Margolin and Dodger Thoughts

MargolinI figured I would leave any mention of today's page one LAT feature on Allison Margolin down below in the Morning Buzz. After all, she's nothing new to LA Observed readers — I told you about her blog and the video — and after you absorb that she's the best-known 28-year-old L.A. lawyer with no major legal triumphs on her record, what is there to say? Then Jon Weisman, the Dodger Thoughts blogger and Sports Illustrated contributor, read the Times piece and offered some critiques. He poked around Margolin's blog (finding the entry where she aspires for Playboy to make her LAs Dopest Attorney Nude and knocks smart women who suppress their sexuality) and takes some issue with LAT writer Maura Dolan's descriptions of Margolin's speech and looks.

He takes off from the Sports section story about how Latin American athletes are seldom mocked for their language skills and accents anymore, and wonders about the treatment of Margolin:

In any event, the print media has largely trained itself to write the words that the speaker is trying to say, regardless of pronunciation.

With that fresh in my mind, this morning I read a feature by Maura Dolan about 28-year-old local defense attorney Allison Margolin, with these two quotes:

"I was like the most eccentric person." ...

"It's like ridiculous."

It seems to me there's also a line here, similar to the one with Clemente and his linguistic brethren, where the attempt to be authentic and colorful risks becoming mocking - only the issue isn't pronunciation (and beneath that, race), but grammar.

I don't think Margolin has anything to be ashamed about to with her way of speech. Regrettably, I say "like" all too often, and so do a lot of people I know. It's not ideal, but I don't think it makes one less of a person, except perhaps in the eyes of my otherwise benevolent grandmother.

But it looks a lot worse than it sounds, which is why, like any grammatical bobble, you don't see it in print very often. Reporters clean up an interviewee's grammar all the time, and when they don't, it sometimes reveals itself as a calculated attempt to turn something innocent into something worthy of mockery.

I could be wrong, but I'm fairly confident that Margolin isn't the only attorney in town that has a speech quirk. Portraying it in print makes it bigger than it is.

Or maybe I'm just sensitive because I grew up in the Valley and came of age when Valley Girl was falsely generalizing how we talked. It was a good movie, but outsiders drew too many demographic conclusions from it.

The Times' fascination with Margolin's personal style also raised Jon's eyebrows a bit:

Since I have made the Margolin article tangentially relevant to this site, allow me to go on a couple more tangents.

"She wore a black Armani pants suit and a sleeveless red top with a plunging neckline, revealing a silver-blue lacy camisole and generous cleavage," Dolan writes at one point.

This description on its face would seem gratuitous, though I can't say it bothered me. It's easy enough for me to imagine a reporter taking note if a male lawyer dressed in an equivalent way. I don't know how that would be, but maybe the word "package" would come into play...

Still, mentioning Margolin's sexy dress without having people elaborate on its significance ... that's pleasure, that's spice, but it's not information. It's not the only example of Dolan trying to give us the complete Margolin experience - later we learn that Margolin drinks V8 juice, a much less provocative detail. But in an article focused on a lawyer's unconventional background and practice (you have to understand, I've been completely ignoring the main thrust of the piece up with these side discussions), I was left wondering how unconventional her dress was.

Some people may point to the sentence and automatically say that it's sexist. I'm pointing to it and asking, "Is it, or isn't it?" I don't know; I don't know if anyone knows, but I'm sure curious about people's opinions. Ally McBeal got cover stories in Time over this sort of thing. Given this discussion of sexuality from Margolin's blog, Margolin herself has probably given it some thought. (Note: There's a small, not-safe-for-work image at the other end of that link.)

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