I quit cable a while ago, but I once lived vicariously through entertainment news. Of course, that was before I moved out of the house and didn’t even know what political parties stood for. I seem to remember entertainment news giving me glimpses into the lives of celebrities I thought were talented and beautiful. They zoom in now so we can have way more than glimpses, give us stories about people no one over the age of eighteen has never heard of, and it now feels like mainstream news.
Because the Oscars were last week (and don’t even get me started about why it matters that people get awards for doing jobs they were overpaid to do and didn’t save any lives), entertainment news was way more mainstream than usual. Check out this official Anne Hathaway Huffington Post Page. Notice that not only was a story about her nipples on the front page of the website (and every other news website), but then she released (and you can’t make this up) a formal statement about it. Thankfully, she did not apologize for having boobs, but rather for not choosing a better dress. I cringe to think of a moment ever occurring in my live in which I must issue a formal statement apologizing for my clothing choice.
But don’t get me wrong. I think there should have been a formal statement and it should have gone something like: Sorry, Anne (and everybody else we call out photographically for having body parts), we should not have put pictures of your unfortunate nipple dress on the front cover… and we probably shouldn’t have posted that other photo of you without your underwear. Unfortunately, NO ONE wants the media to apologize this way? Know why? The media dictates when and where injustices occur and just so you know, injustices are never perpetuated by the media. Media is always politically correct by definition.
We live in a climate where Rush Limbaugh has to apologize after a “media firestorm” for calling a woman a “slut” (even though he obviously doesn’t mean it); and when Franklin Graham apologizes for questioning Obama’s faith even though he said religion wasn’t a reason he didn’t support Obama even though clearly it’s all a lie; and a couple years ago when Virgil Peck apologized for casually suggesting to kill illegal immigrants the same way we might kill our feral wild hogs; or my favorite when Ernest Hewett told a female high schooler: “If you’re bashful, I got a snake sitting under my desk here,” and then later ”What I meant to say was, ‘If you are shy, then I have an acre of land in the Everglades” before finally admitting that he is not the kind of guy who can have females working for him; but the things we never seem to disagree about are sideboob, nipslips, or forgotten underwear. Even Fox News fills a story slot on a slow news day with Celebrity Hand Bra Heroes. And here, I didn’t even know it was a slow news day what with the sequester and all.
A couple of facts: most everyone likes boobs (they’re nice to look at, they make a woman feel good about herself) and we’re not really supposed to show them to everyone. This apparently makes for a great neutral zone between races, genders, right and left, Christians and Buddhists. This makes a magical territory in which the media cannot go wrong. The market for boob stories is booming and I guess we’re buying what they’re selling so to speak. Within this safety zone, “reporters” can exploit people’s most embarrassing moments on the front page of any news website and any clothing selection is up for criticism in front of an eager national audience.
I don’t know if it’s because we’re more divisive than ever in my lifetime and neutral ground has become more valuable than gold or if it’s because there are just so many problems in the world that we cannot possibly cope with the reality of them all, but the fact is that we hide from things that matter. If you are a political figure or just a very public one that doesn’t want to be blacklisted by anyone, you are not allowed to say what you mean. It doesn’t matter that your apology clearly labels you as an indecisive, hypocritical idiot who never means what you say, it only matters that you apologize and then we will respect you. If you don’t… you’ve “dug a deeper hole” and you will disappear off the face of the earth until we forget what you did (this can take anywhere from a week to decades).
But who can really blame the media? No one says what they mean anymore, so what is there to report? Everyone’s pretending to get along without offending anyone. By everyone, I don’t mean political radio show hosts or congressmen. I mean everyone. If I start a conversation about politics or even about how almost a million people will lose their jobs because of the sequester cuts among friends or acquaintances, I’m usually met with silence. It’s an unspoken rule that you’re not supposed to speak passionately about things like that.
I think we’ve diminished ourselves when we can no longer talk about what matters. Despite its quickness to join us in our issue-avoidance tendencies, I don’t think the media is entirely to blame. I’ll admit that this week when congress was headed toward yet another deadline of epic proportions, I didn’t read about it. I felt incapable of doing anything about it, so why worry about it? But I think this attitude is generally why congress has gotten away with such rotten behavior these last few years. I don’t know how to change that, but I do know that it starts with giving a shit and not pretending like sideboob is something we need to read about (on a news site, that is).