Ann Curry must be celebrating.
At least that’s the fan fiction that lit up social media Wednesday morning following the news that Matt Lauer had been fired by NBC for inappropriate sexual behavior.
He’s merely the newest addition to the perv lineup of famous men and respected newscasters to lose their jobs because of reports of systemic and predatory sexual misconduct. He’s also not the first Today show host to lose their job in a shocking, sudden manner—though the previous ousting was hardly because of misconduct in any way, but, at least according to reports, because of Lauer’s reign of power, and arguably terror, at NBC.
It’s upsetting to even revisit the tape of Curry tearfully saying goodbye to her time at Today, a departure that she clearly didn’t want, as her brittle, quivering emotions made abundantly clear. Her on-air body language sitting next to Lauer seemed to confirm reports at the time that alleged Lauer had orchestrated her exodus, for reasons that purportedly included the fact that he just didn’t like her.
Some of the behind-the-scenes drama was detailed in Brian Stelter’s Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, including the designation of the plan to oust Curry as “Operation Bambi,” because firing the kind, veteran host after just six months would be tantamount to “killing Bambi.”
Lauer would need to sign off the decision, according to Stelter’s reporting, and getting rid of Curry to make him more comfortable was ruled a priority in order to convince him to renew his contract. He reportedly told an assistant, “I can’t believe I am sitting next to this woman.”
But it’s Curry’s reported reaction to these machinations that is the most heartbreaking, made even more upsetting because of how the optics play against our current conversation about misogynistic and repercussion-free male culture, especially now with Lauer’s firing. “Curry felt that the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes at Today undermined her from the start, and she told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture.”
After her tearful goodbye, top Today show brass reportedly toasted her departure: “Operation Bambi was complete.”
Six years later, at least judging by reactions on Twitter, Lauer’s on the receiving end of the karma he deserves, and Bambi is dancing on his grave. According to the fan fiction reveling in Lauer’s firing, positing it as some sort of justice for Curry, the former Today show host is upgrading her orange juice to a mimosa Wednesday morning, making a victorious whooping noise, coyly sipping tea, or contemplating Ghandi quotes: “they always fall.”
It’s funny to imagine, and powerful to remember her in this moment. But rather than jokingly imagine what Ann Curry might be doing right now, maybe it’s more prudent to remember what she isn’t doing.
She isn’t the host of a top-rated morning news program that she had devoted the bulk of her career contributing to and turning into a respected source of news. She isn’t a leading television personality, with a career commensurate with her talent. She is, however, someone whose livelihood was essentially ruined in a power play by one of the many men who have since been revealed to be despicable.
Curry now joins the likes of Annabella Sciorra, Rose McGowan, and comedians Dina Min Goodman and Julia Wolov as the famous faces and bold-faced names who represent the countless women whose careers and livelihoods have been jeopardized, limited, and, in some cases, ruined because of the actions and the power of influential, predatory men.
Of course, there is no insinuation that Curry is a victim of sexual assault or harassment by Lauer. But that actually underlines how widespread and destructive the behavior of these men can be.
Power doesn’t have to be wielded sexually in order for it to be predatory or inappropriate, and if Curry, a celebrity face of the NBC News brand, could be offered as a collateral damage to the whims of those power players, imagine how many other subordinates and colleagues who might have their careers stilted for similar reasons.
That said, it is still important to think about the hidden ramifications when reports about the likes of Lauer, Weinstein, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, Roy Price, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and too many more to name come to light. The reason the women who have come forward publicly with their stories are considered to be so brave is because they are in many ways avatars for the uncountable women whose lives were affected either directly or indirectly by the actions of these men.
There are the women who were denied job opportunities for not succumbing to advances. There are the creators whose work never saw the light of day because they didn’t play these men’s games. There are the people who left the industry disgusted and wounded by how they were treated, whose potential output and excellence was cut short. There are ambitious ones who refused to work with powerful people whom they had heard “the stories” about, or whose upward mobility was limited because they were resistant or fearful of working too close to them.
There are subordinates too afraid to speak up, talented people jaded by what they witnessed, and contributions wasted because they got caught up in the bullshit. Then there are people like Curry, who were collateral damage to the kind of lionized hubris that these men’s unchecked power and behavior granted them permission to rule with.
All of this is why there was such an immediate, disgusted reaction when CNN reporter Dylan Byers lamented in a tweet the “incredible drain of talent from media/entertainment” because all these men rocked by sexual harassment scandals are losing their jobs. It’s an opinion that erases the women who were forced out of their jobs or who left their industries because of those men, and an incorrect outlook on a future which could finally see the rise of all the diverse talent that had been silenced.
Who knows, for example, how many people in the NBC newsroom have had their careers affected and their potential stifled because of Lauer’s actions?
Two words keep surfacing in tandem amid all these revelations: “reckoning” and “reconciling.”
As Guthrie herself said after she read the news about Lauer, “I do know that this reckoning, that so many organizations have been going through, is important, it’s long overdue, and it must result in workplaces where all women—all people—feel safe and respected.”
And then there’s the reconciling. “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly and I don’t know the answer to that,” she said.
It’s certainly easy and important to have compassion for that tension. But as we keep hearing those sentiments, worded so eloquently by the likes of Guthrie and Gayle King and Sarah Silverman in reaction to their now-disgraced friends, it’s important to remember that many victims and countless unnamed women don’t have celebrity allies on TV speaking on their behalf.
That’s why in this instance we’re compelled to turn to Ann Curry, the famous example we can all cite, and all demand a little justice for. So enjoy that mimosa—but more importantly, take pride in this reckoning.
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