What does Entercom’s management team have in common with Mickey Rourke’s character in 1986’s twisted and sadistic 9 1/2 Weeks? More than you’d think.
Though I can just about guarantee you’ve never previously made this cinematic connection to the real world, the parallels are striking, since the psychological manipulation theme is common to both situations.
Because he can, Rourke’s character, a circa-1980s Wall Street speculator, spends nine and one-half weeks demeaning and degrading Kim Basinger in every conceivable way. As the film (which, for whatever twisted reason, every girl I knew in college loved) continues, tension builds as the audience wonders when she will finally reach her limit and walk away from the whole mess.
In one particularly notorious scene, Rourke’s John character convinces Basinger’s Liz to crawl on the floor to pick up $100 bills he’s scattered about his flat. A profitable activity, but demeaning nonetheless.
This comes back to a criticism that has been leveled against this site by a few people: if WRKO’s hosts ultimately sign deals that appear to be generous (even if they are pumped up with theoretical and unlikely ratings bonuses), then how have they been demeaned?
That’s where Entercom and Rourke become one: they aren’t about to hand out C-Notes for nothing, you first have to get down on your hands and knees and face humiliation. Only with our corporate friends, the degradation campaign lasts for weeks, or even months.
Think about the stunts they’ve pulled with Dennis and Callahan, Howie Carr, Todd Feinburg and many others: regardless of the end result financially, do they now have more dignity, or do they feel a bit like Liz?
Entercom Boston managers also treat people this way because they can, as there are seemingly no corporate checks and balances. As David Field seems to have been raised without any real sense of right and wrong, he sees no problem with what they are doing. In fact, the more out-of-control their behavior, the more Field digs in his heels.
That’s also his history nationwide, which is why Entercom is constantly embroiled in controversial and frankly bizarre flaps of the company’s own making. Here’s but a sampling of some of their more recent greatest hits.
I’m not saying that Entercom’s competitors are angels, as radio is a sleazy and dirty business, but look at it this way: if Greater Media, Clear Channel (!!), CBS or any of the other Boston-area station owners want to hire or re-sign somebody, they make an offer.
If they’re through with a person, they let them know and employment ends. Sometimes it isn’t pleasant. But do they play sadistic mind games and engage in ongoing public humiliation campaigns against them? That’s the difference.
What we’ve learned from watching Entercom’s psychological warfare campaign is that it can happen to anybody when they are at their most vulnerable. And that’s precisely why Liz fell into John’s trap in 9 1/2 Weeks.
Think it couldn’t happen to you? Guess again.