Charlize Theron recently made an appearance on controversial French television show Touche Pas A Mon Poste (It’s Only TV), in which she criticised Cyril Hanouna, the show’s host, for kissing her interpreter without consent.
In video footage of the incident, Hanouna walks up to Theron’s interpreter, and appears to kiss her on the cheek, without asking for the woman’s permission first. The woman looks surprised by the interaction, prompting Theron to advise the host to ‘ask next time’.
The footage has caused much debate over how TV interviews ought to be conducted, with many online commentators praising Theron’s decision to call out the ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.
Many who have viewed the footage have expressed discomfort at the fact the male presenter regarded this as an appropriate way to interact with female guests. It is clear that Hanouna didn’t expect a negative reaction from Theron and interactions between the two remained awkward for the remainder of the interview. The fact that Hanouna saw no fault with his actions has been deemed worrying, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
As well as focussing on the prevention of sexual assault, and bringing perpetrators to justice, the #MeToo movement has led to much debate over whether males and females in the entertainment industry are always treated equally.
In this case, it seems unlikely that Hanouna would have behaved in the same manner toward a male guest. It’s also significant that he chose to greet Theron’s interpreter, rather than Theron herself, in such a manner. There is a sense that Hanouna thought no one would object to his treatment of this woman, since she was not a celebrity guest.
The only statement that can be made in Hanouna’s defence is that kissing someone on the cheek is sometimes regarded as a greeting in France but, even so, it’s important to remember that this is a practise usually performed between close friends.
Many have expressed discomfort at the fact the male presenter regarded this as an appropriate way to interact with female guests.
So, with attention currently focussed on the way women are treated in the media, what can chat show hosts do to prevent criticism?
The solution is simple: treat female guests in the same way they would treat males; shake their hand, greet them politely, and only ask appropriate questions.
Don’t greet them with an unwarranted hug or kiss. Don’t repeatedly touch their knee during the interview. Don’t ask them whether they’ve been on a ‘girl’s night out’ with team-mates, rather than about their sporting achievements. Don’t make suggestive comments about their appearance. Don’t ask them invasive questions about their underwear. These incidents may sound far-fetched, but a quick internet search for ‘sexist chat show incidents’ reveals that they have all happened within the past five years.
In a post #MeToo world, it seems astonishing that many television hosts seem unable to perform their role: to ask guests questions, politely, without infringing on their personal space.