Whenever D.C. gets a moment in the cultural sun --like this week's Vogue profile about MSNBC host Alex Wagner and her fiancé Sam Kass, President Obama's personal chef -- its obsessive denizens are never content to bask in it. Instead, they use the same lenses they employ during their day jobs analyzing politics and policy to find fault with whatever movie or television show or novel or magazine piece was naïve enough to use the city as its setting.
Homeland, for example. The show is basically Grey’s Anatomy, except with sexy bureaucrats instead of sexy oncologists. (Also F. Murray Abraham!) Instead of having fun, political writers have to complain about how there is no way that a marine officer could live in a house that nice in his pay grade. The same with House of Cards, which is basically a live-action, fourth wall breaking game of chess (America’s bad attempt at capturing the magic of Norwegian reality television). No one wants to watch C-SPAN for hours on end -- so why are we complaining when House of Cards does something different? (Um, yes, we are aware that Fix original recipe loathes House of Cards -- and loves CSPAN.)
And then there’s the latest cultural petit-four featuring D.C. to earn the city’s wrath, the aforementioned Vogue profile. The piece has come in for some gentle mocking; there are more names dropped in it than in a Michael Bloomberg anecdote about his golf game. Its subhead -- "She’s a rising television-news star. He’s the consummate White House insider. Meet Alex Wagner and Sam Kass -- politics’ It-couple of the year" -- could easily be a feature film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Most people read the piece and come to the conclusion that fashion magazines often love to write pieces about attractive people, and then forget the piece and go on with your day. Heck, even some grumbling about how Wagner and Kass failed to mention any of their favorite D.C. restaurants -- a singular pet peeve of the city's -- would be okay under the circumstances. But no, some of D.C. just can't do that.
Matthew Continetti, the editor of the Washington Free Beacon, instead saw the piece as a “discomfiting ethnography of contemporary meritocracy, an acid test of how power is transacted in America today." This profile does not confirm that beautiful, successful people often happen to be attracted to one another, Continetti finds. No, it confirms that we are living in a new aristocracy, a thought which further confirms that Continetti may never have read a profile in Vogue before.
Other writers have felt compelled to respond to Continetti's charges -- Jonathan Chait summed up the Beacon piece as "Third-Generation Nepotist Assails Nepotism" -- which probably means we've passed the point of no return with having any fun with this story. Way to go, D.C., you big fun sucker.