Stephen Colbert Shares Why He Thinks Women Should Be In Charge Of Everything

In Glamour, of all places.

I have mixed feelings about essays like this. It's great to get acknowledgement from outside that no, you're not overreacting, people like you really are getting glossed over a lot and this is a thing that ought to be fixed. But words, as they say, are cheap. These these tend to be slacktivism at its most pernicious. Hey, I've raised awareness of something! Man, I'm tired. I've done my bit by pointing at the problem, and it's probably above my pay grade anyway, so I'll just go have a nap and let someone else make the actual changes.

Thing is, it's not above Colbert's pay grade. He could make these things happen.

Colbert is already signed onto a multi-year contract. He was told to bring his Report staff with him. IMDb lists him as executive producer for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and he makes snarky reference in one of his toonified podcasts to having to do line-item budgets for things like backup electrical systems. If the GQ profile is to be believed, Colbert is allowed to micromanage things to the point where he spent July wandering around the work crew restoring the Ed Sullivan Theater, asking technical things about the new HVAC installation. CBS seems to have just backed a dump truck full of money up to his house and told him 'go do whatever that thing is you do, and we'll sell some ads'.

In short, Colbert does not need to worry that the person who clears all the bookings will be a lazy dudebro. Colbert is the person you clear bookings with. There exists the possibility that someone higher up on the network food chain will bitch at him if they think The Late Show is turning into The View, but at least here at the beginning, they appear to be keeping their paws off his project until they figure out whether he's a genius madman or if people tuned in just to gawk at his shiny cufflinks.

Colbert does not react well to institutionalized sexism. He spends Caitlin Flanagan's first interview on the Report trying to figure out whether she's trolling everyone, and for the second one decides it doesn't matter and just puts the boot in a couple of times. (Side note: I can't tell if she's trolling. Which suggests her public façade is all weird because she is, in some way, crazy.) A couple of other gender essentialists have ventured into his lair, and "Colbert" agrees with them enthusiastically every time, which I gather means Colbert himself thinks they're arguing on a par with his idiot character.

He doesn't react well to any kind of systematic oppression, in fact. The reasons he gives for even digging around in the subject suggest that he knows better than he'd like to what it's like to be on the bottom of the heap. The 'least of my brothers' bit he references in his Congressional testimony is Biblical -- I really lack the cultural context to properly appreciate a lot of this stuff, but the general gist of Matthew 25 is God sorting the decent people from the assholes, the assholes complaining 'hey, we did all kinds of worshipping, what gives?', and God explaining that no amount of brown-nosing is going to help you if you can't be nice to His favorite pets, i.e., your fellow man. The specific verse is Matthew 25:40, although his 'whatsoever' variant is actually from a hymn.

(I have to say, I'm imagining the life of a very smart, very sweet, very bookish LOTR-D&D-scifi-musical theater geek boy, in South Carolina, ca. 1980, and I am coming up snake eyes. Based on stuff like how he's learned to handle personal space and which things tend to poke him directly in the feels, plus some pattern recognition from my own life, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess most of his friends were girls. I'm glad he had his family and his faith for support, because his school life must've been hell.)

Colbert also has some family history in this -- his father, a physician and an academic, was appointed the first veep of academic affairs at the Medical University of South Carolina, and a few months later ended up talking to some of MLK's people and bringing an end to an ongoing strike at the hospital. Andrew Young talks about it when he's interviewed on the Report. Being as it was a university, there were plenty of smart people who could talk circles around you, but Dr. Colbert's main recommendation was apparently that he wasn't a jackass. Which tells you maybe a little bit about the Colbert family, and a lot about how bad race (and class) relations were in 1969. The family's endowed a chair at MUSC, with a focus on interdisciplinary activities. Fitting, assuming Colbert is anything like his father. The man cannot keep his nose out of anything even vaguely interesting, and can duct tape just about anything to just about anything else if it makes for a good joke.

I don't think the Glamour piece is fishing for credit. If it were, then he would have mentioned that his FEMINIST intentions were FEMINISTly inspired, by FEMINISTS, because it's a buzzword right now. Colbert never once uses the term. It might just be to remove any doubt that he's doing it intentionally. I wouldn't personally take the wiseass bits as evidence of insincerity; the entire Daily Show crew was, and is, very ha-ha-only-serious, Colbert especially so. I think it's his way of bleeding off enough of the tension to finish getting his thoughts out. It does not seem to have prevented the audience at GQ from taking him quite seriously.

One of the guests listed for his first week of shows is Scarlett Johansson. Given her history of being shafted in interviews as compared to the male Avengers stars, the Glamour piece, and the fact that Colbert is an enormous nerd (his set for The Colbert Report, if you've forgotten, had a Captain America shield hanging on one of the walls behind his desk), I have high hopes.


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