Monday, June 20, 2011

Guest Post: Another perspective on Edith Zimmerman and GQ

My cousin Elizabeth Welsh e-mailed me some interesting thoughts on Edith Zimmerman, Chris Evans, and GQ, so I asked her to turn it into a guest post for you all. I don't necessarily agree with everything she's saying here, but I think it's worth reading (obviously). You can find Liz on Tumblr and Twitter.


So I read the Edith Zimmerman piece in GQ, in the actual magazine.

I don't think it's the end of the world. As a piece of magazine writing, I don't think it’s very good. Like you, I do wonder what her assignment was. I also assume that she was working under a really tight deadline.

For me, the most revealing part was when she writes about Chris Evans trying to figure out if he can be the regular dude AND ALSO be the big famous actor guy. That’s the reason the most important part was at the end underneath her name, where it says that she's the editor of The Hairpin and that this is her first piece for GQ. Because I felt like she was going through that same thing, wondering if she could write witty things for smart ladies AND ALSO play the game and write the big schmancy masturbatory celebrity profile. Or even if she isn't trying to figure that out, I could picture her calling up her editor and saying, This is what happened but WTF on the planet am I ever going to write about it?? And her editor just saying, That sounds awesome, it sounds intimate and personal and real, just write what happened. And her still not really being sure how to do that, but needing to do it anyway, for the deadline, and for needing to get paid, and trying to maintain that perfect ironic po-mo distance that will (hopefully?) make it awesome but still not being sure how TF on the planet she's ever going to write about it.

But then I am not a professional writer.

I wonder why some people have just assumed they hooked up. She never says or even implies she thinks that they did. If she was drunk enough not to remember what happened (which, yes, was a MISTAKE any way you slice it), in many jurisdictions that would mean Chris Evans sexually assaulted her, since she was legally incapable of giving consent.

I think if she had been a dude the exact same things would have happened, except it would have been eye-rolling rather than outrageous, because then they would have just been stupid bros acting like stupid bros, and that I think is what's truly BS and sexist about the whole brouhaha. But then I am a huge proponent of platonic girl-guy friendships (and yes, I know she admitted to being attracted to him, but to me it still read like what people do when they hang out as friends, not go out on a date, as much as she may have loved for that to have been what happened), and it really frustrates me the way guy-girl friendships are so often misread, or greeted with skepticism.

I do think it is significant that they're both from Boston, and around the same age. Not because I believe her when she says that made it seem like they were out on a date, but because they were two people who seem to have both felt ambivalent about being on the knife's edge of needing do to things differently because they're on the cusp of something big (first big summer blockbuster, first big schmancy magazine piece), and Los Angeles is really far away from Boston. It’s easy for me to imagine them both feeling relieved to find comfort in what’s familiar. I grew up in Boston, and when I visited the West Coast it didn’t take me very long to realize the people out there are different. After spending three consecutive nights going out in Portland and Seattle, that third night in Seattle I was SO thrilled to talk to a sleazy almost-middle-aged guy from New Jersey just because I was finally interacting with someone where I felt okay about talking fast and being sarcastic.

I will be surprised if she’s ever asked to write a GQ piece again. I can see her being contacted by tabloids: Hey that Chris Evans piece was great, will you fake-befriend XYZ celebrity, get him/her to talk about his/her dirty secrets, and write about it for us?? I imagine she will say no.

So maybe the moral of the story is that still-becoming-established writers should not write profiles of still-becoming-established actors.

Mostly I just feel bad for Edith Zimmerman, because I don't think she deserves to be vilified.

And finally, since I’m also from Boston and probably around the same age as her and Chris Evans, I do have to state for the record: YES JAM'N 94.5. Baltazar & Pebbles 4-eva.


  1. I agree with points that you both made, but the biggest part of me feels bad for Edith Zimmerman and that she is taking a lot more heat for this than a man in similar position would (and if the roles were reversed, I think the female actor would take more heat than the male author, even if the behaviors were exactly the same). I do think she made some big mistakes, and those aren't excusable, but I do think some of the criticism she's received is unwarranted.

    I guess I feel like I can't really judge too much one way or the other without knowing what her editor gave her for guidelines. One thing that really struck me was that this read like a typical GQ piece. I don't read GQ regularly but I don't think I'm way off base in assuming that they don't really care how women are portrayed in their magazine. I got the sense that the editor wanted something interesting and Edith was trying to be herself and keep her own voice while still trying to please the editor and write something that fit in with the magazine's overall tone. I don't agree with the things she did, but on some level I really respect her honesty about what happened--even if that is what your editor asks for, she had to be aware that there would be some sort of bad reaction to what she wrote.

    Also, I'm not from Boston but there was a time when I listened to JAM'N 94.5 and Baltazar and Pebbles. I thought that was awesome.

  2. I thought the article was a fascinating read, fluently written and 99% of the criticism seems to come from twits who are obviously just a teensy bit jealous.

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