It's pretty strange whenever you look back at popular culture through the lens of modern-day thinking. If you try watching movies from even as recent as the early 2000s now, you'll see a bunch of trends and behavior that was considered acceptable by those standards that would never fly today.
And it's not just in movie or TV screenplays either, but in the way that women were treated in the media. Folks are pointing to a 2007 interview between Paris Hilton and David Letterman as a clear example of this.
David Letterman asked Paris Hilton about her time in jail during their interview.
While it's generally accepted that, whenever you're going onto a nationally televised broadcast, any question is fair game, some questions just feel too far. In fact, interviewers and hosts know that oftentimes hard-hitting questions and drama make for "good TV," something that David Letterman seems to understand quite, quite well.
Remember when '90s cinema sweetheart Hugh Grant was caught with sex worker Estella Marie Thompson by police? Well, David Letterman didn't interview Hugh Grant about that — Jay Leno did, and the first question he asked, albeit in a very inoffensive, welcoming manner was, "What the hell were you thinking?"
This is in stark contrast to the way David Letterman has interviewed his guests over the year as some people have noted. There are several popular interviews from the 2000s, Paris Hilton's included, where he appears to be a little pushy with his line of questioning.
Perhaps one can chalk it up to his blunt manner of speaking, but his interview with Paris has become a major sticking point with a lot of folks on the internet. During his discussion with the socialite, who began talking about her new perfume line on the show, David then asked her if she preferred living in LA or New York, then immediately jumped into asking, "How did you like being in jail?"
In the interview, it's clear that Paris is extremely uncomfortable addressing the question. If you're unaware, the hotel chain heiress spent 45 days in jail after being caught driving while under the intoxication of alcohol. David said of Paris' time in jail, "That was a horrible thing. They locked up your friend Nicole — she was only in for a short period of time, wasn't she? She was only locked up for 45 minutes. Tell me, how does that work? How can somebody only be in for 45 minutes?"
Paris, who is clearly flustered, says, "I don't know." He continued, "Looking back on that experience, what can you tell us? What have you learned? What's different about you?" She responds by saying, "Obviously it was a very traumatic experience, but I survived it, so now I can do anything."
The host then continued to ask her about her time in prison.
"I suppose the food was awful. Did you have three meals a day? Did you start with breakfast? What would that be? Lunch? How were the bologna sandwiches? Is there a mid-afternoon snack? Do you go right to dinner? Are you eating alone in your cell or was it a common dining area? What was dinner usually? Of the three meals, I guess the only thing you wanted to eat was the breakfast, right? Did you lose a lot of weight while you were in prison? What did you do to keep your energy up?"
I never watched Letterman before, but seeing all these old videos of him interviewing Paris Hilton, Jennifer Aniston, and Lindsay Lohan is really gross. Was everyone just cool with how rude, demeaning, and sexist he was???— Kayla Caldwell (@editor_kay) February 23, 2021
In the video clip, Paris can be seen getting more and more agitated. She vocalizes to David that she isn't interested in discussing prison any more with him, but the Late Night host persisted, asking if she had gotten any letters from "kids and teachers and clergymen" while she was locked up. He then called her a role model and said, "This could be your legacy."
Paris was very quiet and tears were welling up in her eyes at that moment. An audience member shouted, "I love you Paris!" and David, piggybacking off of the comment said, "Is that somebody you met in prison?"
When Paris tried talking about the things she went on the program to discuss, the audience laughed at everything she was trying to say, something many are saying was egged on by the talk show host.
In an interview with E! News, Paris said that the only reason she agreed to go on Late Night was because the comedian's show agreed that they wouldn't discuss jail with her at all. She said she felt that David was "cruel" and "mean" and that he was "purposefully trying to humiliate [her]."
Paris continued, "That [jail stint] was off-limits, and [we agreed] he would not discuss it and we would only be there to promote the perfume and my other business ventures."
She handled this interview so well! 🙌🏾— AnnaliseKeating'sSon 🇿🇼🇬🇧 (@kayswizz11) March 2, 2021
I know Letterman’s interview technique is all about the banter, but he still should’ve respected Paris’ wishes of not discussing/bringing up anything related to her jail time. He failed as a professional journo. 🥴 https://t.co/EyfXpWfioh
"I felt like it [the show] was a safe place because I'd been going on Letterman for so many years. He'd always have fun with me and joke around, but I thought he would keep his word on this and I was wrong. I was just getting so uncomfortable and I was so upset. Just being up there, it was like he was purposefully trying to humiliate me."
"During commercial breaks I'd look at him like, 'Please stop doing this. You promised me you wouldn't talk about this and that's the only reason I agreed to come on the show.' It was just very cruel and very mean. And after it ended I looked at him and I said, 'I'm never coming on the show again. You've crossed the line.'"
Paris would return to the show several times after he "continually apologized" for the way he behaved that night.
But Paris believes that it was a concentrated effort on David's part to make Paris and other women of her era look a certain way. "I would see that with myself, with Britney [Spears], Jessica Simpson. There was a certain type of girl they targeted that they'd never do that to a man."