Sunday, May 24, 2009

Have I Ventured to the Dark Side?: I'm Sad Sasha Finds Me Belittling, and Her Fans Will Hate Me

My interview with Sasha Grey is a little bit controversial. At least for me.

I'm sure Sasha Grey is lovely when you get to know her. But there's a part in The Girlfriend Experience where the journalist asks about her "wall" and if/when it comes down, and if most people get to see the "real" her. Sasha's character, a character in large part based on her "character" in real life, says probably not. Vanessa G in the Rolling Stone piece likened the feeling to a woman behind glass. If you read the many interviews both print and video online, you'll find inaccessibility to be a theme.

My interview doesn't intend to begrudge Sasha that wall. It makes sense to have a wall up for a number of reasons. My dilemma was simple: I don't want to trot out the same boring interview everyone else is. And I asked questions, a month ago, that would hopefully find some new territory. Of course in an email interview you have to go through a little bit of old territory to get there.

Point being, I approached this as an opportunity for an interesting conversation. This is how I've approached all my hot-ass interviews. I am not "belittling" her (another word Sasha has thrown at interviewers before, I'm not the first to belittle unknowingly), and to my mind they are the same questions I would ask any writers, artists, creative professionals. Yes, I wouldn't ask someone in a different industry about "how to identify a fucking genius", but I would ask any professional about the 10,000 hours, and what constitutes superlative achievement/talent in their field.

When I interviewed Jeff Chang, the questions were equally chunky with verbiage (this is how I approach the issue of miscommunication, missed tone in email interviews, by rephrasing the question a bunch and they choose the one which connects), and also numerous (I trimmed down the initial question list a couple times, to make it more manageable), but he also has no reason to be distrustful of media and indulged the spirit of the conversation.

There's the "seduced over email" question. As the first question, it seems an obvious warm-up to me. Every single female who goes on Late Show with Conan or Letterman gets a flirty question thrown at them. Ignoring the "commentary on our sexist society" aspect, it's mostly functional. All serving as an easy way to gauge the temperature, figure out the mood/tone of your interviewee etc.. If she's fun and flirty, you might go with it. If not, you move on. If the interview were with a basketball player you'd make a softball corny open about maybe playing a pickup game or something. Same idea.

Back to the original dilemma: an interesting interview. I think some people are into doing them, some are not. No one's going to do an interesting interview with Robert Deniro (well, except a close friend maybe) because he's not interested. I feel a little bad that this would give Sasha more fuel for her distrust of media. But my spirit was pure and true! Sasha herself trumpets individualism, not being boring, so what am I to do when she gives me a boring interview. Interviews can be art. Anything can be if you choose to approach it as such. Belittling presumes I'm trying to get over on you, but what if I'm just practicing my trade as best I can? From her side, if she's doing a million interviews it's easy see me as another dude trying to service his media master. But I did put work into this, and am trying to make all my interviews part of a larger more artful TAN complex. She doesn't need to know or care about that, but to write me off could be seen as belittling.

The ambition in this blog-post-interview was to connect a theme from the movie, the hype-media publicity machine, and my particular interview. There's this whole dichotomy of veiled mystique and unobtainable intimacy. And I found the most interesting part of our Interview Experience to be how it reflected The Girlfriend Experience. Again, everyone is trying to get their hand on or around the wall. With varying degrees of success. Whatever.

Anyways, I had that sitting on my chest and had to get it out somewhere. I think the gawker commenters are shading something that is not ostensibly mean as such. And I'm just defending my position. Cheers!

The Sasha Grey Interview Experience [Gawker]

image: via

9 comments:

  1. Oh these "wah wah wah" celebs. They want the FAME but don't want what comes of it. Whatever....I don't even know who she is nor read the Gawker story [I will] but she sounds like a hipster cunt. They ALL think they're so different, but its a difference between being COOL and you know it and just being a boring bitch. She's the latter.

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  2. TAN, you're a smart brother. I enjoyed the read.

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  3. Anonymous5/24/2009

    @thehoustongirl: You're calling this girl a "hipster cunt" while admitting to not knowing of her, or having read the story?

    Someone's definitely being a bitch here, but how would you know?

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  4. Sasha Grey is smoking.

    That is all.

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  5. I've really been enjoying your weekend posts for Gawker -- lately they're the only thing I really enjoy on Gawker. I like the spirit of inquiry and how you seem excited to have a larger forum for talking about things you're genuinely interested in as opposed to the general malaise and self-hatred that hangs over that sad place like some thick-ass, pea soup fog. Your Sasha Grey interview was embarrassing, though, and I find it kind of troubling that for all your (welcome) writerly self consciousness, you don't seem to feel you fucked it up at all, that you lay the blame for its failure almost completely on her. I have no doubt that Sasha Grey was really difficult to interview, either because she's trying to project this "surface" as part of her "character" or because she's just a bitch or both, but at the same time, the idea that the interview could possibly go anywhere productive or interesting after that horrible first question is kind of ridiculous. You write:

    "As the first question, it seems an obvious warm-up to me. Every single female who goes on Late Show with Conan or Letterman gets a flirty question thrown at them. Ignoring the "commentary on our sexist society" aspect, it's mostly functional. All serving as an easy way to gauge the temperature, figure out the mood/tone of your interviewee etc.. If she's fun and flirty, you might go with it. If not, you move on. If the interview were with a basketball player you'd make a softball corny open about maybe playing a pickup game or something. Same idea."

    Again, I like you, man, but you are not David Letterman or Conan O' Brien. I don't disagree that they occasionally make flirtatious comments with their female guests, but they're able to be faux-sleazy because they've banked all this credibility based on being famous and successful and funny and that's what allows them to do it. Right or wrong -- I don't think it's just a functional convention of the medium. Letterman and Conan are these famously (literally, famously) likeable motherfuckers who mothers are supposed to want to fuck because by the sheer force of their famousness and likeability and shit and so this attractiveness and credibility makes it "acceptable" for them to say things that just make you look like a sexist jerk. In addition, they each have their own ways of playing off comments and making them seem unserious and ridiculous -- like Conan doing some weird facial expression or bit of physical comedy or Letterman excusing something he said as being the ramblings of a crazy old man. You are not David or Conan, though, you are just a guy and you didn't even do a funny face or bit of physical comedy after that first question to let us know you were joking (since, apparently, you weren't really) and I just think opening with that question you had lost a lot of your audience (not to mention Sasha) before you even started with no way of getting them back. How someone as smart as you could confuse the conventions of a popular late night television show on a major TV network starring a popular celebrity host with an e- mail interview for a blog starring you, a guy Sasha Grey and a lot of people have never heard of, I don't know, but you came across as less the journalist from The Girlfriend Experience and more like that creepy-ass dude Glen Kenny played, and your metacomments between each question and response, which you (rightly) thought might have been a way to liven up the banality of a boring Sasha Grey interview, I think mostly just dug you in deeper, since you stayed kind of self righteous and bitchy with them instead of coming off humble or doing some kind of David Foster Wallace style meta mea culpa which maybe might have saved your rhetorical persona a lil' bit.

    Anyway, still enjoy your writing and everything, just some real talk from my POV.

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  6. JH: thanks for the note.

    I agree with a lot of what you say here. While there's pro-and-con talk with regards to Miss. Grey and her interview styze, no one's really saying "damn, that interview was BANANAS!". So, ok.

    But I can't see getting hung up over "can you be seduced over email?"; it feels like such an obviously silly question. A light humorous nod to her sexualized position/cachet. And I don't know if she would have answered anything else differently if it wasn't there.

    Still, the consensus response to that line is noted; I wouldn't do it again. And I've been known to have an occasional blind spot for matters of common courtesy/etiquette etc.

    I do think if I presented the interview without comment, or the meta-defense of myself, it would have been less controversial. Neither of our asses would have been as exposed.

    But I'd rather swing and miss than play football with the same ol golf clubs, y'know?

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  7. Anonymous5/25/2009

    There was obviously a Sasha Grey "bubble", and you popped it. Some won't like it, some will. Everyone will live to eat, shit, and fuck tomorrow. Good work.

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  8. Anonymous5/26/2009

    Fuck yo couch, TAN!

    *stomps grimy feet all over couch*

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  9. um....thanks annoymous? I came with that conclusion based on reading TAN's story. THEN I went and read the Gawker story [with comments] and pretty much the majority agrees with me.

    so whatever...fuck off. :D

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