Are Mayim Bialik’s ‘offenses’ as bad as Mike Richards’ or even Alex Trebek’s?
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
Analysis: After Mike Richards stepped down from the host of the syndicated version of “Jeopardy!” after just one day of taping due to things he’s said or done in the past — some fans are saying Mayim Bialik, who was named to host primetime specials, should step aside too due to some of her personal views and past statements.
To be clear, Richards’ alleged past actions and comments are blatantly offensive if true, whereas Bialik’s comments about her family being “non-vaccinating” and expressing some doubt about the COVID-19 vaccine aren’t quite at the same level. Neither is Bialik’s endorsement deal for hawking a neurological supplement that some say has questionable claims or her views on parenting that have garnered some attention.
Perhaps harder to overlook is a New York Times op-ed where she appears to victim blame victims of sexual harassment.
Bialik has also been open about her decision to homeschool her children, an approach that some have taken issue with as well.
It’s also become known, thanks to a series of podcasts and video posts on social media, that she and her family make their own soap and granola, which appears to have caused some, fairly or not, to write her off.
Is there anything wrong with making your own soap or granola (assuming it’s not poisonous or dangerous). No. Is it fair to judge her and her family based on those practices? No. Does that mean that everything in her life is a little off the beaten path? No.
For example, Bialik doesn’t exactly shun the modern convenience of a motor vehicle and has even filmed herself going through an automatic car wash. She did note that it’s not something she does often because she recognizes it uses a lot of water and there are parts of the world where water is scarce. Many people observe from her posts that she appears to live well, thanks to her multimillion dollar paychecks from Hollywood, though she’s also known to support many charitable causes.
Viewers have pointed out that the host of a show known for being a stickler for accuracy shouldn’t be someone who appears to defy widely accepted science — even only on occasion.
And while we're at it, keep in mind that Mayim Bialik, though vaccinated, spreads vaccine doubt and hawks brain quackery. She is no representative for a show about facts and authority. Replace the executive producer. Fire the executives over him. And give @levarburton the gig.
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) August 20, 2021
Bialik has since clarified that she did receive the COVID-19 vaccine, though it’s not clear if she has changed her mind on vaccines in general or if she, as an adult, has received any other vaccines. At one point she claimed she had not received a vaccine in decades.
She later stated that her children have received at least some vaccines, but it wasn’t clear which ones — and since they are homeschooled, they may not be required to have receive as many.
At least some of Bialik’s issues with vaccines appear to be the issue of big pharma and how vaccines are developed, distributed and profited from — which is arguably an entirely separate issue. She also appears to have suggested that scientists can still have a healthy skepticism about things.
Bialik’s comments about sexual assault and the connection to modesty and flirting can be taken either as simply a personal comment or an attack on assault victims.
“I still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress that I think of as self-protecting and wise. I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with. I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy,” she wrote in the NYT piece.
On its surface, this line is simply a statement of how she choses to live her life — in particular her sexuality and interaction with particular partners, which is, of course, her right to chose and share with others.
Some readers took it to mean she was suggesting that women who do not act or dress “appropriately” are subjecting themselves to sexual harassment, a line echoed by other, mostly right wing, commentators.
“I am entirely aware that these types of choices might feel oppressive to many young feminists,” she continued. “Women should be able to wear whatever they want. They should be able to flirt however they want with whomever they want. Why are we the ones who have to police our behavior?” she continued, also writing that in a perfect world, women should be free to do whatever they want.
She made note that we, don’t live in a “perfect world” and clearly stated that “absolutely” nothing excuses assault or abuse of any kind.
Bialik has also come under fire for being too politically polarizing — as well as her endorsement deal with a supplement for brain and nervous system health that makes questionable claims and, some would say, contradict her criticisms of big pharma.
It’s harder to point the finger at Richards for anything in those categories — but lest we forget the late Alex Trebek was known to be, at least according to reports, a bit more on the conservative side.
“Jeopardy!” has published articles that mentioned Trebek frequently would watch Fox’s right leaning cable network in his dressing room. He never appeared to bring that to the stage or social media, however, though he did describe himself as an independent in various interviews over the year and was at least somewhat critical of Donald Trump — without praising Hillary Clinton either, instead saying he hoped for someone like Franklin Roosevelt.
Trebek also wasn’t a big fan of the “#MeToo” movement, according to an interview he gave to Vulture in 2018.
Perhaps more concrete of an example, however, was Trebek’s work as a longtime endorser for Colonial Penn Life Insurance (or, as the commercials call it “The Colonial Penn Program” or “The nine-ninety-five plan”).
The company has come under fire for heavily advertising during programs with older audiences (including “Jeopardy!” itself) and touting its seemingly low price life insurance policies as a way for elderly people to help cover the cost of end of life medical care and funeral expenses.
However, Colonial Penn, like many similar insurance policies, provides a limited benefit in the first few years of the policy, something it only makes clear in small print at the bottom of the screen. The program has a two star review on NerdWallet and has been the target of other similar reviews pointing out faults in the program.
It also has a 1.18 star rating on the Better Business Bureau website as of this writing (though it has an A+ rating and accreditation because the BBB doesn’t use customer reviews to calculate this rating, but rather relies on the company’s responsiveness to customer complaints).
Of course, celebrities often take lucrative endorsement deals from a wide range of companies — and some put more effort into determining if the products or services actually align with their own values or beliefs. While FTC rules require disclaimers on if the celebrity spokesperson actual uses the product or not, that’s often done in the form of fine print.
“Jeopardy!” itself also frequently airs ads for a variety of supplements and similar products that have questionable science too, so the show isn’t above profiting, even indirectly, from those types of advertisers.
At the end of the day, Bialik may have some views that some view as unconventional, but that’s probably true of anyone. She’s also taken money to promote products that some may not agree are effective and simply a way to profit from unsuspecting audiences, but that’s also true of others within the “Jeopardy!” family, including the late great Trebek.