A semi-regular feature on the underappreciated, the promising, and the very cool
By Marilyn Ferdinand
Yesterday and today, as I read the fallout of MSNBC’s decision to demote Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann from their anchor duties for the 2008 General Election, I saw feminists hail it as a welcome kick out the door to two of television’s most popular and voluble misogynists. The United States’ “paper of record,” which I have demoted by not naming it, cites the following: “The McCain campaign has filed letters of complaint to the news division about its coverage and openly tied MSNBC to it. Tension between the network and the campaign hit an apex the day Mr. McCain announced Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.”
The paper made no mention of the fact that both Matthews and Olbermann tarred presidential candidate Hillary Clinton repeatedly over the course of her campaign with misogynistic language (maybe because the newspaper’s columnists did, too) and that the network refused to rein either of them in by demoting them despite repeated complaints from Senator Clinton’s campaign staff, Media Matters, and the National Organization for Women. Clearly, when Republican presidential candidates talk, major media listens. Don’t look for Sarah Palin to get the same treatment the former First Lady did at this newspaper or other major media outlets.
Upset about the further degradation of civic discourse as I used to know it, I suddenly found myself thinking about the last interview BBC writer Dennis Potter gave before his untimely death in 1994. This deeply intelligent, self-aware man brimming with appetites, ideas, nostalgia, and a clear-eyed understanding of social intercourse and the ways it can be twisted and degraded is best known around the world for his television series The Singing Detective, a brutal, inventive, compassionate look at a tormented soul that puts most television dramas to shame. I find it ironic that the demotion of two real misogynists by a cynical network with a political agenda was the type of act predicted by a man who was wrongly accused of being a misogynist for his sexually charged series Blackeyes, which sought to reveal how men, “the newest ruling class” according to Potter, use and coerce women as things. This comment and many others in these, his last public words, lift me out of the mire of media, politics, and commercial slop by which I feel assaulted on a daily basis.
Fortunately, a wonderful YouTube member from the UK whose moniker is matt7333 has made this entire interview available, along with other interviews of interest to film fans, including several with Orson Welles, Dustin Hoffman, and Alfred Hitchcock. Please patronize his offerings. The star in the crown, to my mind, is Without Walls: An Interview with Dennis Potter. Here it is in eight parts, which run a total of 74 minutes. Watching any part for however long you can is worth the time. Watching them uninterrupted just might change your life.
A reasonably priced Region 2 DVD collection called The Essential Dennis Potter is available at MovieMail. It includes The Singing Detective, Pennies from Heaven, Casanova, Brimstone & Treacle, Vote Vote Vote for Nigel Barton/Stand Up Nigel Barton, Blue Remembered Hills, and The Mayor of Casterbridge.