I just packed away my hazmet gear after what I can only hope is my last visit to the cesspool into which l'affair Hinsey has descended. It looks as though the numbers have topped out at 1800+. Mostly dreck towards the end (I think a lot of people were hoping to round things up to 2000). But floating among the chest-high muck were a couple of late-entry pearls of wisdom.
Since posting my initial reaction earlier this week, I've been going round-and-round trying to sort out what this whole mess means. As MarkH put it, "the truth is never in a single thing, but in the gestalt of things." Deconstructing the gestalt of the Hinsey blowback has revealed a lot of questions about soap opera, soap opera journalism, and how the two are inextricably linked. Among the questions: Can a soap opera journalist be an advocate for soaps; can a soap journalist be a fan; what kind(s) of journalism do soap fans really want; what kind(s) do they need; can soap's print media survive with the growth of the Internet; how do the Internet soap media become economically viable (this is a question all media have been struggling with). It's a list that will keep me writing for weeks, if not months.
And those are just a few of the issues embedded in l'affair Hinsey. But let's start with some of what she actually wrote. I have to confess, it's been a while since I read either SOW or SOD on a regular basis. I can't remember exactly when Mimi Torchin stopped writing her column; it's been a few years. A woman at work used to bring Weekly in and I'd have a look, a short look - ten-minutes, tops - there just wasn't anything of substance for which I was inclined plunk down $2.99. And, as a former contributor, it was just too sad and depressing to see how far the magazine had declined..
But, I've been working from home since February, so now it's whatever I catch while I'm waiting on line at the supermarket. The truth is, anything of importance I'll have already heard about on at least one of the dozen or so soap sites I visit each day. So, I would scan the first couple of paragraphs of Hinsey's, It's Only My Opinion; I can't remember a single time there was a reason to continue. But, looking over some of what been posted in the wake of Hinsey's firing, I now fully understand the outrage.
When Snark posted the story last week, he listed three Hinsey columns he found particularly egregious. Working back in time: Strikewatch, in which Hinsey displayed a pitiful lack of understanding regarding the issues underlying the Writers Guild strike, and the impact of those issues on soap writers (follow all the links to read the letter the WGA wrote to refute Hinsey).
Next, a discussion of whether or not a man can be raped by a woman. Here, Hinsey teamed up with longtime TV Guide soap columnist and occasional SOD contributor, Michael Logan, to insult fans who were upset when, "GH label(ed) Jax's encounter with Irina 'cheating'" Rather than generate a serious discussion about a sensitive issue, fans were dismissed with, "then write to them, not to me."
And then there was the rampant hypocrisy Hinsey displayed when she took SOAPnet to task: "What is happening at SOAPnet? Our beloved soap cable channel is filling up with lame reality shows, which risks alienating longtime soap fans. And once you lose them, you're done...There's no room for AW, but there's room for reality programming about wannabe soap stars and fashionistas?," without in any way acknowledging the fact that Weekly has done exactly the same thing.
What all three of these columns have in common is that each contains the kernel of a serious, thought-provoking editorial that examined the underlying issues. But instead, Hinsey trivialized the issues and demeaned soaps and soap fans. How the WGA strike would affect soap writers in the long and short term demanded an informed and reasoned consideration of the facts. Instead, Hinsey summed up the situation with the less-than-illuminating, "Talk about screwing the pooch."
In Logan's response to his initial piece, he raised a point well worth exploring, "And now the Jaxanistas hate me for pointing out that they never raise this sorta stink when women are victimized on soaps." Logan's absolutely right when he asked where is the outrage about the mindless misogyny and gratuitous violence against women in soaps. But there was no exploring, just a lot of simplistic, crude BS that pointed the finger at the fans, instead of discussing the issue.
And SOAPnet's moving reality shows in and classic soap out contains all of the difficult issues facing both soaps and the soap media. Is there a topic more in need thoughtful examination?
But as I made my final pass though the Jossip muck, I came across something Hinsey wrote that was not just crude and coarse, but cruel and offensive, as well. In one of the last posts, #1832, "Alex's Mom" wrote:
I think it's absolutely horrifying what she wrote about the impossibility of a man being raped, but does anyone recall the column where she referred to the social skills group that autistic character Lily was attending on AMC as "moron boot camp"? This may have been mentioned once already during the last 1800 posts, and if it has, I apologize. But as one of the fishwives and the mother of an autistic child, I was pretty wounded by that comment. I wrote the editor thanking them for interviewing Dr.Bernard Rimland in that issue and trying to help raise autism awareness but pointed out that what Ms. Hinsey wrote was sure to upset a few people. Of course, you all can guess what the outcome of all that was...nothing
I don't know if Hinsey thought she was trying to be funny; I do know she will not be missed...
© 2008 Lynn Liccardo
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