Realms III: Omarosa Syndrome

I’ve not been using WordPress for too long, but one of the neat things I’ve liked about it is that you get to see stats for your daily traffic, as well as URL information for any sites or blogs that are feeding into your page via links.

In the days since I chose to speak out on the Realms Of Fantasy cover art imbrolgio, page traffic has gone into orbit and I’ve been able to observe a host of different on-line discussions regarding what I’ve written here. Some of them focus on the gender/sexism aspect, but some of them also focus on my use of the name “Omarosa” to refer to a singular individual within the SF and F community.

For those who may not know who the original Omarosa is, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth came to national prominence as a contestant on the reality television competition series, The Apprentice. Omarosa engendered perhaps the greatest amount of fan animosity ever seen for any contestant in the series’ history. And while I didn’t watch much of The Apprentice — I am, as a rule, not a “reality television” guy, though I do enjoy some of the Got Talent programs — I did stay up on it enough to see why people were getting so bent out of shape.

A nominally beautiful and intelligent woman, Omarosa’s personality was like hydrogen peroxide on paper cuts. She was bull-headed to the point of seeming socially retarded, ferociously insecure to the point of employing an iron wall of attitude to cover up for that insecurity, played the race card endlessly, and remained convinced to the end that everyone else was out to get her and that everyone else was always to blame whenever she became confrontational, rude, or otherwise was involved in any sort of dust-up with other people.

Similar behavior continued even after Trump fired Omarosa, as she widened her ambitions and began a sort of national campaign across the media landscape, including numerous appearances on other reality television programs, and even had a one-time appearance on Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil could have been Omarosa’s redemption. Dr. Phil was Omarosa’s one big chance to show the audience that she was not the psycho hose beast much of the viewing public had come to see her as. Dr. Phil was her greatest opportunity to lay down the shields with which she had protected herself in the heat of battle, and show Americans everywhere her vulnerability and humanity.

She blew it. Her insecurity was too deep, her coping mechanism too strong, and she came off as an even more pathological individual than when she was being nationally hated on The Apprentice.

Why?

The Dr. Phil episode wasn’t just Omarosa explaining her side of the story. This was Omarosa dragging out her 15 minutes of fame in front of a man who was able to pick out and highlight her character defects with the skill of a surgeon. While Dr. Phil — and the audience — got to see Omarosa’s worst laid bare, Omarosa kept thinking she was on a commercial for… Herself. It was all about her. Even when it clearly wasn’t about her, she still thought it was all about her. She was absolutely deaf to the points Dr. Phil was making, and continued to carry on as if her appearance on Dr. Phil was her doing Dr. Phil a favor — as if this were just one more stepping stone on her rise to prominence.

I see a lot of the same behavior in SF’s own Omarosa. She is someone always on the attack, always seeking targets, and always blaming everyone else when the shit hits the fan. She manufactures and thrives on controversy, choosing to believe that everyone who does not flatter her and conform to her insecurity, is an enemy in need of chastisement. She plays the race card. And the gender card. Both with embarrassing and predictable regularity. She bullies. She martyrs. Again, and again, and again. And as with The Apprentice’s Omarosa, for SF’s Omarosa, it’s all about her. Even when it’s not about her, it’s about her.

Which is the #1 reason I do not name this person by name on this blog, nor will I link back to this person. I won’t enable this person’s pathology. I won’t feed this person’s ego. And as evidenced, everyone already knows who I am talking about anyway. Which to my mind simply proves my point.

But is she alone?

Prior to the ROF imbroglio, I’d have said, yes. SF has but one Omarosa.

However, there have been enough people upset by my use of the name Omarosa — to refer to this one particular personality in the genres — I’m starting to think there are at least a few Omarosa’s out there. Each of them convinced that it’s all about them. Even when it’s not about them. Even when the points I’ve made here do not discuss them personally in the slightest, it’s still about them.

I’m not going to pretend to understand why anyone would go out of their way to identify as an Omarosa. In our popular Lexicon, the name Omarosa has become synonymous with unpleasantness and social psychosis. To be labeled as an “Omarosa” is not a compliment — unless you think it’s a good thing to be a defensive, martyring, egotistical, insecure, altogether abrasive and unlikeable individual.

But if you’re determined to try on the shoe, and the shoe fits, you go ahead and wear it. If you want.

Put more plainly, If you choose to identify with Omarosa — either out of solidarity with that singular person, or out of gender solidarity, or out of racial solidarity, or even out of community group solidarity — then you’re welcome to your label. Men and women both. I can’t stop you from being offended if you’re going to go out of your way to be offended. Nor am I going to try and explain away my use of the name Omarosa to — in a single word — aptly describe the singular person who originally sat at the eye of the whole Realms Of Fantasy cover art hurricane.

And yes, I knew once the LiveJournal ears got wind of my original post and traffic started rolling in, that I was liable to become an object of hate. Omarosa has quite a coterie, and my actual post itself — which took a dim view of the massed critics of the ROF cover — was not kind to people who have not been kind to the publishers of the re-launched ROF.

My philosophy is this: if I can’t control whether or not people hate me — and really, once you’re in any sort of spotlight, you can’t. Just ask any politician or celebrity, however minor they may be — all I can do is try to make sure they hate me for the right reasons.

Thusfar, I am convinced that I’m on the right path. Because I’m tired of seeing terrible behavior excused or ignored simply because the person (people?) doing it think they have a license to ill.

Thusfar, the Omarosa(s) of SF and F have gotten away with it because, by and large, SF and F is a genre written, published, and consumed by white people of a rather progressive nature. And as a rule, progressive whites would rather lose a limb than have any minority individual publicly chastise them for racism — or sexism, in the case of men.

I’m not sure how much longer that can last. You can only cry the racism/sexism ‘wolf’ so long before the townspeople stop hearing you. Which is one of the great ironies, really, of seeing people dedicated to eradicating racism or sexism, deafen the ears of the public to their cause due to their overuse of the alarm bell.

Which makes me suspect that, for the Omarosas out there, racial and gender justice is just a vehicle for their own self-centered ambitions. There are far more productive ways to tackle and combat racism and sexism than running around stirring up false controversy and baselessly diming out various writers, editors, aspirants, and other people in the SF and F field.

In the specific case of Warren Lapine, Doug Cohen, Tir Na Nog, et al, I suspect that a simple, private inquiry would have done far, far more good than the public — and predictably snowballing — woodshed treatment.

Dear people of Tir Na Nog,

You may know me from some of the short fiction I’ve sold, as well as from some of the better known professionals with whom I am friendly. I saw your cover for the resurrected Realms Of Fantasy today, and I am writing you to express my concern at the direction the new Realms seems to be taking, by using this cover.

Because I trust you have the best of inentions I wanted to send this private correspondence, so as to avoid the impression that I am criticising or seeking controversy. Which I am not. Rather, I want to simply point out that Realms has a significant female readership, and for many of us this new cover seems to represent more of the same sort of female objectification that has typified Realms of Fantasy under its previous management.

By itself, the cover is not offensive per se. Rather, I think there will be women and even some male readers who are put off by a cover of this type, for its legacy significance.

I’d hate to see you lose subscribers as a result, because I support what you’re doing and think Realms deserves success in its second life under your aegis.

Good luck, and thanks for taking the time to hear me out!

–Omarosa

But that’s not what happened.

That’s not what ever happens.

The Omarosa personality cannot conceive of addressing a concern, lest it be done in the most public, most attention-getting way possible. Because for Omarosa, it’s not even about the concern, it’s about the attention. All things are merely a vehicle for the attention. And so feelings that ought to not be hurt, are hurt. Reputations that ought to not be impugned, are impugned. The pot is unnecessarily stirred, tempers flare, the situation balloons beyond the boundaries of the original discussion — because humans, as a rule, just have to tangentially bitch — and pretty soon you’ve got a big situation manufactured from a small situation.

I have no idea if anything I write along these lines will have any impact on the Omarosas of the field. There are some who would suggest I am doing myself great harm — as an aspirant — by speaking out. Because in this business, it’s often all about who you know and who your friends are, and the toes you step on today might be the toes you’re forced to kiss tomorrow.

Perhaps I have simply seen one too many phony controversies ensue? Perhaps I am tired of seeing industry professional after industry professional baselessly attacked, slandered, etc, by people who do so with the worst, most selfish motives.

Maybe I’m just pissed because I like to think Science Fiction and Fantasy is not the personal playground of a small collective of shrill, accusatory, possessive, self-centered people.

It’s an old argument, the one about Science Fiction being a “ghetto.” I used to dismiss it out of hand.

But when things like this happen — when the Omarosas seem to dictate — I think I understand precisely why the term ghetto is applied. In the ghetto, too often, it’s the gangs and the thugs who make the law. Not the common citizen. The common citizen is just a silent bystander trying to live his or her life and get out of the way of the bullets. When the gang notices you, you either flatter the gang and pay your danegeld, or you become someone who Stands Up, thereby becoming a target for the gangs.

EDIT: I had a good time reading this fascinating exposé piece on how reality TV people get picked, the pressure they’re under, how much the producers ‘slant’ the shows — versus merely letting events play out — and so forth. Hat tip to F&SF editor and publisher Gordon Van Gelder.

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7 thoughts on “Realms III: Omarosa Syndrome

  1. Pingback: Realms Of Fantasy cover art stinkfest « Brad R. Torgersen

  2. After reading a lot of the wank last night (and admittedly from both sides), and talking to a few of my girlfriends about it, I realize at some point you got to just step back and walk away.

    There are too many fabulous things going on in life to get sucked into pointless drama.mFolks are gonna do what they’re gonna do. It is what it is and what will be will be.

    As for me, it’s a beautiful day out and I’ve got a date tonight.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

  3. If SF and F was really a “genre written, published, and consumed by white people of a rather progressive nature,” this would not be happening.

  4. I like Lulz’s comment. It implies that we can only have “right thinking” people writing in the community.

    And I think it is possible to be progressive in one’s politics in some ways and yet still find certain behavior, tactics and actions disagreeable.

    Lastly, it implies that people on the Left are somehow immune from racism and sexism. I know for a fact that this is incorrect. I’ve seen too much blatantly racist/sexist/homophobic behavior from folks on the Left over the years.

    S. F. Murphy

  5. Good points, SFMurphy.

    I remember a few years ago there was a rash of cartoons about Condi Rice. Several of them were more or less racist in their portrayals, and while the conservative side of the internet was aware of it, most people who hated the Bush presidency were willing to give such cartoons a pass. The lesson? Racist cartoons and caricatures are just fine as long as the target in question is of the wrong political persuasion.

    Had Condi been an Obama SecState and the same cartoons drawn of her been drawn by conservative cartoonists, I am quite sure there’d have been a giant uproar about it, lots of internet bubbling about racism, etc.

    As for “right thinking” I think this is what disturbs me most about all these political, racial, and gender related fracases that keep breaking out. There is a strident absolutism in the air. As if the fundamentalists are rising up, determined to drive the impure and the unclean out of the Big Tent of the genre. Zealotry and ideology? Not a good combination, especially when the “job” of SF and F is very often to stab against conventional wisdom, or otherwise be tolerant of a wide range of differing ideas, not all of them in agreement with each other.

  6. I see that Omarosa et al are now targeting Brit anthologist Mike Ashley, of “mammoth” fame.

    (sigh) Don’t take the bait, Mike!

    (double sigh) He took the bait.

    Ah well. The Brits will learn…

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