Hollywood’s favorite phrase is “speaking truth to power.” It charts just above “She/he is the love of my life,” “Though we’re not together anymore, we’ll remain good friends,” and “Hey, where did I leave my underwear?”
Hollywood slings around the phrase “speaking truth to power” as if it were cocaine at a Sean Penn movie premiere party. And they particularly love slinging it around at the time of the White House Correspondents Dinner.
A couple years ago, Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central was the beneficiary of the “speaking truth to power” Hollywood press machine. He headlined the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, and laid ‘em in the aisles with brilliant lines like, “Over the last five years, you people were so good-over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. … And then you write, Oh, they’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!”
Yes, when you’re a leftist, spouting leftist Hallmark cards cribbed from Democratic Underground counts as humor.
But at least Colbert said all this to Bush’s face. It took a peculiar kind of guts, but it took guts. It wasn’t truly “speaking truth to power” – after all, Bush wasn’t going to send Colbert to the gulag or force him into re-education camp. But by the watered-down definition of the media, it counted.
Wanda Sykes, by contrast, is the most gutless and feckless performer ever to grace the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Sykes, for those who haven’t seen her stellar work in gems like CondomNation, Brother Bear 2, and Over the Hedge, is a militant lesbian with a grating voice and an obnoxious strut. She recently proclaimed during the California Prop. 8 debate that “Everybody that knows me personally, they know I’m gay … Now, I gotta get in their face. I’m proud to be a woman. I’m proud to be a black woman, and I’m proud to be gay.”
Well, apparently she’s not so proud to be gay. Because when given the opportunity to make jokes about the nation’s leading proponent of opposite-sex marriage, President Barack Obama, she said precisely nothing. Instead, she chose to gently stroke his ego with jokes about his pecs, his dog, and his basketball skills.
Meanwhile, she saved her real ire for non-federal or non-active politicians and non-governmental figures like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. To Obama’s hysterical laughter, she said that she hoped Limbaugh would suffer kidney failure and accused him of being the 20th hijacker. She said she wanted Sean Hannity waterboarded by Keith Olbermann. She attacked Dick Cheney, stating that if her child had a choice between getting in a car with Dick Cheney and a car with a stranger, she would tell her child to choose the stranger.
Courageous, to be sure.
But she saved her most despicable gibe for Sarah Palin, who was not attending. Apparently, Sykes isn’t only a shrinking violet when it comes to her lesbianism – she’s a shrinking violet when it comes to her sex. Noting Sarah’s absence at the dinner (her husband, Todd, attended), Sykes said that Palin had pulled out at the last minute. “Somebody should tell her that’s not really how you practice abstinence,” she chided.
This is sexism of the highest order. Sarah Palin didn’t get knocked up before her marriage – her daughter did. Why didn’t Sykes blame Todd, who was sitting right there? Or why didn’t she blame Levi, who knocked up Bristol? Or why didn’t she blame Bristol? By focusing on Sarah, she perpetuated the stereotype that the woman is utterly and totally responsible for each and every individual act of the child – a stereotype Sykes would surely reject were she not so blindly hateful of Palin.
The bottom line: both feminism and homosexuality matter less to Sykes than kissing Barack Obama’s butt. She didn’t utter a single joke about Obama’s out of control spending. Not one joke about his teleprompter. Not one joke about his visit with Chavez, his messages to Iran, his Cinco De Mayo screwup, his mastery of the Austrian language, his “world without nuclear weapons,” his spreading the wealth around, his ownership of the car companies, his tax-cheat employees.
And most of all, not a single joke about Dan Choi, the first gay Arabic linguist fired by Barack Obama under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Not a single joke about Obama’s interracially married parents and his refusal to stump for homosexual marriage. Sykes pledged to “get in their face” about gay marriage, but refused to get in the face of the most powerful man on earth about it. Instead, she chose to go after Rush Limbaugh and oxycontin – a choice for which she will surely be praised by the leftist media.
In certain times, such posturing buffoonery would have been ripped as “Uncle Tomming.” Imagine Richard Pryor speaking at a White House Correspondents Dinner for JFK and failing to mention the civil rights movement, instead choosing to focus on Jackie Kennedy’s hairdo and JFK’s winning smile.
Nobody has the obligation to “speak truth to power” when given the opportunity. Sometimes it’s okay just to be funny. But if one is given the opportunity to speak truth to power, sees him/herself as a champion of “speaking truth to power,” and instead chooses to spend the time excoriating the power’s opposition, that would be sycophantic stupidity of the worst kind.
That would be Wanda Sykes.