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Trish Kinney Headshot

Chris Matthews Takes a Base on Balls Instead of Hitting the Hardball

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It was vintage Chris Matthew,s whose Hardball is like the large font version of cable news shows. The conservative guest, whose position was that gays should not be allowed to serve in the military, made the mistake of not knowing how many gays are currently in the armed forces, unleashing the host's fury. Wasn't he supposed to be an expert? Why didn't he know his material before coming on television to discuss the subject? It was just Chris' way of letting him know that he was an idiot for taking that position in the first place.

Surprisingly, Hardball ventured into a more softball-like segment on movies later in the program. The pitch was that five of the Oscar nominated films reflected important issues that were on our minds and in our hearts right now. Up in the Air involved people losing their jobs, Hurt Locker was about the Iraq war, and the other three (Avatar, The Blind Side and Precious) were about "race relations". Avatar was about the exploitation of one race over another, The Blind Side was about interracial adoptive parental love and Precious was about poverty and despair, said Chris. The guests were film experts from Vanity Fair and the Washington Post. All films with the exception of Precious were then discussed with the panel in more detail including clips. (Oddly the Avatar clips played over discussion of The Blind Side but that seemed to be because Chris "loved" The Blind Side and its message so much that he wanted to spend extra time discussing it.)

The problem is that while Precious is set amidst an abundance of "poverty and despair," what makes the character Precious' story different is the film's central theme of incest. Yes, the characters are black but putting this film in the "race relations" category on the show is like saying that incest is just another racial issue, thereby denying that this devastating social problem crosses all race and socioeconomic lines. And the fact that it was the only film on the Hardball list that was not discussed with the experts reflects the sad fact that we still don't like to talk about incest, a subject that even seems to intimidate Chris Matthews, a personality known for fearless confrontation of controversial subjects. Who knew there was such a subject?

When those of us who do have the nerve to talk about sexual abuse and violence finally get an award winning mainstream movie to help us along in our quest to open the dialogue, it is discouraging to see the opportunity missed as it was on Hardball. It would have been better not to include the film on the list at all rather than mischaracterize it and then ignore it in the discussion. Incest has been ignored for so long that it's not surprising. But oh so disappointing in this case.

I was thinking that maybe Chris Matthews could "forget," for just a few moments, that incest is so hard to talk about and rectify this problem by devoting a future segment to the film and its true subject. I volunteer to sit in the Hardball seat and subject myself to the potential humiliation that so many hundreds of guests before me have experienced. It would be worth it to see Chris lead the way by shining the Hardball spotlight on the very subject that he buried on Tuesday night. Such opportunities don't come along every day. A voice as loud as his would mean so much.