As a woman with influence in a town that considers itself "ballsy," Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke gets a lot of nasty comments about her anatomy. But she can more than dish them out.
Tad Friend hasn't always been kind to female subjects, but he's on relatively good behavior in his New Yorker profile of Finke, whose blog Deadline Hollywood Daily he calls "Hollywood's most dreaded news source." Friend calls Finke "a combination town crier and volcano god" who "portrays many of the town's leaders as jackasses who golf at exclusive preserves, elbow underlings aside to hog the spotlight, downsize those underlings while lining their own pockets, and generally besmirch the fabric of civilization." While he does quote various expressions of her rage (i.e. an e-mail titled "WHY ARE YOU AND JOEL SILVER LYING?"), pretty much the worst thing he calls Finke is "intemperate." She's been called far worse.
Finke herself says Universal president Ron Meyer (now a "defender" of Finke) used to call her "that fucking cunt," which he not only doesn't deny but seems quite pleased to hear about from Friend. Continuing in the female-anatomy vein, producer Ray Stark told her, "Girlie, if you ever fuck me, I'm going to personally come over to your house and give you a hysterectomy." Even fictional characters have gotten into the act: an agent on Entourage recently said, "I'll fuck Nikki Finke before I let her affect my business decisions."
It's tempting to think that Finke comes in for all this harsh and disgusting vitriol because she's a woman in a man's world — and an outspoken woman at that. And certainly some have told Finke to be more ladylike. According to Friend, Variety's Peter Bart once wrote that Finke had attended "Miss Hewitt's Classes in New York, which taught upscale girls how to be warm and cuddly. I'd like her to take a warm-and-cuddly refresher course." But all the colorful disses aimed at Finke's reproductive organs may be as much a sign of membership in the boys' club as they are an attempt to boot her out of it. Friend writes,
In a curious way, Finke makes the entertainment industry feel better about itself. When she writes that "New Line was left holding its dick" or that if Jay Leno "starts whining like the pussy he is, tell him to man up and shut up," she reassures everyone that Hollywood really is as ballsy as its denizens would like to believe. Finke explains, "I talk to alpha males all day, and the women I talk to are alpha females, so I end up writing like a man, in the language they're comfortable with. I don't pretty it up."
Finke clearly sees herself not as the victim of misogyny but as a participant in masculine, tell-it-like-it-is discourse. For her, "writing like a man" can mean impugning the character of women who made her friends look bad. When the LA Times published domestic violence allegations Meyer's ex-girlfriend Cynthia Garvey had made against him, Finke wrote, "the newspaper chose not to publish that Garvey has accused four ex-boyfriends of domestic violence against her." Writing like a man also means never using an inoffensive word when an offensive one will do — in a post basically mocking The New Yorker for not being more critical of her or Hollywood, Finke makes sure to point out that Harvey Weinstein also called her a cunt (and not a "jerk," as the magazine eventually printed). Elsewhere in her thoroughly distasteful post, she wrote,
I found Tad Friend, who covers Hollywood from Brooklyn, easy to manipulate, as was David Remnick, whom I enjoyed bitchslapping throughout but especially during the very slipshod factchecking process.
Warner Bros and Universal and DreamWorks and William Morris/Endeavor and Summit Entertainment execs and flacks and consultants also had their way with the mag. (They were even laughing about it. When I asked one PR person what it took to convince Tad to take out whole portions of the article, the response was, "I swallowed.")
Now remember, readers: you, too, can make The New Yorker your buttboy. Just act like a cunt and treat Remnick like a putz and don't give a fuck.
Finke's obviously a full and willing participant in a Hollywood rhetoric of bitch-slapping, blowjobs, and butt-rape. It's a fundamentally homophobic rhetoric (Friend too documents Finke's fondness for the word "buttboy"), and one whose misogyny Finke employs as gleefully as anybody else. Friend writes that in Hollywood, "relationships are matters of dominance and submission." And apparently chronicling those relationships is a matter of representing those who have submitted in some way (by, for instance, using the word "cunt" just once) as women, gays, or rape victims. You know, losers.
Her detractors aside, Finke does appear to be a powerful Hollywood presence. She's become one in part through savvy and guile and relationship-building, and in part through what David Carr of the Times calls "a weaponized rhetoric designed to maim and ridicule." She seems to view this rhetoric as a symbol of her power — her "alpha" status — and her comfort with a big-dicks-versus-pussies writing style pioneered by misogynists, homophobes, and bullies shows that ultimately these qualities know no gender. Finke doesn't write "like a man," she just writes like an asshole.