Give Me The Break
Michelle Wolf isn’t a “nice lady,” and neither am I. Screw being nice. Netflix just cancelled The Break with Michelle Wolf after just one season, and I’m not having it. Was the show perfect? No. Is there a ton of mediocre and less-than-mediocre crap on Netflix that has gotten many more seasons than that? Yes! At the very moment that this cutting-edge and subversive woman-led show was starting to find its voice, Netflix decided to pull the plug. What do we call it when women’s voices are unfairly and prematurely silenced? Oh, right—Tuesday.
Last year when Wolf was still a correspondent on The Daily Show, she did a segment about the then upcoming Wonder Woman film. She commented on how the general feeling around the movie was that it had to be superb, or women would never get to make another superhero movie ever again. Meanwhile, men can keep churning out as many so-so to so-bad superhero movies as they want. In other words, Wonder Woman couldn’t be just another movie; it had to prove that movies about female superheroes, and, superhero movies made by women, could “work.” Meanwhile, the 2011 Green Lantern movie had a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear anyone saying that men shouldn’t be allowed to make superhero movies anymore.
Wolf’s assessment of the attitude around Wonder Woman now seems to apply to her own show’s cancellation. The entertainment industry is still mostly controlled by men, and women have to perform at a much higher level than their male counterparts just to stay in the game. They have to prove that they deserve to be there at all, and that’s just bullshit.
This is perhaps no truer than in the world of late-night talk shows. With Wolf’s show being cancelled, and just a couple of weeks after BET announcing the cancellation of The Rundown with Robin Theade after just one season, this only leaves two late-night style talk shows hosted by women: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman. Women have historically been shut out of this world, and the trend continues to today. A few women have managed to break into the boys’ club, but staying there has proved to be much harder.
While I do think The Break’s cancellation has a lot to do with this idea that women are expected to perform at an unreasonably high level, I also think that Netflix is afraid of the big, bad Michelle Wolf. That’s right—Netflix is definitely afraid of Michelle Wolf. Why? Because she’s not afraid to call conservatives on their shit, and mercilessly bait them. From her show’s “Salute to Abortion,” to the commercial about a car that runs on untested rape kits, to a satirical ICE training video that equates ICE to ISIS, The Break hasn’t shied away from hard-hitting criticism—albeit presented in comedic form. What’s wrong, Reed Hastings? Oh you can’t sleep because you’re afraid Michelle Wolf is going to alienate your conservative customers and affect your bottom line? You poor thing!
I want to take a break (pun intended) for a second and talk briefly about the common misconception that Wolf is Jewish. (For the last time—she’s not!) In the past year I have written two other pieces about Wolf, and both have received multiple anti-Semitic comments online. Right after Wolf’s breakthrough White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech, the piece I had written about her HBO special, Nice Ladies, received so many nasty anti-Semitic comments that I wrote a follow-up piece exploring the effects of this common misconception about Wolf’s religious background. In sum, so many people really seem to hate her, and the nature and intensity of this hate seems, at least partly, to be tied to the fact that some people assume she’s Jewish. I don’t think this is why her show was cancelled, but it’s worth noting.
At this point some of you might be asking: “aren’t there more important things to worry about than some white lady’s show being cancelled?” Probably yes; however, this is a bigger issue than it might seem on the surface. It’s not just about a show being cancelled; it’s about women being represented in all areas of our society, about women having a voice. If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, it’s that creating a culture of silence around women’s experiences has devastating effects. Women’s voices are constantly silenced, undermined, and undervalued in the media—and then we wonder why women are afraid to speak out against men who have helped themselves to their bodies? These issues are deeply intertwined.
I sincerely hope that another network or streaming service will pick up The Break. I sincerely hope that all of the white male late-night talk show hosts will rally to call Netflix out on their shit. I sincerely hope that, whether this show survives elsewhere or not, Wolf will continue to be the brave, strong, not-nice lady that she is, and will continue to say the things that so many others are too afraid to say.
How to cite this page
Klebe, Larisa. "Give Me The Break." 20 August 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/give-me-break>.