To What Should “Politically Correct” Enforcement Not Apply? The Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes’ “Blondely,” For Example
by Richard E. Vatz, Ph.D.
There is a one-sided kerfuffle in The Washington Post today: two letters castigate – one whose castigation is mitigated by a slight nod to irony – media columnist Lisa de Moraes’ adverbial use of “blondely” to describe one of Rielle Hunter’s more fatuous, self-serving replies in her utterly embarrassingly self-unaware, self-ennobling defense of her child-producing relationship with Democratic Senator John Edwards.
Hunter is described by de Moraes in her (Hunter's) interview with Oprah Winfrey as unaware who the “…former Democratic vice presidential candidate was because, she explained blondely, ‘I didn't pay a lot of attention to the Kerry-Edwards campaign -- I had a lot going on in my life at that time.’"
Hunter’s self-serving naïveté -- nay, vacuousness -- is evident throughout the interview, encouraged through subtle, rhetorically leading questions by Oprah.
Both printed letters are critical of de Moraes, but the more appalled reaction argues that de Moraes irresponsibly “resort[s] to catty stereotypes” in her use of the neologism “blondely” and recommends that the Post avoid “popular slang” to describe a woman.
Is the clever use of “blondely,” an adverbial slam on Hunter’s cluelessness, trite? Maybe, but I have never before heard of its use as a put-down.
And why is it offensive? Are there not nearly exclusive male characteristics that are fair game for satire when accompanying dopey self-defense? If a man claims sophistication while puffing on a cigar, is it offensive to cite the smoking as contrary to the affected image?
Lisa de Moraes is an acquired literary taste, but more often than not, she is intelligent snarky reading, and, somewhat parenthetically, she uses well Kenneth Burke’s concept of perspective by incongruity.
Please let’s stop homogenizing all enjoyable prose just to placate overly sensitive readers.
Professor Vatz teaches Media Criticism at Towson University