Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Aug 29, 2013

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. We'll get started at 2, but here are some early discussion topics for the day.


I'm sorry for the unannounced cancelation last week -- it's the only time in this history of this chat that I've just completely forgotten about it. I got off deadline at 4 pm, and thought, "Hmm. I think there was something else I was supposed to do today."


Anyhow. We are back! The last time that we chatted, one of you asked about Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" video, and how it had gotten away with being so R-rated. I confessed at the time that I hadn't seen it. Now I have. (The video, and the life Miley Cyrus version).

Now. I hate this song and video. Really, truly hate it. For all of the reasons that have been previously mentioned on why one might hate this song. But there is one line in particular I keep coming back to, and here I have a conundrum: If this line is interpreted one way, it makes me hate the song even more. If this line is interpreted a different way, it changes the whole song, and I actually begin to like it.

Can anyone guess what this particular line is? Hint: The line itself has nothing to do with sex, and the reason it sticks out to me has to do with my background as an English major.

Here are the written-out lyrics, for anyone who cannot access  the completely NSFW video at their desk computers.


Last week Dr. Phil's Twitter account published a Tweet that received a lot of consternation and indignation. Namely: “If a girl is drunk, is it okay to have sex with her?”

I wrote about it here. My article focused on the etiquette of Tweeting and then deleting, but it sidestepped the larger question: Was the Tweet actually offensive? Gene Weingarten and I had a long back and forth on this topic. He laid out some of his arguments in his chat Tuesday. I'll post some of my responses later in the chat, but first I'd like to hear from you.

Was the Tweet offensive? Why or why not?

Um, this is the kidzbob-ish type version. As if the original wasn't bad enough. Additionally, the song is too damn catchy! Reminds me of "Somebody That I Esed to Know! I will whine every time it comes on the radio, but I'll sing right along.

It's true. So bad, but so wonderfully peppy. That might be what irritates me more than anything. The beat and tune are fantastic. Surely someone could have come up with better lyrics -- Thicke has said they wrote this version in less than an hour. Did it ever occur to them to say, "Hey, if we spend -two- hours on a song, I bet we could come up with something that wasn't creepy and rape-ish!"

How could they possibly have scheduled your chat and the grammar geek at the same time?? I'm definitely going to lose about an hour of work today clicking between the two.

I don't know what anyone was thinking. Be sure to direct everyone over there to stop here once in awhile.

It was a stupid question to ask, because there really is no "yes" answer, unlike some of the other tweets he's sent out as discussion topics. Unless you want to get into really nuanced, "What's your relationship with her?" "How drunk?" "What's your condition?" Oh, and the whole "girl" thing, which implies underage to begin with. I found myself rolling my eyes at his stupidity, rather than being outraged.

This is part of what I said to Gene. I don't think people would have been nearly as upset if he had said "woman" and "after she has been drinking." But when we hear "drunk girl," we don't think, "25-year-old who has had two glasses of wine." We think, "passed-out 15-year-old."

I couldn't even finish reading that "song," it is so vile. I confess to never watching any Miley Cyrus performance or video after she finished with Hannah Montana. I'm just not interested.

A few people wrote in to say that they hadn't finished reading the song. Which is completely your right, to choose which songs and media to consume. But then, you cannot really participate in culture discussions. And why would you want to miss that? I'm having flashbacks to a friend saying that she didn't think 30 Rock was funny, and then confessing that she was basing her opinions on the one episode she'd seen. Be an informed hater!

Hi cupcake. I am writing from Oxford where I've been spending the last month for work. This is only important because I was able to go I to the famous bookstore here called Blackwell's and buy Stray in person. There were three copies! I enjoyed reading it! There's a sequel right?

You gorgeous thing -- I'm so happy you liked it. There is a sequel -- my editor and I are just finishing the edits now.

The line that makes me find the song acceptable (it's catchy, I admit) is "The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty/Come on, get at me" because it makes it clear to me that the girl in the song is interested. It's less sleazy that way.

Really? Hmm, I guess. I kept envisioning a gal trying to hold his hand, which he interprets as a full-on sexy invitation. But I think I just see it that way because of all of the context clues (horrible video, horrible other lyrics). In any case, no, that's not the lyric I'm thinking of.

Considering it's pretty obvious that the tweet was not coming from Dr. Phil looking for permission to go around date-raping girls left and right, I don't think it's offensive. In fact, I'm kind of glad it happened since it's sparking a lot of conversation about how drunk is too drunk, and what happens if both people are drunk, and can guys be too drunk to consent, and so forth. (And while I'm categorically against date rape, I have also had me some terrific drunken sex that I don't regret even a little.)

Sparking conversation: so Dr. Phil succeeded in his mission after all.

Not to downplay the Very Important Discussion about the VMAs and the rape-y lyrics of the song, but anything sexy about Robin Thicke is blunted by how much he looks like Jason Seaver.


I recognize that the internet was created just so people can write thought pieces about the implications and meaning of Miley's performance at the VMAs (is she a racist? are we all racist? was she trying to criticize the song? what does the creator of the foam finger think?, but I'm over it. Can we all move on now?

Yes. So long as we're all aware of the Miley Cyrus Twerking On Things Tumblr, we can all move on.

Is it "Just let me liberate you". One way, he's a misogynist trying to "liberate" a woman from her non-animalistic desires. The other way, he's trying to liberate her from a person trying to do the first. Maybe?

Interesting interpretation. And yet, not the lyric I had in mind.

As a proud feminist (qualification), I think it was an overreaction. I did not see it as a question of whether its ok too take advantage of a drunk girl. I saw it more as encompassing a lot of situations, ie, if both a guy and gal are pretty tipsy is said guy required to make sure nothing sexual happens, lest he be "taking advantage." Personally, that is taking feminism to an extreme that actually belittles women. Women are people too! We enjoy a drink (or some other relaxing/partying agents) on occasion. We enjoy having sex on occasion (or none of us would be here). And on some occasions we, like men, even enjoy doing both! Gasp! Its silly. Listen, no one - men or women - should be forcing themselves on someone who is passed out (ew, necrophilia anyone?) or whose consciousness is debatable. But really that should be a given - not a question. And I don't feel that was the question being posited.

It's fascinating how much personal experience people bring in to interpreting that question. Please note that the first half of your post -- everything up to "personally" -- is assuming things that were not present in the Tweet. You're assuming that he meant for both the guy and the girl to be tipsy. But if he meant that, why didn't he say, "if both of you are drunk?" or even, "Is it okay for two people to have sex if one of them is drunk," and leave the genders blank?


I'm not saying your interpretation is wrong, but it's interesting how many of us feel qualified to say, "No, what he -meant- was," when all of us are working from the same set of 140 characters.

Sorry - I hate it so much I couldn't even read all the way through the lyrics. And no, I have not been able to listen the whole bloody thing either. He's a slime - marreid with a young kid and he's 'singing' that crap? Yikes.

How can you not read all of the lyrics? What are you afraid will happen? I'm not being facetious -- I'm genuinely curious. I can understand when people say, "I don't like Jim Carey, so I'm not going to waste two hours of my life watching a movie of his." But it take approximately 30 seconds to scan the lyrics of a song. Less, considering it sounds like you'd already started. Help me.

Wouldn't this be considered rape? It seems to me it comes pretty close . . .

Well, as someone else pointed out, there's so much in the gray area: How much alcohol? "Drunk" or "slightly buzzed?" Have you been drinking, too?

The lyrics don't really bother me that much. The "C'mon get at me" line makes it clear that this is all just swagger. The ball is really in her court.

Isn't there a literal ball somewhere in the video? Or is there just the stuffed dog, the toy car, the giant dice, the bicycle and the banjo?

It often occurs to me that I would listen to trending music more regularly if the lyrics were more interesting and unique, and less of this "party and sex it up all the time" business that seems to have completely taken over the pop charts. I do dabble, mind you - I freely admit that Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" was 100% my summer dance-in-my-kitchen-at-2-a.m.-while-late-night-snacking jam - but I usually end up skittishly retreating back into my little prog-rock world of spaceships and sorcerers and dinosaur battles. Also very silly at times, but at least there are STORIES. Where have all the charming storytelling songs gone?

This is an excellent question to ask my colleague, pop music critic Chris Richards. In fact, I'm going to bring it up when he gets back from vacation, and have him educate me on all of the good storytellers out there.

Is the line the "From Dakota to Decatur?" It bugs the hell out of me. What Dakota? Why are you comparing two states without a modifier to a city? How far is Dakota to Decatur (not super far, right)? It's a weird measurement.

Despite the fact that Decatur is the name of a town just 30 miles from my home town of Normal, Illinois, this was not the lyric I was referring to.

And yet, you win the gold star comment thus far, because you are completely right. Unless Dakota is also a small, midwestern town. I hope it is.

Dr. Phil is an idiot. The End. Except that it's not. This issue has been danced around a zillion times and I'm still confused by it. I want to say no, but as a girl who's been drunk before... Also, I'm a girl who's been drunk before and who has also been with a GUY who was drunk! Am I a victim or perp?

Blurred lines?

If it wasn't okay to have sex with a drunk girl (at a conference all the way across the country) I would have never spent enough time with the young lady to realize that I needed to be with her no matter what. 18 years later we are still married and madly in love.

I am quite sure that you did not mean for this post to come across nearly as disturbing as it is reading. And also quite sure that you must have left off important details, like the fact that the "young lady" was well over the age of consent. (I hear "young lady," and I can't think of anyone over 16).

The first time I read it, my mind went to the Steubenville case. So, if he's referring to that type of situation, it is pretty offensive to ask the question. It implies there is a legitimate answer other than "No." But after I thought about it for a few moments, the question only says drunk - not incoherent or incapacitated. It would be hard for me to say that it is strictly wrong to have sex with a drunk partner after surviving college and my 20's. The problem with the question is that it poses as a simple one where, like most moral questions, more information is required to actually answer it. How drunk is she? How drunk am I? How well do we know each other?

I think that Steubenville was the spectre hanging over this Tweet. That's the frame of reference that we all immediately go to when we read this Tweet, whether or not that's the sort of "drunk girl" Dr. Phil had in mind.

I am just surprised I have yet to see a mash-up photo of Miley Cyrus and McKayla Maroney on the Internet.

Make one, please, and present it to us all.

Hi Monica! Several weeks ago, when we were talking about death, there was a lot of talk of how we view death "in this culture." I would love to find a website that describes cultural differences like this. For instance, what is the grieving process like in Belgium? How do they view work-life balance in Peru? What are the current parenting fads in Greece? Wikipedia only goes so far. Do you have any site suggestions for this kind of learning? (Obvious disclaimer that every country has a variety of opinions and lifestyles applies, etc)

I don't know a site off hand -- but in the piece I wrote related to this discussion, I cited a book that looked pretty fascinating about cultures of death that I hope I have a chance to read soon.

The really fascinating thing, to me, is that country used to have a reputation for being a genre with real storytelling, but a lot of mainstream stuff nowadays is just fratboy anthems (Luke Bryan, I'm looking at you) and the nuanced storytelling songs have been kicked over into Americana (which gets a lot of public radio/AAA love but is still pretty niche).


I kind of like the video (I guess I should disclose that I'm a guy). Literally, the only thing I would change bout it is that the guys should be in underwear. Then, it would be a silly romp together. As it is, the girls are frolicking for the guys. Seems less fun that way.

You are a guy who gets it. The lyrics alone are semi- to moderately disturbing. What propels the song to seriously disturbing is the power imbalance in the video: naked girls prancing around in front of fully clothed guys.

is it possible there some subliminal Alan Thicke allusion making you see this similarity? I have to admit, I'm 45 yrs old and have never listened to the song or taken a good look at Robin Thicke. But for a while, I was thinking Alan Thicke when I read Robin Thicke and was shocked at how he'd transformed himself and resuscitated his career.

Well, that and the fact that Robin Thicke is ALAN THICKE'S SON. (We all knew that, right? I'm not startling anyone with this revelation?) It's not subliminal name connections -- it's the fact that Robin shares half of Dr. Seaver's DNA.

How would you have responsed if Dr. Phil had replaced the word "girl" with the word "guy?"

I'm guessing that the backlash would have been muchly diminished.

The problem with that question was that Twitter was the wrong medium in which to pose it. A question that's THAT culturally and ethically loaded needs more than 140 characters. You need to do a whole SAT prompt thing, with a paragraph of background material. Asking it in such an offhand way was a bit like going, "Abortion, good or bad? Ur thoughts?" There's no way a question like that won't cause chaos to erupt on ALL sides of the debate.

Excellent point, and one I tried to make in my article. There's a lot of "if, when, then, so, but" context that needs to be loaded into a conversation about sex and alcohol. Without the context, people were just going to take the question and run crazy with it.

A Robin Thicke cover of "As Long As we've Got Each Other" with a good video would go multi-platinum, right?

Is there any way we can take the lyrics for "As Long As We've Got Each Other" and put them to the melody of Blurred Lines?

The luckiest dreamers

Hey hey hey

To never stop dreaming

hey hey hey.

i wrote the post about Alan/Robin confusion. I had no idea they were related. I thought Robin Thicke was some British upstart. I will crawl back into my hole and resume listening to Duran Duran now.

You get so many points for coming back and admitting this confusion. Good for you!

For me, the line is, "I feel so lucky, you wanna hug me." This makes it all about her wanting him and not wanting to express that, ie the "good girl" as opposed to him being a predator.

Again, interesting interpretation. But not the line that really bugs me.

As it is written, it is not offensive. However, the word "drunk" is undefined which, depending on your definition, it can be read as offensive. Does "drunk" mean over the limit for driving (0.08%), does "drunk" mean passed out, or something in between? If one defines drunk as passed out, then it would be offensive since only an animal would think it's ok to have sex with a passed out girl.


I do not think his tweet was offensive in any way. First of all, he was not writing as a provocative action; he was asking about opinions to lead into a larger discussion. Secondly, I think that's an important discussion to have. Rape is not ok in any way. However, are we now saying that as a society it is impossible to give consent under any influence of alcohol? If so, there are an awful lot of rapists (male AND female), and many of them are my friends. Perhaps the tweet could have been more carefully worded, or perhaps, as a psychologist, he was asking an open-ended question which left room for interpretation. That's kind of what they do.


Is it "In a hundred years not dare would I / Pull a Pharcyde, let you pass me by"? A clever little grammatical rearrangement, and an unintentional reference to Far Side, which makes me think of dinosaurs and cows. (I did read all the lyrics, and I do change the station every time the song comes on. To "Treasure" by Bruno Mars too.)

You did far, far deeper a lyrical analysis than I ever could have. (No, not the lyric. But I really enjoyed reading your interpretation of it).

I'm with you on this one. I hated the lyrics when I read through them. I've actually never heard the song that I know of, and haven't watched the Miley performance yet either (though I'm well aware of what happened, have seen stills, and checked out a few opinions that matter about it.... Gene Weingarten): however, I was fully capable of reading the lyrics through, if only because I wanted to try to find the line you're referring to. For the record I have no idea. I am shocked though that a song with lyrics that bad (and I mean bad, not offensive, though it's both) can actually have not just been recorded, but apparently is the song of the summer. But seriously, are people's sensitivities so screwed up that merely reading something terrible for 20 seconds is going to offend them? And if you're that easily offended by crappy art, how do you make it through real life on a day to day basis?

"And if you're that easily offended by crappy art, how do you make it through real life on a day to day basis?"


I just love this.

Probably the place that the 1 hour song writing session hurts him the most. For what it's worth, I assumed he meant Decatur, Georgia, which is pretty far from the Dakotas.

Well, Decatur, Georgia vs. Decatur, Illinois obviously changes everything about the song.

The sudden mega-popularity of Robin Thicke is driving me absolutely out of my mind, because for years, I've had this Pavlovian response where any mention of "Alan Thicke" makes the first line of the "Growing Pains" theme song immediately play in my head, and now his son is having the same effect. I can't take this anymore. I'm listening to the entire theme on repeat right now to try to exorcise it from my brain.

Does this happen just with the Thickes? What about Tracey Gold? What about Kirk Cameron?

I only watched the Justin Timberlake segment and the Miley Cyrus spectacle, but I thought how interesting it was that I, not a JT fan prior, could find his dancing and performance so compellingly sexy, and the only skin he was showing was his hands and face. He was wearing long black pants, a hat and even another layer of jacket, for Pete's sake. Whereas Miley Cyrus essentially stripped down to nude undergarments in her attempt at "sexy." Our sexual standards are still light years apart, even in 2013.

Also, it's worth pointing out that Justin Timberlake, whatever you think of him, is a trained and talented dancer. I mean, that man can -dance.- Miley had no choreography, per se. Just rump shaking.

even lines like that strike me as creepy, as if he's trying to convince her "you know you really want it." Like you said earlier, a hug or hand grab is not the same as indicating you're ready to get down. Maybe if you imagine he's singing this to a stripper he's watching, it all seems appropriate.

Maybe if you imagine he's singing this song to...a chriropracter? A rutabega? A jar of peanut butter? So many ways to try to make this song more appropriate.

"If you can't hear what I'm trying to say"? One way is that he's been trying to be subtle and said the heck with it, let me be really literal about what I want and that I'm into you. The other is that she's passed out or so inhibited that she can't hear you and you two aren't reading from the same page (you want something she doesn't want or can't even hear you ask for)

Wow, no! But I do like that you attempted to combine the two chat threads into one reading, i.e. "Blurred Lines" meets "she's so drunk she's passed out."

By the way, a few of you have now guessed the line, but I'll wait a couple more minutes before posting.

I just wanted to add that I was in a band with Pharrell. The Fabulous Marching Cavaliers!! He wasn't misogynistic, but he was way too cool to hang out with me, the Freshman flugelhorn player.


To the person who can't get teh Growing Pains theme out of his/her head: Alan Thicke also wrote the theme for The Facts of Life. You take the good, you take the bad.

You are kidding me.

I understand that some people have very strong feelings about the differences between girl and woman, but for many people, these are basically interchangeable terms. Dr. Phil seems like the kind of guy who calls women girls, gals, ladies, and dolls. Maybe that's just me, but I didn't read any underage connotations into the use of "girl".


"I feel so lucky / You wanna hug me / What rhymes with 'hug me'?" That's your lyric.


But why?

What he thinks "rhymes with hug me" does not, in fact, truly rhyme?


That's part of it. Because, given the rest of the lyrics (offensive, and also untalented), one gets the distinct sense that the word Thicke has in mind begins with F.

And that word does not rhyme with "hug," not even remotely." It is one of my only grammatical pet peeves, when people claim two words rhyme that do not rhyme.

However. Then I started to think more about it. And wondered: What if the missing word is not the F word, but rather, "slug." Slug, in fact, rhymes with "hug." It also changes the whole meaning of the song, because instead of saying "You wanna get in my pants," it's saying, "I am being a creepy dude wolf-whistling you on the street, and you want to punch my lights out for it."


This conversation will be greatly diminished if people aren't made aware of this site, What Rhymes with Hug Me.  "I Love Kentucky" is my favorite, but "Your baby's chubby" is a close second.

And this site, this beautiful site, is a perfect cap to that discussion thread.

I only see it from the "I'm too lazy to spend 10 minutes thinking about this" perspective and can't wait to find a redeeming interpretation here.

Granted, I think my redeeming interpretation is pretty dang far-fetched.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think the song, depending on how you interpret it, can be explored sociologically (societal views on women, rape, vulgarity, yada, yada, yada). On the other hand, I think it's really catchy song and people really just need to relax and enjoy (or not enjoy) it. Better yet, just listen to Marvin Gaye's Got to Give it Up for the catchiness without the squicky lyrics.

Ninety percent of the time, I think I fall in the, "relax, you're getting upset unnecessarily" camp. Which is, for what its worth, how I felt about Dr. Phil's Tweet. But I really do think Blurred lines is offensive to humans and writers.

Out of all this VMA controversy, why hasn't there been more discussion about the fact that Miley Cyrus was CREEPY during that whole performance? That whole tongue thing was weird and her demeanor was strange and skeevy.

I really think she believed that the waggling tongue would become a photographed signature. Like Angelina Jolie's leg at the Oscars. It just didn't turn out to be the signature she'd wanted. (And frankly, neither did Angelina Jolie's leg at the Oscars).

There are LOTS of rhymes with "hug me." For instance, he could have used "That doesn't bug me."

Just go click on the What Rhymes With Hug Me site. It's pretty great.

For the record, I do not like this song because it has that bubblegum treacly-ness of being on the 2010-2019 playlist of pop hits from this decade. It is not how I want to remember the next 6 years. Same with Thrift Shop. We will be embarrassed of these songs when we are older, mark my words.

How lucky for us that we're pre-emptively embarrassed by them now.

So someone that is 26 is not young lady? C'mon.

No. How old are you? And I'm guessing you are a man.

1) Big Picture: I hate the date rapeyness of it all. But larger than that is the connotation of the good girl. Implicit in this whole thing is that it is impossible to be both a good girl AND be able to be sexually aggressive (or really, even active). Which feeds back into the date rape culture of having to read a blurred line when its a firm "no." Of all the troubling sub questions about the "drunk girl" tweet. Chimamanda Adichie has a quote about how we teach girls from childhood that there is something implicitly dirty and wrong about their bodies and it turns us into women who have learned to live lives of artifice. Its exactly this shaming of the woman and the madonna/whore dichotomy that makes this song SO very awful. 2)I almost get more angry at Pharell, because he's on Daft Punk's Get Lucky, which as mentioned above, is an awesome dance tune but that makes it clear through switching the pronouns to "we" half the time that EVERYBODY likes having fun together. See that. Almost the same song. Equal players in it all. Hey, hey, hey, let's stay up all night together and get lucky. No problems. 3) The Pharcyde lyric has nothing to do with The Far Side- it's an underground hip hop group whose most famous song is "Passing Me By"

The good girl problem is, indeed problematic -- thanks for bringing up. Thanks for bringing up all of these excellent points, in fact.

Oh, but come on, that was great in its own right. It was nice to have this moment where millions of viewers could band together and come to agreement on one point: Angelina, stop trying to make your leg happen.

We do need these moments of cultural solidarity. Poor Angie. Bet she shaved and lotioned and everything. Bet she made Brad Pitt critically assess which was her better leg, and on which side the slit should fall.

I've only just started to be annoyed by the "girl" thing, maybe because I'm getting older. There's a sociology thesis in the lack of a casual non-patronizing term for women in our society. We have men/women, boys/girls, but casually, men get "guys" and women are back to "girls." I can say I'm going out with the girls from work, and it doesn't sting, but if I imaging my male boss referring a question to the "girls at work," it's horrible and insulting.

Gals. Gals is far, far underused.

Okay, lets talk about the important stuff. What was up with that hair?

Alas. Just when we have time to get to the important stuff, we have no time at all. It's almost 3, and I have to run for another article. Next week, same time and place. gstq

In This Chat
Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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