Oscar insults from MSNBC's Courtney Hazlett

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

MSNBC's Courtney Hazlett, discussing Oscar nominations:

First: Frozen River was nominated for two awards, Best Actress and Original Screenplay. It is doubtful that viewers will avoid the Oscars because a movie they've never heard of was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

More significantly: Hazlett's contention that only "elite, effete" viewers watch "obscure" films like Frozen River is a slur against both those who have seen Frozen River and those who will never hear of it.

Enjoying a movie that Courtney Hazlett has never heard of does not make one "effete" - it simply suggests that perhaps MSNBC should find an entertainment reporter who actually takes the time to watch - or at least read a review of -- Oscar-caliber films.

It's simply astonishing that an MSNBC reporter would feel comfortable describing people as effete - "Marked by self-indulgence, triviality, or decadence"; "effeminate" - merely because they liked a movie she hasn't heard of.

Imagine if she said something similarly insulting about moviegoers who preferred, say, Kung Fu Panda.

Actually, she did - though she almost certainly doesn't realize it. Hazlett referred to Frozen River's audience as "elite." But watching, or even enjoying, a film like Frozen River doesn't mean a person is "elite" - "The best or most skilled members of a group." Hazlett's formulation suggests Frozen River viewers are better than Kung Fu Panda fans. This is complete nonsense. And, though Hazlett probably meant it as an insult to Frozen River viewers, it is actually an insult to every one else.

Hazlett's commentary is quite similar to the way many reporters talk about politics and the so-called "culture wars." They portrayed John Kerry, for example, as "elite" and "effete" for drinking green tea and wind-surfing. They tried to do the same when Barack Obama displayed somewhat limited bowling abilities - and even when he wore sunglasses.

This is stupid and insulting. But it is not only insulting to Frozen River viewers and green tea drinkers. It is stupid and insulting to everyone else, as well. Saying that the "elite" watch art-house films and drink green tea suggests that those who watch Ironman and drink Budweiser are inferior.

Most people, I think, got over that worldview shortly after middle school. Most people realize that watching Frozen River doesn't make you better than anyone else - and it doesn't make you worse, either.

Sadly, that's a lesson Courtney Hazlett and many other journalists still haven't learned.

More narrowly, it seems time for somebody at MSNBC to have a little talk with Hazlett about her insults. Today it was "effete"; last year she called director Spike Lee "uppity."

UPDATE: Hazlett makes fun of Frozen River's obscurity by claiming you have to go to some web site to view it and, later in the day, pointing out that if you are in New York City and want to see it, you have to travel all the way to Ithaca to find a theater at which the film is showing. Presumably, that's because the film was playing in New York City in August. Hazlett is aware that films that appeared in theaters before December are Oscar-eligible, isn't she? And that movies don't tend to stay in theaters for six months?

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