BALTIMORE — I watched the U.S. Supreme Court fiasco the last several days and thought about an old movie called “Broadcast News,” which told me how far America’s sexual culture has shifted since the film’s appearance.
Or how little.
Anybody still remember that movie? It came out in 1987, which is 30 years ago but feels more distant in the current climate. There’s a scene that might have reflected the nightmare of a teenage girl named Christine Blasey, or one named Deborah Ramirez.
In “Broadcast News,” William Hurt plays a TV reporter. He does a story about an expression that was just then entering the American vocabulary: date rape. He interviews a weeping college student who says her date forced her into unwanted sex.
All the women in “Broadcast News” love the story. They find it reflects their own lives. The men in the movie have mixed emotions. Albert Brooks, playing another reporter, confronts Hurt.
“Congratulations,” he says, in a voice dripping with sarcasm. “You just blew the lid off nookie.”
Nookie! And Brooks is the hero of the movie!
Brett Kavanaugh’s moment with Christine Blasey – when he allegedly groped her – came about five years before “Broadcast News.” His moment with Deborah Ramirez – when he allegedly exposed himself to her – came about a year after Blasey.
By current standards, “Broadcast News” got its sexual politics all wrong, but its nomenclature correct. What we once called nookie is now considered sexual assault.
And rightly so. Can we get that argument out of the way? Whatever men’s adolescent sex drives are telling them, the word “no” isn’t a suggestion, it’s a declaration. It’s my body, women are saying, and only I get to decide what I’ll do with it.
Half the population cannot live in an allegedly civilized society and worry if they have no way to defend themselves against sheer muscular advantage.
What’s happened now with the Kavanaugh allegations is massively depressing – to women, and to other human beings. In a new poll, 69 percent of the country calls the Senate hearings that confirmed Kavanaugh’s seat on the Supreme Court “a national disgrace.”
The Senate vote that confirmed Kavanaugh simultaneously denied the allegations of two accomplished, credible women – that Kavanaugh’s behavior mirrored those of a president who has inadvertently described himself as a sexual predator.
“I grab ‘em by the (bleeps,)” Donald Trump told us himself.
Now, with women feeling newly threatened and newly aggrieved, what does this president offer us by way of healing? He tells us, “It is a very scary time for young men in America.”
And he cruelly mocks Christine Blasey Ford in front of the whole country.
Just as “Broadcast News” can give us a glimpse back at what passed for “nookie” 30 years ago, so the Kavanaugh hearings have wiped the dust off that era – not only to look at the individuals involved, but at a wider image of how adolescent boys and girls treated each other back then, and often still do.
If Kavanaugh had truly evolved since those days, he might have offered up some perspective on changing mores. Instead, he exploded.
Yes, yes, he was defending his family. But he defended them by attacking others. He attacked Democrats who “choreographed” a “political hit job,” and he attacked Clinton defenders who still remember Kavanaugh from the Monica Lewinsky investigation.
Good luck getting a fair hearing in front of this guy if you’re a Democrat.
Among the most unsettling moments in all of this ongoing fiasco was Kavanaugh defending himself by claiming he was a virgin all through high school and college and for “many” years thereafter.
Imagine the frustration of all those years, when a young man’s sexuality is erupting.
It’s enough pent-up frustration that a guy – not necessarily Kavanaugh, but some sexually frustrated young man, particularly one who’s had far too much to drink – might forcefully, clumsily, drunkenly grope an unwilling young lady. Or even expose himself to one.
And then imagine it as merely the pursuit of “nookie.”
Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of several books, including Michael Olesker’s Baltimore: If You Live Here, You’re Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press.