Female Broadway Star Just Ended #MeToo? How Obama's Library Connects to His Worst Financial Crisis Move, Washington Post is Ignoring Anti-Semitism in the Jeopardy Controversy (The Five for 08/27/21)

Hey, welcome to The Five.

For nearly two years, I’ve sent The Five every Tuesday and Friday, without missing a single delivery (on email was just “hey, my back is injured, here’s a list of 5 links.”)

Next week, I’m unplugging for some time with my family. The Five will resume regular publication on Tuesday, September 7th.

It’s Friday, so let’s dive into Culture & Commentary.

[one]

Qualley in the upcoming movie Shut In.

In the post-pandemic era, Americans are, surprisingly, not cancelling all those streaming subscriptions they signed up for during the COVID lockdowns. Spending on subscription video went up 21% this year, and that’s on top of the huge uptick in Hulu, HBO, etc. subscriptions from 2020.

However, two services did take a hit from angry consumers. The first was Netflix, after angering Americans with the 2020 French film Cuties, which featured highly sexual dancing from 11 year old girls—cancelations jumped 800%. Although the rumors are unconfirmed, several outlets reported that Disney+ new subscriptions dropped by 68% after firing The Mandalorian star Gina Carano over two politically conservative social media posts.

In both cases, the trends suggest that right-of-center consumers were behind the Netflix/Disney exodus. And now, it appears those consumer dollars have made their way to a new entertainment model.

Popular conservative politics website The Daily Wire launched their first film Run. Hide. Fight. in January, a thriller based on a high school girl who fights back against a school shooter/hostage situation (trailer here).

This week, The Daily Wire announced their next outing into original film, Shut In, starring Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), with D.J. Carouso (Distrubia, xXx: Return of Xander Cage) filling the director’s chair.

DW has positioned their slate of original content as entertainment first, which stands in stark contrast to a growing slate of movies and TV shows that seek first to convey a political or moral message, and then tell a story with the left over runtime.

Whether or not that claim is true…remains to be seen. I haven’t seen Run. Hide. Fight. (but then again, I can barely stay awake for any movie these days—the last two movies I watched we’re the first 50% of Cruella and Stillwater—I liked the first hour of each before nodding off), so I can’t personally give a take on how “political” the movie is.

This is notable, not because there’s a “conservative” movie industry emerging, but because:

  1. There appears to be a strong dotted line between Netflix/Disney+ cancellations and The Daily Wire getting enough new subscribers to continue original movies—which speaks to the power of trends like #CancelNetflix on Twitter.

  2. It’s noteworthy whenever ANYBODY can make movies and TV outside of the traditional Hollywood machine and find success. The only other modern example I can think of is Tyler Perry’s self-made film and TV empire.

Now and again, we see a crowdsourced movie find some success (like my friend Steve Taylor’s 2012 film Blue Like Jazz, which set the Kickstarter record for most money raised, at the time). However, it's been seemingly impossible to create an ecosystem outside of mainstream Hollywood that regularly churns out movies and TV featuring well known actors and directors.

So far, Perry has been the only one to do it in the modern age. If The Daily Wire continues to be successful—the win is not for “conservative entertainment,” but for consumers…regardless of political leaning.

In a world where roughly a half dozen Hollywood studios control almost all scripted entertainment available on our TV screens, there are now two cracks in the entertainment oligopoly dam.

Which makes you think we just might see a world where hit film and TV is made by smaller companies scattered across the country, dispersing the influence and budgets of Hollywood into dozens of smaller entities.

Stay tuned…

[two]

The offscreen drama surrounding the long-running game show Jeopardy continues to spiral out of control.

After much speculation on who would replace the late (iconic) Alex Trebek, bigger names like Levar Burton (Star Trek, The Next Generation) and Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rogers were passed over for little known TV producer Mike Richards, with Mayim Bialik (Blossom, Big Bang Theory) stepping in for prime time specials and spin offs.

Richards was fired after five episodes (which will still air) due to past comments on a past podcast that were offensive to multiple ethnic groups. However, Richards will stay on as the executive producer of Jeopardy, so this seems to be more of a case of a TV network bowing to the Twitter mob than REALLY thinking an employee did something wrong.

This promoted Bialik to the main host. Which was great, until a single sentence from her book on attachment parenting Beyond the Sling:

We made an informed decision not to vaccinate our children, but this is a very personal decision that should be made only after sufficient research, which today is within reach of every parent who seeks to learn about their child's health regardless of their medical knowledge or educational status.

Never mind that Bialik hopped on YouTube long before this controversy hit (October, 2020) to explain why she was getting her first vaccines in 30 years (COVID+Flu) and that her boys would be getting flu shots immediately, and COVID shots at soon as they were available.

One more important note here, Bialik has a PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA. Whether or not you agree or disagree with her vaccine decision when her kids were young, the fact that she’s in the top 1-5 percentile for IQ in the U.S. is undisputed.

But, it doesn’t matter that Bialik has changed her mind on vaccines, or that she’s a (very) high IQ that likely put a lot of thought into her parenting decision.

No, according to the mob, she once made a decision that some people with lots of time to be angry on Twitter disagree with, so she must be cast out.

Eric Weinstein, a mathematician and former physicist at MIT (who’s very much on the political left) recently commented on the condemnation of anyone who questions the current norms, which may have been a response to what Bialik is going through.

Earlier this summer, Weinstein elaborated on his stance, and hesitations, around the COVID-19 vaccine.

Of course, there’s also a mob calling for Weinstein to be fired (he’s currently a manager at Thiel Capital).

To summarize, a bunch of angry people, who are anecdotally mostly of Anglo-Saxon heritage, are calling for two Jews to be expelled from business, entertainment and academia for being “unclean” and “promoting lies.”

(Weinstein is secular, Bialik is religious and Orthodox).

Yeah, that’s never gone to a really bad place or anything before…

One final note here. The Washington Post ran the op-ed How Journalism saved Jeapordy from an utter failure of corporate vetting.

Because, you know, the hero of every story to a journo at an elitist institution is…a journo at an elitist institution.

Meanwhile, the paper is ignoring the hate Bialik is receiving over a single sentence in a decade old memoir, that she changed her flipping mind about.

Sooner or later, that same digital mob will turn it's eye to the Washington Post for some (likely invisible) slight.

When what used to be the finest paper in the world, in my opinion, is being eaten by the Twitter mob, do not forget that the online rage beast grew in strength and numbers by first feeding of the table scraps of the elitist legacy media, who turned from sound journalism practices in favor of self serving narratives.

What I'm not saying is that all modern journalism is bad. As I covered last week, quality investigative reporting is coming from unlikely places, such as Buzzfeed news.

My anger at the downfall of the Washington Post is only strong because the paper was once so vital. Their reporting uncovered Watergate, one of the biggest political scandals of the 20th century. Even seven years ago, I still faithfully read the Post, even as the standards at the New York Times slipping became obvious in the paper experienced in fact checking, number of retractions and open bias in hard news.

The Washington Post used to exist to tell you the news. Now, the Post exists to extol the virus of east coast “journalists.”

Nowhere is this heel turn more obvious than in making the story of rise of Malim Bialik, a brilliant PhD turned game show host who's enduring inexcusable hatred from the digital mob, into a tale of how elite journos are the heroes of the modern age.

[three]

A sketch of the Obama library, on Chicago’s lakefront. Construction is set to begin this year.

The collapse of Afghanistan back into a terrorist state has brought new light to Biden’s relationship with former POTUS Barack Obama. (Allegedly, Obama tried to discourage Biden from running for President in 2020, reportedly saying “you don’t have to do this, Joe.” Obama also waited until the last possible moment to endorse Biden).

I interviewed Obama when he was a rising star Senator in Chicago, and found him to be warm, personable and absolutely unforgettable individual when we were face to face.

As a President, my biggest complaints were with his handling of foreign policy.

Now, looking at how Biden has botched Afghanistan, I would rate Obama’s foreign policy record higher than the rating I would have given him in 2016, simply because we didn't see the downfall of a newly democratic nation into terrorism and 10,000 Americans trapped inside the borders of a hostile with no way to get home.

However, my opinion of Obama’s domestic record dropped dramatically after reading Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi take on the 44th POTUS’s handling of the financial crisis, which Taibbi wrote about in response to 44’s star studded 60th birthday bash.

From taibbi.substack.com:

Every politician breaks promises, but the issue with many of the items in Obama’s long list of reversals was not failure but betrayal, in the most profound and devastating sense of the word. I was relatively a booster of Obama in 2008, but once assigned to cover the financial crisis found myself stunned at choices he made, beginning with the appalling decision to invite still-employed Citigroup officials to run his economic transition. This move led to one of the more breathtakingly corrupt deals in modern presidential history, one the press gave almost a complete pass. I heard about it from a senior Democratic Party official, a great believer in Obama who was flabbergasted by the lack of press attention and still I think hopeful on some level that the King simply didn’t know what was going on at his court.

Obama hired his close friend and Harvard law classmate Michael Froman, a protege of former Bill Clinton Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, to run his economic transition team. Froman was a Citigroup executive who made $7.4 million at the company in 2008 and did not resign when he joined the transition team. This is significant because less than a month after Obama’s election, on November 23rd, 2008, a deal was struck to give a $306 billion bailout to Citigroup, a rescue negotiated in significant part by Timothy Geithner, another former deputy to Rubin.

Again, Obama was so kind to me in person, I’ll never forget him. But his weakness as a “typical” politician can’t just be seen in the backdoor Citi Group deal, but in the Chicagoan’s decision to put his Presidential Library smack dab in the middle of a park in the Windy City, when the library could have just as easily been built in a lower income area, bringing vital jobs and tourists to the south side neighborhoods.

Now that we’re close to six years removed from Obama’s last day in office, both the hysterical conspiracy theories (“he’s a secret Kenyan!”) and the fawning over the former POTUS as if he could do no wrong…it looks like most Americans see what I see…a popular President who transformed the nation as the first African American elected to the nation’s highest office…who couldn’t say no to some easy money or calling in political shots when he wants something that’s not in the public’s interest (like the library).

Regardless of your opinion is of the 44th President, you may want to consider a visit to the library when it’s complete. The designs look absolutely stunning.

[four]

A Broadway star has been accused of grooming young fans, sharing risqué photos with minors and possibly engaging in more explicit sexual conversations and contact.

From The Daily Beast:

Four people called Ripley’s behavior an abuse of power, alleging she sought out vulnerable young fans, who were often queer. They claim Ripley would shower them with compliments and even tell them who they should and shouldn’t “associate” with, including other fans. They allege they were constantly competing for the attention of Ripley, who in turn would make them feel special and even integral to her life. Some felt she was a mother-type figure to them. Others claim they were in love with her. When they could no longer provide Ripley with the level of attention she supposedly wanted, she allegedly would discard them, leaving them shattered.

“I felt like I was in a cult, the cult of Alice Ripley,” Liz, a New York City actress whom The Daily Beast is only identifying by her middle name, says. “She finds people who are desperate for love, and she figures out how to fill that hole and then manipulates them with it.”

“I’ve spent the last 10 years thinking I’m the only one who’s been in therapy because of Alice Ripley,” Meredith, whom The Daily Beast is also only identifying by her middle name, adds. “Then in the last 48 hours, I realize there are also other individuals who are my demographic who have also felt literally traumatized by this relationship.”

Alice Ripley is clearly an abuser, just not the kind the media likes to cover.

When the Harvey Weinstein story kicked off the #MeToo movement, the famous movie producer may have been the most powerful player in Hollywood, but he was also the most hated, due to his horrific abuse.

Now, #MeToo is uncovering stars the media, well, likes. And there’s just not much fanfare. Although we can’t prove it, actress Rose McGowan has laid out a credible case that Meryl Streep knew of Weinstein’s behavior for years, and stayed silent. That story died quickly.

Now, Ripley is accused of predatory sexual behavior on the heels of Andrew Cuomo’s forced resignation, which in turned ousted #TimesUp leader Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer who was both a leader in the anti-sexual-abuse movement in Hollywood, and a key New York politics political player who apparently covered up Cuomo’s unwanted sexual advances.

If you haven’t heard anything of either story…I’m not surprised. Apparently, the media only think #MeToo matters when the alleged abuser is someone they dislike (Weinstein, Bill Cosby, etc.)

When the abuse comes from a beloved Broadway star or populist NYC political player…the headlines fall strangely silent.

MLK famously said “our lives begin to end the day we fall silent on the things that matter.”

In a similar vein, #MeToo will cease to be relevant when the status of the abuser matters more than the crime against the victim.

We arrived at that moment this week.

[five]

  • Steve Martin and Martin Short (who have previously appeared together in Father of the Bride, Three Amigos and Saturday Night Live) and team up with Millennial pop star Selena Gomez for Only Murders in the Building. The strong reviews are comparing it to both the NBC comedy 30 Rock and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

  • Juliana Margeluis (ER, Billions) joins season two of The Morning Show on Apple+, which already boasts a stellar cast that includes Jennifer Aniston (Friends, The Breakup), Reese Witherspoon (Wild, Sweet Home Alabama) and Billy Crudup (Titanic, Watchmen). Honestly, I don’t know anyone who watches ANYTHING on Apple+, but that’s a heck of a lot of big names on one show, so perhaps that will change for season 2.

  • The uber popular Polish-novel-series-turned-blockbuster-video-game-franchise-turned-Netflix-original The Witcher gets an animated spinoff ahead of season 2. I really enjoyed the first season of the (live action show), not sure if I’ll personally make time for an animated entry into the Witcher universe, but it’s worth noting that animated, action content for adults is a growing trend. See the trailer for Nightmare of the Wolf.

  • Netflix’s biggest movie to date, Red Notice (starring Dwayne The Rock” Johnson, Gal Gadot of Wonder Woman fame and comedic genius Ryan Reynolds) finally gets a release date—stream it November 12th.

  • The most polarizing piece of news reported this week in The Five—wait for it—NBC is “standing by” to reboot The Office.

  • Charleze Theron is getting very close to “in house talent” status for Netflix, as her action vehicle The Old Guard is one of the network’s most streamed movies of all time. Now, Theron’s spy thriller Atomic Blonde will reportedly be getting two sequels for the streaming giant.

MY PICK Can’t say I’ve exactly figured out why the kids are into Billie Eilish, but as far as Gen Z pop goes, the new Lorde album Solar Power is chock full of enough analog summer anthems to capture this Elder Millennial’s attention.

[epilogue]

As a follow up to the coverage of what “health experts” are now labeling Toxic Masculinity (in which I pointed out how mainstream celebs such as Reese Witherspoon fit the definition of “toxic masculinity.”)

Becka Garris, grew up hunting with her father in northern New Jersey. As an adult, she started a YouTube channel around wild game cooking, and began to document her journey hunting with a traditional recurve bow.

Now that she and her husband have a daughter, Becka straps on the kiddo and takes to the marshlands of Ohio, with the doubly difficult task of taking a deer with traditional equipment while keeping a toddler quiet.

When she was selected as for the cover of Outdoor Life, Becka first admitted that she felt she didn’t belong, before realizing that it was the lessons passed along, not the size of the deer, that matters.

I haven't done anything incredible hunting wise....no monster bucks or anything like that. But, I am raising the most incredible little girl to follow in the footsteps of all the hunters who came before her. And that in itself is amazing.

The world feels quite Dystopian when the globe’s largest search engine provides a definition of “Toxic Masculinity” that includes classic virtues which stretch back to Judeo Christian, Greek, Roman, Egyptiansocieties…as vices.

Based on the Outdoor Life cover story, Becka checks off three of Google’s six criteria for “Toxic Masculinity.”

Until the next one,

-sth