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Comments: Week of March 30, 2009


1. Remember how much everyone loved our Bernie Madoff–as–the Joker cover from three weeks ago? Well, good. Because the reaction to our Michelle Obama cover (March 23) was a little different. “A kind of blasphemy,” judged Erica Prud’homme of Manhattan. “Why would you want to treat her as some kind of kewpie doll or Barbie?” As for the comments about the collection of essays, two extremely emotional constituencies dominated the debate—those who felt that the magazine had been shamefully sycophantic in our treatment of Michelle and those who felt very possessive of her, answering every slight critique of her with a withering counter-volley. For her essay Good White House Keeping,” in which she tried to give Michelle credit for being “a flawed hostess,” Caitlin Flanagan was accused of “trying to make a populist point about Michelle Obama’s ‘frazzled’ Everywoman-ness while at the same time being snooty about her taste. We’d venture to guess that she’s the only woman in America who looks at Michelle Obama and thinks frump.” David Samuels’s The Hero’s Foil,” about how Michelle’s background and talents complement her husband’s, got under the skin of more than a few readers as well as a Salon critic who warned readers not to “get caught in a feminist finger trap. So I’ll just remind parents that if they want their daughters to best serve their country as role models who make their confusingly black-but-high-achieving husbands more digestible to the American people, they should teach them to keep their own expectations normal, their ambitions limited, their grades decent, their intellectual burdens light-ish, their career plans accommodating, and their salaries modest ($273,618).” Meanwhile, the Michelle Obama Haters Club was heard from in often screeching tones. For praising the First Couple’s seemingly genuine romantic relationship, Stacy Schiff was awarded the “overflowing drool bucket of the day award” by conservative commentator Michelle Malkin (it does not appear that this bucket is actually awarded daily, but we accept the honor nonetheless). A lone voice tried to fight through the racket with this observation: “The proportion of anti-Michelle comments to those supporting Michelle is overwhelming. When you consider that New York is a blue state and New York City is even more so, only an orchestrated campaign would account for such a gross outnumbering of the magazine’s normal readership. And it’s the intensity of the anti-Michelle comments that’s the most disturbing.”

2. The response to Jesse Green’s profile of 91-year-old Broadway legend Arthur Laurents (When You’re a Shark You’re a Shark All the Way,” March 23) was also quite vituperative—or at least one was. Todd Graff of Manhattan, who described himself as a friend of Laurents, as well as an actor who was directed by him, called the story “a vile hatchet job [that] … willfully minimizes and often downright ignores his towering contributions to both the theatrical and cinema canons.” Those less close to the subject were not quite so aggrieved. “Brilliant and insightful!” wrote a commenter on nymag .com. “Thank you, Jesse Green, for your sensitivity and intelligence.”

3. Inspired by comedian Michael Ian Black, Daily Intel invited readers to contribute to “the opposite of a Bucket List: a list of things you don’t care about doing before you die instead of things you do want to do.” A sampling: “Drinking expensive wine. I’ll take the $7 bottle, thank you very much.” … “Explaining the Internet to old people.” … “Pants with button flies.” … “Getting the band back together.” … “The Jonas Brothers. Fuck that.” … “Paying my student loans.” … “Liking Radiohead.” … “Tribeca.”

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