A friend of mine—a real one– on Facebook, in a pathetically desperate exercise in virtue-signaling to his leftist hive-mind lawyer friends, issued a naive or disingenuous post making the claim that all “political correctness” was about was “not being an asshole.” This factually and historically false assertion naturally was met with unanimous likes until I again played the skunk at the picnic by pointing out that his comment was utter fantasy. The directive from the British college that laid out guidelines for comedians was classic political correctness, and it was the guidelines-peddlers, not the comedians or those who mocked the restrictions, who were being assholes. Those who persist in calling illegal immigrants illegal immigrants (and not “undocumented immigrants” or just “immigrants”), for that, Virginia, is what they are, are not the assholes, but they are “politically incorrect.” The assholes who go searching through the Twitter feeds of young celebrities searching for politically incorrect words about gays, women or minorities are wielding politically correctness as a weapon of personal destruction. And so on. I could write volumes on similar or more nauseating examples. Maybe I have.
So I pointed out, correctly and undeniably, that political correctness has been used for decades by one side of the political spectrum—guess which!—as a tool to manipulate public discourse and hobble the expression of ideas and attitudes that end doesn’t like, while relieving them of the obligation of making a substantive argument. The immediate attack on this retort came from someone I don’t even know, who wrote, “You are so tiresome.” Yes, I’m quite aware that doctrinaire progressives find ethics, facts and logic tiresome, but there it is. That is what passed for an argument in Facebook’s hive: “Shut up.” I haven’t bothered to respond to the other attacks on me on that thread; it’s not worth my time. If you defend a manifestly false characterization of political correctness, then you are either not being honest, you have an agenda, or are no longer thinking objectively and clearly. Either way, I’d rather debate my dog.
This was a roundabout way of introducing a classic example of political correctness silliness, attacks on the appropriateness of “Deal or No Deal” returning with the same bevy of beauties whose job it is to hold and open suitcases, a job that could be performed with equal competence by the homeless, paraplegics, 9-year-olds, or robots. Writes the Times, metaphorical brow furrowed,
CNBC’s “Deal or No Deal,” which returned for a new season on Wednesday after a nearly 10-year hiatus, and features 26 female models in matching high heels and short, skintight dresses. It’s a formula that helped make “Deal” a prime-time hit when it debuted on NBC in 2005.
That was 13 years ago. But in 2018, as the culture continues to grapple with the way women have been disregarded and sometimes abused by Hollywood and its machers, “Deal” and shows like it raise an awkward question: Is this a convention whose time is up?
Series like “Deal” encapsulate the paradox of the modern game-show modeling gig: On one hand, it offers a stiletto-heeled foot in the door for many young women who aspire to careers in entertainment — Meghan Markle and Chrissy Teigen, among others, got their starts on “Deal or No Deal.” On the other hand, it is unclear whether those advantages are worth the broader message it may communicate in the #MeToo era…
“I do feel it’s a bit tone deaf,” said Nicole Martins, a professor at Indiana University Bloomington, who focuses on media and body image. “These women are used as eye candy, and it reinforces the idea that these women should be appreciated for how they look.”
Yes, Professor, that’s because THESE women are being appreciated for how they look, and for no other reason, because they aren’t doing a job that couldn’t be handled by a well-trained ape. So what? “Deal of No Deal” is moronic, but there is nothing whatsoever unethical, sexist or “tone deaf,” now or ever, about employing attractive people in an entertainment context as “eye candy,” meaning “employing attractive people to be attractive.”
Attractive women are attractive. People like to look at them. People would rather look at them than look at average, typical people they can see every day on the street, or by looking in the mirror. Is there anything wrong with enhancing a stupefyingly repetitive and boring game show with beautiful women? There is not. Nor is there anything wrong with women who are gorgeous while having no other areas in which they excel making a living based entirely on that one asset.
Check these pages, and you will see that Ethics Alarms has frequently condemned the use of physical appearance as a primary criteria for jobs where appearance is incidental or irrelevant. The Fox Blondes drive me nuts. You cannot tell me that there are not older, smarter, plainer, fatter women (or men) who are capable of sharper analysis and more trenchant commentary than the typical interchangeable “Fox and Friends” babe who has to sit between Steve Doocey and Brian Kilmeade, neither of whom would ever be mistaken for Cary Grant. This isn’t just lookism, it’s stupid lookism, where emphasizing youth, beauty and sex appeal interferes with the alleged job at hand. The airlines were finally forced to stop catering to flying businessmen’s sexual fantasies by using the same qualifications as Playboy Clubs for hiring flight attendants.
Good. So were department stores. “Weather girls” were gradually replaced in many markets with female meteorologists who actually know what they are pointing to, even if they didn’t look great in a cocktail dress. That’s progress.
Decreeing that there is something amiss when models, actresses, and people who stand around holding suitcases are hired with their pulchritude in mind isn’t progress. It’s political grandstanding and a power grab: “Let’s see if we can force “Deal or No Deal” off the air to prove how influential we are! Let’s see if we can force them to fire those young women and replace them with fat, middle-aged people with bad skin and rotten posture!”
The Times article harkens back to the bad old days when Bob Barker called his models on “The Price is Right” “Barker’s Beauties.” Yes, that was demeaning and sexist, and obviously so. (My dad retched at it 40 years ago.) Howie Mandel, the host of “Deal,” calls the suitcase-holders “ladies” en masse. (What else? “Women”? “Female units”?) and by name individually. (They call him “Howie.”) The Horror. Says another professor who deserves to be unemployed, Elana Levine, a professor of media studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,
“[G] ame shows are about winning money or commercial goods, and the figure of the spokesmodel is very much part of that. She’s kind of on display as another product.”
Excuse me? Another product? How so, exactly? Are they for sale? Can contestants win them? Do they have a price tag? Apparently being a professor allows one to utter complete nonsense and still have it solemnly recorded and published while others nod their heads in admiration.
The beautiful women are on stage because they are pleasant to look at, and have to stand around for 30 minutes on camera. Giving women jobs to serve that function as only attractive women can isn’t “being an asshole.”
But trying to put them out of work using political correctness is.