Friday, March 03, 2006

A prize in every box

Nothing gets by me.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is on the news stands.

My eyes are always open.

What's it been out, a month already? How have I overlooked it? Women wearing next to nothing and less than next to nothing, not something you see everyday gracing the shelves and racks of America's finer conveninece stores and supermarket checkout lanes, is it?

Since I used up a whole lot of pixels---lots and lots of pixels---writing about naked actresses, I suppose I should light up a few more writing about nearly naked swimsuit models, especially since I was scolded because I did not "get it" the first time around. I was particularly insensitive on the subject of body doubles who I thought were professional models well-paid for stepping in to bare their god and goddess-like physiques to save actors and actresses the embarrassment of exposing their less well-designed forms on camera. Apparently, however, as a class body doubles are captives and slaves of the patriarchy, ranking down there with migrant workers and au pairs on the exploited tools of capitalism meter.

And I foolishly thought that my friends, all those intelligent, talented, ambitious, feminist young women who wanted to be actresses and had made the decision that getting naked on stage or for the camera didn't bother them, knew what they were doing.

So I probably should try to make amends by expressing my disgust at how the bodies of a group of swimsuit models are being cheaply used to sell a magazine that's supposed to be about things like baseball and track and field and how, since the grown-ups who read SI can see all the naked girls they want on the internet or Pay per View, the main audience for the swimsuit issue is younger teenage boys (and girls) who, thinking they're getting a sneak peak at the joys waiting for them when their skin clears up, are being indoctrinated with the idea that a woman's place is naked on a beach posed in a position that makes her readily available sexually to the first alpha male (or female) who comes along to claim her.

Re-read that paragraph, please, because it was the first sincere paragraph in this post.

There are times when I can work up a righteous rage at the way advertisers turn young bodies into nothing but bait to lure suckers to read and watch ads in the hope of instilling a Pavlovian syllogism into consumers: See tits, buy stuff. Buy stuff, get laid.

Most of those young bodies belong to females, most of whom these days are barely more than girls and most of the rest are still girls, many of them minors. Even if the general crassness, cynicism, and prurience of it all didn't bug me, I would still be bothered by the ideal of female sexuality spiraling downward into the territory of jailbait.

Then there's the stupidity of it all, mostly represented in beer commercials that show nearly naked babes throwing themselves at fully clothed, overweight, ugly men of obviously less than genius level IQs who've done nothing more to deserve their attentions than making the right choice of brews to guzzle.

The beer ads are dumb but they aren't atypical. They express in the most vulgar and obvious way the sex sells ethos: The favors and affections of young, gorgeous, pulchritudinous, and concupiscent females are there for the asking, the birthright of every redblooded American male, due him like big cars, easy commutes, and big bucks at easy jobs, obtained not by deserving or earning but by purchase, and you don't even have to buy them outright, they come as bonuses when you buy the right products, like prizes in boxes of Cracker Jacks.

Is this a great country or what?

I can get worked up about it all. I can get even more worked up by the way television shows and movies have bought it to this and encourage it, using sex to sell themselves, using sex in place of imagination, story, jokes, or thought of any kind. I can decry how the entertainment and advertisement industries, increasingly indistinguishable, have collaborated to infantilize sex, to reduce it to a simple and irresistably demanding appetite that we must feed, and feed now, or there's something wrong with us! I can sound like the narrator of the novel Kurt Vonnegut says he can't get around to finishing in A Man Without a Country:

And when my tantrum, which is what I call my TV set, flashes boobs and smiles in my face, and says everybody but me is going to get laid tonight, and this is a national emergency, so I've got to rush out and buy a car or pills, or a folding gymnasium that I can hide under my bed, I laugh like a hyena. I know and you know that millions of and milions of good Americans, present company not excepted, are not going to get laid tonight.

I could spout off like that.

I could.

Or I could read the great Roy Edroso and learn to relax and hear him say soothingly to fuddy duddies and prudes and alarmists like me, "So what?"

Now, you or I might sensibly tell [Mannion's name inserted by editor here in place of the Right Winger Roy was really picking on]: "So what?" (Come to think of it, it is instructive to consider how many of the complaints of today's lifestyle conservatives invite, nay demand, just such an answer.Hollywood doesn't make movies I like! So what? TV commercials make men look stupider than women! So what? Young girls are exposing their midriffs! Where? I mean, so what?)

So, so what?

There. I feel much better.

But what about you? Let me ask you.

So what?


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