcome.
So news that the American Library Association will announce its 2010 Youth Media Awards in just a couple of weeks should be good news for those who want to enrich their kids' cultural and intellectual lives, right? Just read what the ALA Web site has to say about the awards:
Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, the ALA Youth Media Awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth. Selected by committees composed of librarians and other literature and media experts, the awards encourage original and creative work in the field of children's and young adult literature and media.
But in the case of the Youth Media Awards, the ALA's "librarians and other literature and media experts" have a very different conception of the "best materials for youth" than most parents. The ALA has a public social and political agenda that endorses same-sex marriage, and who's agenda is glaringly reflected in the books it chooses to award and those it chooses to ignore, or even - yes - ban.
Move over Susan B. Anthony! Feminists, you have a new leader. Meet Jenni "JWOWW" Farley from MTV's "Jersey Shore." A boob-enhanced Italian American that proudly declares she hunts men like a "praying mantis" and then sends them on "a roller-coaster ride to hell."
"After I have sex with a guy, I will rip their heads off," she said on the show.
"JWOWW" and her fellow female "Jersey Shore" cohorts are, according to The Daily Beast's Nicole Laporte, "progressive prima donnas." LaPorte argued in her article "Jersey Shore's Surprise Feminists" that these agressively predatorial, mean-spirited, and crass girls are the (no doubt, oblivious) leaders of a "progressive, and even revolutionary" change in the age-old stereotype of Italian American women.
The war on Christmas rages on, and nowhere more intensely than on the "kill-joy front." You know it: the predictable but still brutal attacks from those who say your eggnog and candy canes, the tree near your fireplace and even your favorite myths, stories and carols hide secret dangers to emotional and physical wellbeing.
But at least one public health expert is striking a blow for traditionalists by roundly mocking kill-joy tactics by aiming right at the personification of the season.
On Dec 16, an Associated Press article reported a "light-hearted" study conducted by Australian Nathan Grills of Monash University, which was published in the online Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal. Grills' conclusion: Santa Claus is a public health menace.
Grills' characterized the jolly old elf as a "reckless role model" for children, citing his "frequent cookie snacks, occasional cigars and refusal to don a helmet during ‘extreme sports such as roof surfing and chimney jumping,'" according to the AP.
Actor Sam Elliott, who played the Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby in the 2007 movie "The Golden Compass," has blamed the Catholic Church for scaring Hollywood away from creating a sequel.
"The Catholic Church happened to ‘The Golden Compass,' as far as I'm concerned," said Elliott in a Dec. 14 interview with the London Evening Standard.
Elliott claimed that the Church "lambasted" the company that produced "The Golden Compass," New Line Cinema, and "scared New Line off." Elliott was referring to the boycott organized by Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. The London Evening Standard quoted Donahue's reason for opposing the movie.
"The reason I protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to the wonders of atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time," said Donahue. "Everyone agrees the film version was not anti-Catholic, but that hardly resolves the issue. The fact is that each volume in the trilogy becomes increasingly anti-Catholic."
As the British columnist Peter Hitchens put it, Pullman's trilogy "depicts priests as evil and murderous, drunk and probably perverted, and the Church as ‘a conspiracy against happiness and kindness.'"
But can the Church truly be blamed (or cheered, depending on your point of view) for the failure of "The Golden Compass" in the box office?
"About half of the pregnancies in this country are unplanned," reported Richard Besser, ABC's senior Health and Medical Director, on "Good Morning America" Dec. 15.
Talking specifically about teens, Besser said that "even though there's so much information on prevention available - literally at your fingertips - it seems like it's not always getting through." So, to help parents initiate the "big talk" with their children, Besser sat down with a group of six young adults to ask them how their parents discussed "your values" and the "information on prevention available."
Out of the six panelists, not a single one mentioned abstinence playing a part in their "big talk."
In fact, their responses conveyed the idea that parents these days expect their teenagers to be sexually active and so their sex talks sounded more like how-to pamphlets on contraceptive devices than a parent to child heart-to-heart about the emotional and physical implications of having sex.
Francis, an editor-at-large, published her article in Canada's national business newspaper, The Financial Post, the day after the much-hyped climate change conference kicked off in Copenhagen. She argued that "China, despite its dirty coal plants, is the world's leader in terms of fashioning policy to combat environmental degradation, thanks to its one-child-only edict."
"China has proven that birth restriction is smart policy," said Francis. "Its middle class grows, all its citizens have housing, health care, education and food, and the one out of five human beings who live there are not overpopulating the planet."
Francis wrote direly that there would be irreversible consequences unless "all countries drastically reduce their populations."
On Dec. 4, the Australian actress Portia de Rossi, wife of Ellen DeGeneres, appeared on both ABC's "Good Morning America" and "The View" to promote her ABC sitcom ‘Better off Ted" ... well, supposedly. In reality, ABC simply offered de Rossi a soapbox to rant about gay rights.
During his interview with de Rossi, GMA correspondent Bill Weir called DeGeneres and de Rossi a "beautiful couple" and gushed, "Every time we see you two together the affection is still so obvious."
Weir then asked de Rossi a long-winded question about legalizing gay marriage, which included a prophecy of his own.
"And you're a testament for this sort of thing," Weir began, "and - I don't want to get too political on you but there probably will be a day when this is not a novelty - but when you see sort of the votes that happen - some setbacks politically - how do you think about that in your house?"
We're heading into the fourteenth day that the networks have deliberately ignored the Climategate scandal. And it's understandable. After all, air time is valuable and there are so many pressing issues to cover. Like ... um ...
Well, on Dec. 4, NBC's four-hour "Today" show couldn't squeeze in a single reference to Climategate, but it did find the time to discuss a British couple that's financing their wedding by producing their own porn movies.
"They have made some money already off their porn movies," NBC's Hoda Kotb said.
"Yes," said Kotb's co-host Kathie Lee Gifford. "They've made $2,155 making three of their own X-rated movies ... They plan to make four more, and they want to finance their romantic wedding beach ceremony in Cancun, Mexico next June."
Every once in a while, a liberal cuts right through the hemming and hawing and verbalizes his true world view. Like Hollywood producer Gavin Polone commenting on the Tiger Woods episode: If you can't live up to the terms and responsibilities of an institution, the institution must change. That's essentially the lesson Polone believes Tiger should draw from his adultery disgrace.
Marriage, you see, is an anachronism that doesn't fit with how we moderns live our lives - or at least, how the important people in Hollywood live theirs.
"I know a lot of famous people," Polone said on Dec. 3 during an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Meeting." "And actually the norm is that they cheat."
Polone, who produced the 2009 movie "Zombieland," argued that it isn't fair for stars like Tiger Woods who are "in the public eye" to be "called to task for their behavior" - behavior that Polone said is "probably pretty natural behavior given what they're going through."
The real problem lies with society's idea of marriage. As a people, he said, we need to "rethink the idea of locking into someone for what one would call a lifetime marriage."
The media might finally be tiring of the profane, misogynistic blogger Perez Hilton. On his Dec. 2 interview on "The View," the five female hosts of the show relentlessly fired at him from every angle, ranging from his exploitation of children to his infamous reputation of outing gays. This was especially surprising considering the way Hilton has been treated by the media elite in the past.
For years, broadcast and cable networks and even newspapers have presented Hilton's offensive blog - dubbed a "tastemaker" by the LA Times - as harmless and entertaining. In 2007, ABC's Jake Tapper called it "snarky, amusing, cool and fishy," and, in 2009, CBS correspondent Erica Hill called Hilton's commentary "a little tongue-in-cheek, maybe some snide remarks here about some perhaps not so flattering moments."
Yesterday, though, during his appearance on "The View," Hilton might have finally realized that his love affair with the media won't last forever.
In a perverse advertisement currently on the its Web site, CBS is trying to cross market the crass television show "How I Met Your Mother" with the children's holiday classic "Frosty the Snowman" (and the not-so-classic "Frosty Returns").
The disgusting result was the video "Frosty the Inappropriate Snowman," in which Neil Patrick Harris's voice (in character from the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother") was dubbed over Frosty footage.
Harris' Frosty said things like, "We've got to have a bros' night at a strip club" because it's "healthy" and "harmless." He also discussed his "porn collection" and "the Dominator 8000 - the best bull whip on the market."
Well-known scenes of the classic Frosty delighting children by coming to life were perverted by the ad which included Frosty saying, "I have been with a lot of women. Blondes. Brunettes. Redheads. Big boobs. Small boobs. Medium boobs. Some boobs that were big but kind of in a bad way."
Over the last decade, Rod Stewart has put a lot of work into cleaning up his act to give the appearance of growing old gracefully. But as a Dec. 1 appearance on ABC's "The View" proved, underneath the torch-songs and the lounge singer exterior, he's still Mr. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." Stewart defended American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert's sordid sexual act at the American Music Awards, saying, "It's rock 'n roll."
Lambert's over-the-top, in-your-face AMA performance last week featured male dancers on leashes, an open-mouth kiss between Lambert and his male keyboardist, and simulated oral sex, both male-on-male and female-on-male.
Even MTV has admitted that Lambert's AMA performance was "one that frequently crossed the border from sexy to rather graphic, and which put some previous provocative awards-show appearances by Madonna to shame."
With Thanksgiving kicking off the holiday season, it's time to gather with family and friends, give thanks, and just enjoy the company and the food ... right? Not according to the three broadcast networks. ABC, CBS, and NBC have been counting down to Thanksgiving by counting calories.
In the past week, from Nov. 18-24, five network stories have bashed traditional Thanksgiving food because it's not "healthy." With the nation in a recession and the unemployment rate above 10 percent, the media want Americans to worry about their waistlines too. Each of the networks offered tips on how to avoid the "most gut-busting holiday of the year," as Harry Smith of CBS's "Early Show" put it Nov. 19.
Their first advice to viewers was to paint their dining rooms blue. (Quick, you have less than 24 hours!) Allegedly, people eat 33 percent less than if they ate in a yellow or red room. Viewers also need to toss that beautiful flower centerpiece out the window and replace it with a bowl of apples, bananas or after-dinner mints. The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation claimed that overweight individuals that inhaled those scents before a meal ate less.
On Nov. 18, Foreign Policy's Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson wrote an article titled "The Real Shock of Fort Hood." If you thought that the shock of Fort Hood was that an Army Major fired over 100 rounds into a crowded processing center on a military base - killing 13 and wounding 29 - you're wrong. "It's not that the massacre occurred," said the article. "It's that it hadn't occurred before."
According to Simon and Stevenson, Major Nidal Malik Hasan was simply another American Muslim that was the victim of "innumerable stresses, including discrimination and the strain of divided loyalties in their country's eight-year-long war against Muslims in the Middle East and Central Asia."
The authors argued that such circumstances would be "enough to inspire conflict in the minds of even the most patriotic of American Muslims in the U.S." So much so that it should be "no surprise" that "one unstable member of this community finally erupted in violence."
It's our fault. Americans aren't making Muslims "comfortable." And the article specifically cited "Christian right-wing rhetoric" as a catalyst in the "Muslim alienation" which led to Hasan's shooting spree.
On Nov. 19 ABC's "Good Morning America" aired a recycled study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a liberal activist group that, if it were given the power, would ban everything from remote controls to Chinese food to donuts to casual dining. But even without that power, the anti-food activists still have the networks eating out of their hand.
For the third time in just two months, ABC's early morning show devoted an entire segment to a CSPI study. The past two studies reported that health labels were too "confusing" for consumers while "leafy greens" were life-threatening. Now CSPI's latest publication attacks movie theater popcorn.
On Nov. 19, Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business & Culture for the Media Research Center, appeared on FNC's "America's Newsroom" to debate with Julia Piscitelli, a Democratic Media Consultant, about how the media has treated Sarah Palin's new book.
FNC's Alisyn Camerota focused specifically on the Associated Press's decision to assign 11 reporters to fact check Palin's book "Going Rogue." Camerota noted that "similar books, by President Obama, Vice President Biden, even Bill and Hillary Clinton, did not get that same kind of scrutiny."
Gainor agreed with Camerota and said that "this isn't a fact check; it's a hack check." As proof, he pointed to the AP's history of fact checking books.
Leave it to ABC and its obsession with alternate sexuality to characterize being a male or a female as a "difficult decision." Introducing an interview featuring Chastity (now Chaz) Bono on Nov. 19, "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer said, "There can be no decision that you make that is more complex and difficult than gender identification."
Bono explained the hardships of undergoing a sexual "transformation" and the "journey into manhood" to an extraordinarily sympathetic Chris Cuomo, saying, "Gender is between your ears, not between your legs."
This interview only adds to a long list that details ABC's fascination with the sexually bizarre. In July 2009, CMI released a study that found that ABC news programs had featured 76 segments about sexual activity in the past six months. Most of the reports related to political sex scandals or crime cases that contained a sexual element, but 11 promoted alternative sexual arrangements, such as gender changes and, even more disturbing, objectum sexualization - having romantic relationships with objects like F-15 fighter jets and the Eiffel Tower.
On Nov. 9, CW's "Gossip Girl" featured a threesome, which included the not-so-Disney-anymore Hilary Duff. The show depicted threesomes as a normal, expected event in a college student's life. But that wasn't crass enough for Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack, who said that the threesome was too "chaste."
"It was basically no more risqué than a game of spin the bottle," Stack lamented.
After this week's episode, though, which featured graphic flashbacks of the threesome, Stack has declared that "Gossip Girl" is "back up the quality ladder."
"The flashbacks to the threesome were waaaay more hot than anything in last week's much-hyped episode," he said. "I wonder if the Parents Television Council tuned in last night."
Stack went on to say that "Gossip Girl not only entertains, it teaches."
"We also learned a much repeated rule of threesomes," he said. "The third person is always supposed to be a stranger!"
If you thought that you were going to escape being greenwashed by simply changing the channel for NBC's "Green Week," think again. Now you can't even wile away your time reading a good ol' fashioned thriller. Stephen King's new book, "Under the Dome," depicts a small city on the brink of an environmental disaster (that is, if it can survive the murders, arson, and corruption, of course).
Set in fictional Chester's Mill, Maine, the 1,000+ page tome (King's longest since "It") details the demise of a small town that mysteriously becomes stuck under an invisible, impenetrable dome.
The town faces such King clichés as deception, rape, and drug addiction, but it also discovers that it's on the fast track to environmental doom. The book review by Kevin Kelly of Mercury News describes the town's desperate situation.
"You can't see the dome - until it becomes smudged on the outside by the accumulation of smog and things running into it and leaving stains," he said. "With no steady influx of new air, Chester's Mill begins to smell like a locker room and plants start dying, and as the dome becomes more and more smeared with grime from the outside world, the temperature inside climbs."
Three years ago, NBC launched a holiday tradition of environmental awareness. In 2007, it kicked off its "Green Week" by turning off the lights during a Sunday sports broadcast (as if turning off studio lights for one minute could mitigate three hours of blazing stadium lights).
The rest of the week consisted of cringingly cheesy, greenwashed TV moments, like the cop on the crime drama Life buying a solar farm in his quest to find the person who framed him for murder.
Sadly, the line-up for this year's "Green Week," which launches Nov. 15, is just as cringe-worthy. Al Gore will appear again on "30 Rock," undoubtedly spewing dire warnings of the Earth's imminent doom. "The Biggest Loser" will coach its participants to buy organic food and bring their own mugs to coffee shops. Dwight Schrute from "The Office" will role play as a character named "Recyclops," and, in the comedy "Community," Greendale Community College will be renamed "Environ-Dale."
On Nov. 9 CW's teen-targeted "Gossip Girl" featured a threesome, portraying it as a normal, expected event in a college student's life.
The episode depicted three friends completing a list that was supposedly printed in their college newspaper: "The 15 Things Every College Student Must Do Before Graduating." Number 11 was "Have a Threesome."
On Nov. 10, the day after the episode aired, Entertainment Weekly commented on the "Gossip Girl's" threesome, saying, "The whole thing was pretty chaste. Aside from a shot of them all in bed together in the end, it was basically no more risqué than a game of spin the bottle."
What Entertainment Weekly doesn't grasp (or perhaps doesn't want to) is that it's not about how graphic the scene was or wasn't. It's the fact that the show was promoting the idea as normal and even expected.
Networks Decide Attack Wasn't Terror: 85 percent of the broadcast stories didn't mention the word "terror." ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news referenced terrorism connections to the Fort Hood attack just seven times in 48 reports.
ABC, CBS, NBC Follow White House Line: Before Obama's Nov. 10 speech, 93 percent of the stories had ignored any terror connection. But after Obama hinted at what ABC called "Islamic extremist views," all three networks mentioned terrorism.
Alleged Attacker's Muslim Faith Not Important Either: Slightly more than one-fourth (29 percent) of evening news reports mentioned that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was a Muslim. Of those, half (7 out of 14) defended the religion or included experts to do so.
Last week, Fort Hood, Texas was the site of the worst mass shooting in history on a U.S. military base. At 2:34 p.m. local time on Nov. 5, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan - one of the military's own - reportedly attacked fellow soldiers, yelling, "Allah Akbar." He then allegedly fired more than 100 rounds into Fort Hood's crowded processing center, killing 13 and wounding 29. This heinous act stunned the nation and captivated the news media.
Wonder why the White House attack on the Fox News Channel (you know: "not a news network") failed? Well, besides the fact that not even the other networks thought it was right, it might be because Fox often commits actual journalism.
Witness Bill O'Reilly's Nov. 6 interview with Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe, co-authors of the soon-to-be-released "Sarah from Alaska." During the interview, the authors insisted that it was "not a slam book at all." In fact, Conroy said that his "final conclusion" of Palin was that "she's always been underestimated" and to "write her off" would be a "big mistake." Walshe also implicitly blamed the media by saying that Palin's "three-dimensional character" was ignored during last year's presidential campaign and, instead, "she was perceived as either an idiot or she was loathed."
So why did Conroy and Walshe feel the need to defend the fairness of their book? Perhaps because the duo had appeared on CBS earlier that week, and "fair" isn't an adjective that comes to mind in describing that interview.
For years the environmentalists and their green-loving mainstream media allies have been slamming businesses for trashing the planet. Outlets ranging from television networks to magazines to newspapers have spearheaded an incessant "eco-friendly" campaign that has been so influential on consumers that some companies have gone into the red just to be green. But of course now that being green has actually become profitable, the media's criticizing the free market for "taking advantage of it."
On Nov. 5 "Good Morning America's" weatherman and eco-propagandist Sam Champion tsked, "In the past five years, there's been an explosion of products marketed as being green or good for the environment. But just how accurate are all of those claims? And are we really getting what we think we are? Well, the government now says, in some cases, we're not."
With condescension reminiscent of Peter Jennings - in 1994 the ABC anchor characterized the Republican takeover of Congress as the electorate having a "temper tantrum" - Lindenberger portrayed same-sex marriage opponents as stubborn children, saying, "Maine voters insisted on having their say on an issue that simply will not go away." Rather than just report and analyze the outcome, the article simultaneously sympathized with gay activists and emphasized, by way of many pro-gay quotes, the futility of fighting against an "incredible campaign" that simply wants justice.
Maine defenders of traditional marriage only had one quote in the nearly 1,200-word article: "What's the hurry [for gay marriage]?" That's six words, if you count the brackets.
The article also reassured same-sex marriage proponents that this rejection will leave no lasting scars:
UPDATE: Not wanting to be left out of the Palin slamming scene, ABC's "Good Morning America" joined the fray on Nov. 4, interviewing the same people as CBS' "Early Show" and criticizing Palin on the same points.
From accusing her of igniting a civil war within the Republican Party to calling her "nutty" antics a "treasure" to the Democrats, the mainstream media is once again shamelessly slamming Sarah Palin.
On Nov. 3 CBS' "Early Show" interviewed Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe, co-authors of "Sarah from Alaska," a "very revealing" book about Palin on the campaign trail.
"Later this month, Palin's highly anticipated memoir hits bookstores," said CBS' Harry Smith. "But another book beats her to it."
To start off the interview, Smith asked Conroy (who, by the way, also works for CBS) to explain what was going on "behind the scenes" when John McCain gave his concession speech on Election Day last year.
Conroy wasted no time painting Palin as a media hungry mongrel, saying:
Remember back in July when Norma McCorvey was arrested for disruptive behavior during the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor? Wait. Maybe not. The networks only gave her a few cursory seconds, if any. McCorvey is "Jane Roe," the plaintiff in the landmark Roe v Wade lawsuit, and the one-time pro-choicer was shouting for the verdict of her 1973 case to be overturned.
If that's all the notice given the most famous side-switcher in the abortion wars, there's little hope that we'll hear about Abby Johnson in the mainstream media. Johnson, a Planned Parenthood director in Texas, resigned October 6 after watching an ultrasound of an abortion procedure.
"I just thought I can't do this anymore," she said. "And it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that's it."
On Oct. 23 ABC's "Good Morning America" aired back-to-back segments promoting climate change and, strangely enough, slamming hamburgers. First, George Stephanopoulos worried that Americans were becoming too complacent about global warming and discussed possible climate solutions with "Superfreakonomics" author Stephen Dubner. Dubner suggested choosing a kangaroo burger over a beef burger as a possible solution. Then Stephanopoulos interviewed Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," and discussed the carbon footprint left behind by a McDonald's quarter-pounder with cheese.
Pollan said that "you're eating oil" when you're eating a burger: "You need oil to make the fertilizer to grow the corn. You need petroleum to make the pesticides to grow the corn. You need oil to move it all around the country."
Factoring in production, processing, and shipment, Pollan claimed that a quarter-pounder cheeseburger amounts to 26 ounces of oil. "What it tells you is that the carbon footprint of that burger is really big," said Pollan. "The result is a product that takes a huge environmental toll and obviously takes a health toll as well."