You'll often hear people lamenting that journalism just ain't what it used to be. You'll also hear folks claim that sexism and misogyny are alive and well. But it's not every day that you get such a stunning example of both the decline of journalism and the vitality of woman-bashing wrapped up in a tidy package.
Sadly, the story of Niagara Falls Reporter publisher Frank Parlato and his refusal to publish reviews of films "where women are heroes and villains and men are just lesser versions or shadows of females" is the perfect example of said package.
This is just one line from a long, rambling, scarcely punctuated diatribe about "manliness" that Parlato emailed to his then film critic Michael Calleri. Parlato was trying to explain why film reviews portraying powerful women would not be published at the paper.
At the time, Parlato had only been at the helm of the Reporter for a matter of months, and during that time, Calleri, who had been writing for the paper for decades, was curious as to why some of his reviews were making it onto the web and others were not.
The email response he received from Parlato was off-the-wall enough for iconic critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times to run it on the newspaper's website.
Here's an excerpt from the email (all punctuation is Parlatos):
snow white and the huntsman is trash. moral garbage. a lot of fuzzy feminist thinking and pandering to creepy hollywood mores produced by metrosexual imbeciles.
I don't want to publish reviews of films where women are alpha and men are beta.
where women are heroes and villains and men are just lesser versions or shadows of females.
i believe in manliness.
not even on the web would i want to attach my name to snow white and the huntsman except to deconstruct its moral rot and its appeal to unmanly perfidious creeps.
i'm not sure what headhunter has to offer either but of what I read about it it sounds kind of creepy and morally repugnant.
with all the publications in the world who glorify what i find offensive, it should not be hard for you to publish your reviews with any number of these.
they seem to like critiques from an artistic standpoint without a word about the moral turpitude seeping into the consciousness of young people who go to watch such things as snow white and get indoctrinated to the hollywood agenda of glorifying degenerate power women and promoting as natural the weakling, hyena -like men, cum eunuchs.
the male as lesser in courage strength and power than the female.
it may be ok for some but it is not my kind of manliness.
If you care to write reviews where men act like good strong men and have a heroic inspiring influence on young people to build up their character (if there are such movies being made) i will be glad to publish these.
i am not interested in supporting the reversing of traditional gender roles.
The email was enough for Calleri to make a hasty exit from the Reporter, and more then enough to inspire the wrath of the internet.
It would seem though, that this incident between Parlato and Calleri takes the writer-publisher conflict to a whole new level.
Not so, says Suanne Kelman, associate chair at Ryerson University's School of Journalism.
"There is nothing new about unreasonable publishers — in fact, this strikes me as very traditional. Evelyn Waugh's publisher from hell, Lord Metroland, was clearly based on Lord Beaverbrook. So this isn't a decline. It's just the latest step in a great tradition of barking-mad publishers."
She suggests that while this is an extreme example, the issue extends well beyond movie reviews.
"How long would a journalist last in Rupert Murdoch's or Pierre Karl Peladeau's empires after a favorable column about a left-wing politician?"
"Many critics these days are being nudged to tone down reviews of movies, plays, books — whatever -- to keep advertisers happy," says Kelman. "It's common for publishers to try to get their critics to focus more on populist products."
Numerous blogs, social media sites and newspapers have picked up the story of Parlato and Calleri, and though there was the odd commenter that sided with Parlato, the majority have sided with Calleri.
One example is of commenter "Bob" on the Chicago Sun-Times piece.
"Masculinity/manliness does not stem from controlling the women around us, or hating them, or yearning for a (mosty non-existent) golden age when women/gay people/"minorities"/foreigners/"others" knew their rightful place under the watchful gaze of a benevolent white male society… Great (yet depressing) editorial."
Parlato, of course, felt compelled to share his side of the story, in an editorial in the Reporter titled "Movie reviewer upset with Reporter, airs private email." In it, Parlato goes to great lengths to discredit Calleri as a paid journalist, and then defends his email.
"For the record, if I knew Calleri was going to publish my off-the-record and, in parts, tongue-in-cheek email, I would have added capital letters and a couple of commas, but I wouldn't have changed what I wrote. In fact I might have made the language even stronger."