I’m not one to bad mouth another’s work. Indeed, I like to spend my time putting light and good into the world as much as humanly possible. Every now and then, however, something comes along that compels me to comment in the negative. A thing so monstrous and confrontationally horrible that I simply must warn people about it, causing them to wonder what is going on in our world that a thing like this can attain any status at all. The monster to which I refer is the recent podcast Unqualified by Anna Faris.
Though, I have to give her credit for aptly naming it, I don’t think labeling something correctly gives you a pass. In fact, I think it incriminates you more as it shows that you are well aware of what you’re putting out. I could almost be more forgiving if Faris called it “An Hour with Howard Stern’s Protégée.” At least this would be closer to what she’s going for. At least this would be honest.
To give a little background on Faris, she is famously married to mega-star Chris Pratt. If you listen to her podcast for 10 minutes she’ll be sure to mention this like some archaic throwback to the fifties who lives in the shadow of her husband’s superstardom. As for her own career, in the past, she had minimal success with comedies like the 2008 House Bunny, a campy reason for her to wear as little as possible. She went virtually off the radar until her more recent CBS show Mom with Allison Janney. Faris manages to clean up her act to play the cutesy daughter, yet Janney and costar Jaimie Presley truly carry the show.
Unqualified is where Faris lets loose. She uses her star power (and her husband’s) to garner celebrity guests like Jeremy Renner and Courtney Love only to then reduce them to fodder for sexual innuendos and cheesy often X-rated acting vignettes that are way beneath them. To top it off she has callers call in who have legitimate, life-altering issues so that she and the celebrity can give them “unqualified” advice. More often than not, what Faris has to offer truly lives up to the title of the show while the guest’s wisdom outshines hers by giving the person something substantial to go on.
I really tried to give the podcast a fighting chance. It is, sadly, one of the most listened to podcasts out there and I’m one of those women who likes to support other women in their endeavors in arts and media which is so often male-saturated. There’s no denying, however, that this effort does little to boost women’s reputation in the industry. This kind of lewd podcast would make feminist icon Gloria Steinem wish she’d have just slapped on her Talbot’s dress, teased her hair up, baked cookies to serve to a brood of kids and kept her mouth shut.
As I listened to Farris vocalize a sex scene with Courtney Love to end their segment (a segment mind you that never once broached the topic of Love’s role in the grunge music scene or her amazing artist of a daughter), I couldn’t help but wonder if my generation has it all wrong. Have we mistaken all the hard-earned equality feminists before us achieved as a pass to now become no better than loud-talking, crass locker room boys-will-be-boys kind of women?
I recently started reading Peggy Orenstein’s Girls and Sex: Navigating The Complicated New Landscape. In her book, Orenstein writes about her interviews with over 70 girls from all variety of backgrounds and how media, the hook-up culture and our lack of appropriate discussions with girls about sex is increasingly affecting them as they become women.
“Every girl knows she’s going to get more ‘likes’ when she posts a picture of herself in a bikini than when she puts one up of herself in a parka,” Orenstein writes.
She points out that our culture has become more and more about women and girls as objects and that women have accepted this in some sense. “The objects are not objecting,” she points out.
Unqualified is the scary epitome of this new era. An era where women objectify themselves, as Faris does when she plays up her ditzy, blond, over-sexualized persona, and make money by doing so. We think that we’ve come so far and how great it is that we have the same rights as men to have our own shows, to make our own material and run our own companies, yet are we really exercising those rights if we are making the very same kind of material that we complained about men making?
I don’t know how women like Faris change. One can hope that possibly as her son, who’s now five, gets a little older, maybe once he’s hitting puberty, she’ll wake up. When he’s hanging up posters of girls dressed much like she was in House Bunny and laughing at the same kind of demeaning humor she, herself, uses when referring to her own gender on her podcasts, maybe then she’ll have a lightbulb moment and think “Whoa! I’ve been way too unqualified for way too long.”