What constitutes a controversy?
Dictionary.com defines controversy as: A prolonged public dispute, debate, or contention; disputation concerning a matter of opinion.
Shortly after the Oscars aired Sunday night, the Huffington Post ran a story about the ‘controversy’ stemming from a joke Ellen Degeneres made about Liza Minnelli. The story claimed people were offended because she joked that Minnelli was a man in drag. Ellen made the joke in her opening monologue and it didn’t get much of a laugh and Liza didn’t look amused. Although it was hardly the standout moment of the evening. The article described the growing controversy and how Degeneres is being labeled as transphobic and insensitive toward the trans community. Similar stories even started to pop up on other news outlets as they caught wind of a possible cat fight. The Huffington Post article cited a tweet from “prominent director” Bruce LaBruce as the scandal’s whistle blower. Side note, who the fuck is Bruce LaBruce and why do a give a shit what offends him? Piers Morgan even jumped on the band wagon and called the joke “hurtful and humiliating.” Does that really constitute a controversy? The last time I checked a tweet from a butt hurt director and a soon to be cancelled cable blowhard do not constitute a nation outcry.
It got me thinking about scandals and controversy. I’m not bashing the Huffington Post because this is just a recent example but many different news outlets are guilty of the same thing. How many controversies exist because we are told there is one by a headline? The only person who might care is the writer who needs to turn is piece so he can get paid. Reporters have a tremendous amount of power to effect perceptions of reality. For example, the Paula Dean mess was a controversy that was based in a real life situations and events. There were court cases and she lost many of her sponsorship deals as families around the country debated the topic around the dinner table. That was the real deal. On the flip side, an example of a made up controversy is any outrageous comment made by a Real Housewife. (Google Brandi Glanville for more information/examples) In my opinion it can’t be called a controversy if deep down the public doesn’t care.
The real story should be the growing need to fill up web space and create content. After a particularly lack luster and drama free Oscar ceremony, even Buzzfeed could barely scrape together a list of reasons to adore Jennifer Lawrence. Everyone looked fine, all the predicted nominees won, and the telecast was enjoyably forgettable. That’s the worst case scenario for entertainment press. But one rando tweet can be stirred into it’s own mini new story. How often do you hear and entertainment stories that starts with “_____ sent out a tweet that said…” Just because they’re the loudest doesn’t mean their not talking out of their ass. Plus twitter is not exactly know for well thought out pros. The next time you read about a controversy ask yourself, is this a real story? Or did the writer just need a 500 word story to make a deadline?
Two Important footnotes:
First: It should be noted that Liza Minnelli told the press that in fact she was not offended.
Second: In every article I read on the Ellen vs Liza controversy, no one ever actually contacted a representative from the trans community to get their opinion on the subject.