At the height of "Captain Marvel", a man tries to control a situation by making it emotional. First, it suggests that the skills of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) are not her own, and then she tries to force her to a showdown by flying in an armed fury.
Danvers refuses to participate. He remains calm, stares at him for a minute, then closes him with the words "I must not prove myself to you".
For millions of women, it was a too familiar scenario: a man starts a game of emotional power just to use a woman's emotions as proof of his instability – even if with an enhanced alternative ending (most of us didn't absorb the faster-than-light power of the Tesseract.)
Fortunately, a few days before the debut of "Captain Marvel" and the annual celebration of International Women's Day, the public could see a real-life equivalent.
At the height of the Gayle King interview with R. Kelly, a man tries to take control of the situation by making it emotional. First he turns directly to the camera as if it were not King's interview, and then tries to force her to a showdown by jumping from her seat into an armed fury.
King also refuses to commit himself. He remains calm and observes him for a while before turning it off with a single word: "Robert".
Last week, that interview and the image of Kelly looming over the still seated King and Sphinx burned through the multiple layers of our collective consciousness as if he were also led by the Tesseract.
First Twitter turned on, then late at night: Stephen Colbert told King he'd now on every time he heard someone was going out of control he was going to say "Robert" and "Saturday Night Live" made a cold parody with Leslie Jones as king. Meanwhile, countless news agencies have contacted CBS This Morning to ask her what she was thinking when Kelly jumped up and lost her mind. He was afraid? Was she angry?
What he was thinking, he said repeatedly, was that he didn't want Kelly to come out of the set because he still had questions to ask.
In other words, he was thinking like a journalist, which she is, although many people seem to have forgotten this fact.
For years King has been best known for being Oprah Winfrey's best friend. The two met when journalists were sent to Baltimore, and after stinting in Kansas City, Missouri and Hartford, Conn., King became a special correspondent for "The Oprah Winfrey Show", a publisher of "O, Oprah Magazine" and a correspondent special for "Good Morning America".
However, even after contributing to the launch of "CBS This Morning" seven years ago, her most viewed moments on television were probably from "Oprah and Gayle's Road Trip" in which she and Winfrey traveled from California to New York .
Now King has entered the pantheon of great television interviewers, taking his place alongside Mike Wallace, David Frost, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and, of course, Winfrey.
He also offered another, and apparently necessary, example of a woman who remains reasonable while a man exhibits extreme behavior and, equally important, has shown that a woman can do a great job on television without smiling once.
Kelly and her representatives may have thought that they were choosing the path of least resistance when they turned to King so Kelly could publicly object to more accusations of having sex with minors, as well as physical and sexual abuse. But King came armed with difficult and clear questions and was not having any of Kelly "when you are a celebrity, people can attack you at random". "I have to tell you that it's so hard to believe," he says at one point in the face of Kelly's repeated denials.
The anger that is forming in Kelly while the interview continues is obvious; before he leaps to his feet, he hits his fist with his hand so strong that he can hear it, and when it becomes clear that King has not come to play softball, he turns directly to the camera, trying to hijack the interview and turn it into a personal service announcement.
Something that even King doesn't have. "Roberto. We really need to have a conversation," he says. "I don't want you to fall on the camera."
Pop culture figures now often dominate the news as the entertainment industry has become a flashpoint for a wide range of national concerns. In the vortex that followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal, many accusers appeared in the morning shows, perhaps feeling more comfortable with the conversational format or with the audience inclined to women. Then, when the morning male guests, including Matt Lauer and Rose, were accused and fired, the female anchors, including King, received even more prominence.
Suddenly, the traditions including the patriarchal anchor and the idea that Many morning, including Winfrey, immediately praised King's composure, and everyone, including Colbert, wanted to know how he supported him. Praise is always beautiful, and everyone likes to talk about a stressful day at work, but there was a surprise subtext in the whole answer which is equally revealing of Kelly's performance.
The king is, of course, a woman and women, historically, do not interview interviews on television. Walters, Winfrey and Sawyer have all interviewed high-powered people on uncomfortable topics, but often with the air of a confessor-mother, tell me everything and you will feel much better. It is an effective technique and not limited to female journalists, but it is not the way of the king. "It looks like you think you're the victim," he says at one point, sounding more like Wallace than Walters. "You're playing the victim card."
Perhaps more important is the fact that King is the co-anchor of a morning news, and the anecdotes of the morning shows should not make headlines. (In fact, CBS took her interview and packed her for the evening, ruining her in a too large context that, as my colleague Lorraine Ali noted, did nothing to advance the history and indeed penalized the interview.)
Morning shows have traditionally leaned more heavily on more delicate news and features. When he entered the morning wars just seven years ago, "CBS This Morning" was designed with a harder touch, mainly in the form of the original co-anchor Charlie Rose. Even so, interviews with celebrities and conversations about pop culture have provided most of its content.
Social media and #MeToo have changed all that. The cycle of modern news waits for no one, and people who find themselves unexpectedly in the midst of a media storm one afternoon may find themselves in the morning shows the next day. After the racist comments made in an interview last month, Liam Neeson showed up at the morning shows the next day, where he found himself explaining, clarifying and apologizing rather than promoting his movie. For better or for worse, "Good Morning America" Robin Roberts made the first interview with Jussie Smollett after claiming to have been attacked. (The fact that two black women did large interviews in a short period of time seems to have confused Fox News guest Jesse Watters, who thought that King had done both).
The girls are for the ladies and therefore not as important as the news that happens when dad comes home.
After Rose's dismissal, King became the principal anchor of "CBS This Morning" and when CBS CEO Les Moonves resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct, King publicly demanded that the network be more transparent about his investigations.
So when you think about it, there is nothing surprising in its ability to stay composed while some stars of the scandalized music make a hissing attack.
Like Carol Danvers, she has no time for male histrionics and has no reason to prove herself to anyone.