U.S. NEWS AND HOT, SEXY CHICKS
July 13, 2009
If you’ve ever seen the movie Idiocracy, the title of this piece may seem familiar. The film is a dystopian comedy about a futuristic America in which complete ignorance is the norm. People are inarticulate to the point where even those of status — politicians, doctors, etc. — mangle the language and use profanity to fill in gaps when expressing themselves. The president is a porn star and ex-professional wrestler who wears a muscle shirt, the society’s number-one rated show features nothing but an endless array of groin shots, and the farmers water their plants with a sports electrolyte drink called “Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator” and yet can’t figure out why the crops fail to grow. And, to illustrate how people have become consumed with frivolity and sex — and frivolous sex at that — the title of a certain famous news magazine that just recently curtailed its print publication (in reality) has been changed to “Hot Naked Chicks & World Report.”
It’s a silly movie rife with profanity, so I cannot give it a thumbs up, but I’ll tell you what brings it to mind. A couple of weeks ago I was watching Hannity on Fox News, and one segment concerned media attacks on Sarah Palin — in particular, a Vanity Fair hatchet job written by Todd Purdum. Hannity had columnist S.E. Cupp and one of Fox’ anchors, Kimberly Guilfoyle, as guests, and he was making much of what he characterized as Purdum’s sexism in devoting copious ink to Palin’s comely appearance. Guilfoyle chimed in, complaining that Purdum’s implication that Palin only succeeded because of her looks was “insulting and degrading to women.”
Now, while I’m no fan of Purdum, I find Guilfoyle’s commentary insulting and degrading to my intelligence. Let’s face it, to deny that Palin’s looks played a part in her rise to prominence is to ignore the pink elephant with the frilly dress and lipstick in the middle of the room. However, I will add a little perspective. First, I’m not sure Palin’s looks are quite the factor some people think. Second, despite the “Oh, the patriarchy strikes again!” narrative, appearance is a factor with men as well. Remember how Richard Nixon’s five-o’clock shadow sealed his fate in his 1960 debate with John F. Kennedy, the first televised presidential debate in history? Titillating John just trumped Tricky Dick. And could you imagine a short, fat, ugly, bald man capturing the Oval Office? Why, its current occupant is all image, with his decent, youthful looks, resonant voice and rock-star persona. So attractive is he, in fact, that his teleprompter just can’t stand to be apart from him.
Moreover, something about the Hannity segment struck me. I’d like you to take a gander at Guilfoyle and Cupp and tell me if you notice anything. While they seem to be of the mind that any suggestion about how a woman made it on her looks is sexist, it’s obvious that they made it on their looks.
Okay, I exaggerate a bit for effect. So I’ll be precise: Were it not for their looks, they wouldn’t have made it.
In fact, they are part of a pattern. Just take a look at Fox News analysts and regular guests and you’ll see an inordinate number of women — many of them blonde — who make you wonder if you’re watching a news station or the Miss America Pageant. There is Miss Fox News Megyn Kelly, for instance, who can be seen here (and the picture doesn’t do her justice) and is even prettier when she’s angry. Carrie Prejean should look so good. There is small “r” Republican Margaret Hoover, who specializes in painted-on Barbie smiles and defenses of faux marriage. Then there is “Marina,” a Russian who has been on the O’Reilly Factor a few times to “teach” us about English words. Her main talents seem to be sultry glances, delivery with an accent you could cut with a knife and the ability to use a dictionary. Clearly, Fox’ claim of being the “fairest” news channel can have more than one meaning. Hey, they report, you ogle.
Now, don’t get me wrong, all these women have some gifts beyond pulchritude. They speak relatively well. Many are somewhat knowledgeable. And some even possess ample intelligence — just don’t insult mine. Only a very small percentage of the population comprises beautiful blonde women, and it seems like a heck of a lot of these foxes work for Fox. And I’d have to experience a blonde moment myself to fancy this coincidence.
Now we get to another irony. In the Hannity segment on Palin I mentioned, Hannity asked the following politically-correct questions (I’m paraphrasing), “Isn’t this sexist? How come people don’t focus on the looks of male politicians in the same way?” Well, boohoo, cry me a river — as long as your mascara doesn’t run. Let me ask you, Sean, how come you had eye candy sitting in front of you and not a couple a’ goblins?
My point is that I get sick and tired of the double standard about the double standard. Yes, people view men and women differently because, well, shocker of shockers, they actually are different. Men will always focus on women’s looks more than women will focus on men’s (although the gals ain’t blind); it’s hard-wired. But yet we play pretend, which is why people can complain about this superficiality while reflexively trading on it themselves.
Now, if I sound too cavalier about this and not quite like the choir boy I’m reputed to be, I’ll point out that I’ve unflatteringly characterized our society using Idiocracy and U.S. News and Hot, Sexy Chicks. So I certainly do take issue with our increasing superficiality, but I also take issue with sloppy feminism-inspired analyses. The problem isn’t a double standard that redounds negatively and solely upon women, as many times there is a good reason to have two standards: There are two sexes. The problem is that as people become more superficial, they view others more superficially. That is to say, they see only what is on the surface and fail to look at a person’s soul.
This leads to the objectification of all people, women and men. The difference is that, generally speaking, while women are viewed all the more as sex objects, men are increasingly viewed as success objects. Sure, wealthy men very often marry beautiful women, but perhaps we should note a correlative: Beautiful women very often marry wealthy men.
But getting back to Foxy News, I don’t mean to beat up on the station too much. Its stable of commentators and guests is just a reflection of the wider culture. More than ever before in America, proficiency in the skill central to a position is not the deciding factor in whether or not a person attains that position. The odious Al Franken just captured (stole?) a Senate seat largely because he was once a second-rate comedian. California elected a man governor mainly because he was once the Terminator, without ever suspecting that he might do to the state’s economy what he wanted to do to Sarah Connor. When Barack Obama got affirmatively elected, Illinois Governor Blago the Terrible felt compelled to appoint a black guy, Roland Burris, to Obama’s vacated Senate seat. I supposed finding a half black guy was too much to ask. Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is, by her own admission, an “affirmative-action baby.” And in newsrooms around the nation, we see cultural-affirmative-action babes.
So, once again, as people become more superficial, they judge others more superficially. This applies to opinion-makers and movers and shakers as well as to the market; it at least partially explains affirmative action, quotas and our obsession with diversity just as it does U.S. News and Hot, Sexy Chicks. The more shallow people are, the more they will elevate style over substance, the more they will confuse image with ability. Idiocracy, here we come.
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But, hey, I’m not so much of an idiot that I can’t see the writing on the wall. So, if old Rupert is looking to add some male eye candy to his lineup, I’m available.
© 2009 Selwyn Duke - All Rights Reserve