A few words on the amazing Gabby Douglas, the Fierce Five and a tone deaf media
The Fierce Five Team USA womens gymnastic team has spent the bulk of the week dazzling the entire world. The biggest surprise for this team was the emergence of Gabby Douglas who scored 1/3 of the team’s points in team competition and competed in all 4 events to quality for individuals where she went on to win the gold. Gabby has racked up such a number of accolades and through she and her mom’s story is doubtlessly inspiring lots of young girls to pursue their dreams (as corny as that may sound!)
That’s why it’s been disheartening to see people wallowing in the negative for ratings and clicks. In 1992, Kim Zmeskal was considered to be the star of the group. Unfortunately, Kim had a really bad showing. But on the bright side, Shannon Miller became a bonafide star. It took the media a little bit of time (including the Olympics announcers/directors) to shift the focus adequately to Miller and her battle with Tatiana Gutsu.
[To finish reading this post click Read More]
It seems the same sort of thing has happened this year. NBC came in with its talking points about Jordyn and her leadership and really emphasized her from the beginning. Even as Gabby and Aly went on to outshine her in their performances (Jordyn was great but just not good enough) the story became about how Jordyn was slighted and her reactions to being left out. This was inappropriate.
Whether 2 or 3 people are allowed to compete in the gymnastics individuals SOMEONE on that team would have been left out. And Jordyn’s disappointment is no more important than any one else’s. The media insisted upon dwelling on the rules change that only allows 2 competitors to move forward rather than shifting quickly to Gabby and Aly’s emerging storyline. Even after Gabby won, yahoo, for example, posted an article completely about how classy Jordyn was to congratulate her. And as the other girls absorbed their accomplishment, the camera struggled to remain on Jordyn’s tear soaked face.
The media still has far to go when it comes to adjusting its talking points to clear changes in circumstances. For example, the fact that members of this team have elected to call themselves the “Fierce Five” but many writers insist upon calling them “Fab Five” a name that recalls the accomplishments of a Jalen Rose-led Michigan college basketball team. The girls are worthy of having their own distinguishable name and identity. But the media is largely tone deaf or maybe just regular deaf and not adjusting their headlines and references across the board.
When a few people on twitter made jokes about Gabby’s hair a similar shift to the negative happened. With 500 million people on twitter and probably less than 100 (perhaps much less!!) commenting on Gabby’s hair I was surprised to see this become a controversy online. Well, actually no I wasn’t surprised. I believe the writers of these blogs and articles were trolling for clicks. By far the bulk of reactions to Gabby’s hair were people who were indignant and outraged that anyone commented on her hair. That indignation was followed by people saying things like “Gabby has accomplished more in her 17 years than you’ll ever accomplish in your life and you’re worried about her hair.” Yes, I’m sure that’s the way Gabby would want her fans to “defend” her.
Further, had all these web sites NOT reacted to Gabby’s hair there would be ZERO imprint of this “conversation” online. It bothers me that Gabby will google herself and believe there was widespread criticism of her hair rather than overwhelming love and support and pride in what she accomplished. This is when making a mountain out of molehill generates a potentially hurtful result.
I pay very little attention to gymnastics during non-Olympic years. There was a part of me that really felt that no other team could touch the Magnificent 7 so why bother? As a youth I was extremely invested in their success and saw them as representative of what young women could do. At that age, I felt bad that I really hadn’t figured out anything or done anything comparable. I wanted to be celebrated and good at something. But now as an older woman I realize that everyone has their time.
This year it’s Gabby’s time. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next whether in competition or doing something like Dancing with the Stars. I hope she and the others stay on our radars for a while. This entire Fierce Five has been a pleasure to watch and they deserve much better than strange reactions and a taken nickname. Just to be fair, I’ve read plenty of great things about these girls and that’s the kind of coverage that I’m sticking to.
You know, like this article that says Gabby is about to be rolling in the money!!