Move over Herr Dr. Freud. The question can no longer be: What do women want? It's rather: What do women actors want? (Call them actresses at your own risk.) The answer is simple: Like their predecessors, they want to be taken seriously. Okay, ultra-seriously. Meaning no laughing out loud when their routine proves too entertaining.
This new psychiatric condition was first revealed in Washington on January 17, when at the Communist-sponsored rally on behalf of Saddam Hussein and Kim Song Il, Mikhail Baryshnikov's former tootsie, Ms. Jessica Lange, who also played Tootsie's tootsie, announced she wasn't going to take it anymore. She reassured the comrades she wasn't speaking to them as an "actor," nor as a "policy-maker" (we're not making this up), not even as a celebrity or as one of the most beautiful women God has ever set His eyes on. Reading from a script hastily crafted by a dozen or two future F. Scott Fitzgerald's in residence at MGM and Universal, in a project that at last count is under the control of at least six executive producers, Jessica intoned that she is simply mesmerized, paralyzed and eviscerated by fear each time she dares utter a word of dissent. As she noted, "We are demonized, we are reviled, and we are made to look foolish." Poor thing. Who's her lighting director? Yet she's the one who put her questions this way:
"Months ago, we woke up one day and we realized we were on a path to war, and I wondered, where was the genesis of this? Was this born out of some vendetta mentality?" Cluelessness is a condition common to those who overslept on September 11.
A week or so later along came an actress less blonde than Ms. Lange and with a name that suggests the condition of young men who've watched too many beer commercials. The Washington Post's headline reflected the gravamen of her complaint: "On Iraq, Janeane Garofalo Fights to Be Taken Seriously." J.G.'s condition is self-defeating. She insists on being given full media access in order to denounce U.S. policy and then turns around to attack the media for having the likes of her on in the first place. "They have actors on so they can marginalize the [antiwar] movement," she wails.
Now comes Susan Sarandon, mad enough again to drive over a cliff. Her fury derives from the notion that some consider her unpatriotic in siding with Saddam during this difficult time for him. "I'm tired of being labeled anti-American because I ask questions," she told British reporters, before launching into an attack on "Blair" for allowing himself to be seduced by "Bush" (though being seduced by "Clinton" is fine, she hastened to add). Lucky for Susan, Richard Reid has been found guilty, freeing her to star in a movie about his ordeal. She can play a flight attendant who offers to accompany him to Baghdad where he will be fitted with a more comfortable pair of shoes.
Since we're on the subject of women, dare we change subjects? You go ahead. But we intend to return to this space next week. So why jeopardize a good thing?
One of Washington's most glamorous figures, Ms. Helen Thomas, has found G.W. Bush wanting. In a major address, she characterized him as "the worst president ever," a bellicose characterization never attempted by Saddam Hussein or his son Uday, Iraq's top rapist, murderer, and torturer. But, then, men have sense of honor. Where is Ms. Thomas's sense of proportion? Figures such as Idi Amin, Slobodan Milosevic, and Haffez al-Assad -- not to mention Saddam himself -- have all carried the title of president, and the young Bush is worse than they were?
Thanks to renewed protection by friends in high media, Sen. Patty Murray continues to get away with it. During his recent State of the Union address, President Bush sprung a trap for her by noting, "Across the earth, America is feeding the hungry; more than 60 percent of international food aid comes as a gift from the people of the United States" -- and not a single camera took the bait to turn its lenses on Patty for her reaction. The only time they did capture her for the screen was when she bent over to retie the laces on her evening sneakers.
It was a poetic moment, to be sure, but was it an antiwar gesture? We'll never know, now that the White House has canceled a poetry reading schedule for Lincoln's Birthday, all because members of the Lange-Garofalo-Sarandon brigade promised to turn it into an anti-Bush extravaganza. Instead of Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson we would have heard from such beauties as Rita Dove, Adrienne Rich and -- our EOW -- Marilyn Hacker. We know nothing about Ms. Hacker, except for the lines the New York Times bravely reprinted from the poem she would have read aloud to Mrs. Bush, lamenting that
The world is howling,
bleeding and dying in banner headlines.
No hope for youthful pacifists, elderly
anarchists; no solutions from diplomats.
Men maddened with revealed religion
murder their neighbors with their righteous fervor,
while claiming they're "defending democracy"
our homespun junta exports the war machine....
Junta? She's got her dictatorships confused. Next time, a little less ethnic insensitivity, please. America is many things, but it's not Argentina.