War on words: Public figures criticized for using metaphors | Deseret News National
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Jordan Strauss, Associated Press
Culture

War on words: Public figures criticized for using metaphors

Critics are throwing stones (metaphorically speaking) at actress Charlize Theron for comparing the press' intrusion into her private life to rape.

The controversy started Friday after Theron told Sky News everything in her life is "fodder" for the press.

"I don't (Google myself) — that's my saving grace," Theron said. "When you start living in that world, and doing that, you start feeling raped."

"Some people might relish in all that stuff but there are certain things in my life that I think of as very sacred and I am very protective over them," she said.

Theron should have known not to use rape metaphorically when she understands it's a real issue, wrote Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. She noted that Theron has campaigned for the United Nations' Stop Rape Now campaign.

"Having your privacy invaded or having people say cruel or even threatening things about you is no doubt a very stressful thing, one that people in the public eye have to endure on a constant basis. But you know what’s like rape? Rape. You know what isn’t? Pretty much everything else," wrote Williams.

Theron is not the only celebrity whose metaphorical language has ignited controversy. Gwyneth Paltrow recently compared her experiences reading hateful online comments to living through a war.

"You come across (online comments) about yourself and about your friends, and it’s a very dehumanizing thing. It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it," Paltrow said, according to a May 27 Recode article. "My hope is, as we get out of it, we’ll reach the next level of conscience."

Cindy McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain, dismissed Paltrow's concerns as "a joke" on Twitter. "Her life is like taking bullets for a soldier. What a joke! My two sons serving in the military should talk to her," McCain wrote.

But others have pointed out the controversy shows metaphors are losing ground to literalism. Conversations (especially over the Internet) are now more warlike in a rhetorical and psychological sense, said James Poulos at The Daily Beast.

"Literalism has turned disagreement over religion into one of the most bloody fronts in the culture war. ... Literalism has turned debate into an all-or-nothing game," wrote Poulos. "Literalism has left us with no alternative mode of thought but a sadly deracinated zone of emotionally paralyzed vagueness, where we feebly gesture toward things that are 'very sort of' this way, or give us some thin 'sense of' that feeling."

Email: kpolatis@deseretnews.com Twitter: KandraPolatis