Jimmy Kimmel, The Man Show, and Weinsteingate: Liner Notes

I have a column on Jimmy Kimmel’s interview with New York magazine up at The Federalist.  RTWT, but the basic thrust is that Kimmel is having to be very careful about injecting politics into his late-night show, because the Harvey Weinstein scandal is hot but maybe not a great topic for the co-creator and co-host of The Man Show.

The impetus for the piece came from The Fed’s publisher:

There’s some competition!  But the problems that arise from the collision of politics and culture are a subject I write about here often, and for The Fed from time to time.

Given that I wanted to quote Kimmel fully, the piece ran long and there are side questions I couldn’t get into.

For example, one of the issues Weinsteingate raises is the complicated relationship between powerful people and the press.  We now know that Weinstein used development deals to entangle gossip and entertainment reporters in his web.  But even without that level of craven influence, the entertainment press has a symbiotic relationship with celebrities, agents, studios, etc., with the former ultimately adopting a more cozy and compromised relationship with the latter than an adversarial relationship.

Kimmel’s interviewer appears to be navigating this issue in the interview.  The Man Show comes up, but it’s discussed very carefully.  Kimmel is even asked whether the show makes him cringe and he refuses to fully distance himself from it.  On Earth 2, that might be the headline, but not here.

I also could have written more about the implications of Kimmel’s seeming re-framing of The Man Show as ironic.  We might question Kimmel’s suggestion that he thought he was winking and that some didn’t get the concept — are we to believe that he thought the real audience here was progressive men who were savoring the satire?  I don’t think we are, but I wonder whether younger progressive men who unironically enjoyed the objectification of women were as much a core demo of The Man Show as the less politically enlightened.  These men didn’t have to be Weinstein, or Ted Kennedy, or Jenny’s boyfriend in Forrest Gump.  But they might complicate the answer Kimmel suggested.

Moreover, If Kimmel was aware that of and took advantage of the fact that the objectification supposedly worked for an audience non-ironically as well as ironically, what sort of judgment should we have of that now?  Conversely, if he was that culturally calculating then, why should his newfound progressive fans take his new, more woke image at face value today?

There’s one spot where I may have been unfair to Kimmel.  I may have misread his answer about the Oscars.  It could be read as saying he probably would address Weinsteingate but not joke about it.  This would be less traumatic for his victims, but… he’d still be bringing it up in front of them, so I’m still not sure that reasoning holds up either.

There’s also a correction: Kimmel launched The Man Show in 1999, not 1994.

Lastly, as I read the interview, there is the additional question in my mind as to what Kimmel (and perhaps the interviewer) think the net results of Weinsteingate will actually be — a question I wrote about previously.  Whatever Kimmel’s real thoughts about The Man Show or Weinstein might be, I wonder whether he’s a bit skeptical (for whatever reason) that much will come of the scandal.  There are certainly observers of Tinseltown like Richard Rushfield who think there may wind up being a lot more talk than action on the mysogyny and generally awful behavior by the powerful.  Kimmel may be one of them and may be hedging his bets, whatever he says now about losing an audience on the Right.

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