What if New Year’s Eve programming didn’t put our sexist, look-obsessed culture into such sharp relief?

As I flipped through various New Year’s Eve shows while I sucked down bubbly, I noticed a common thread – male performers had virtually no skin showing, females had a lot. From Rihanna, who HAD to be freezing in that stomach bearing outfit in the freezing NY weather, to Shania Twain, whose torn t-shirt revealed a skinny-minny stomach, to Fergie’s oddly shiny legs, the female skin was out in full force.

In contrast, Daughtry was covered up in a head to toe black outfit with a white scarf covering every bit-o-chest-n-neck.  Flo-rider didn’t have a scarf, but he too was in a black outfit that covered all but his hands and head.

Flash to Carmen Electra, in a cleavage popping skin tight white dress, whose bubbly-brainlessness made me want to gag. Even poor Allison Iraheta, whom I love, had on a poofy-ultra short red-prom dress number and a crazy long red hair that kept blowing into her mouth as she tried to sing. I am sure this was the work of some “image management” person who is busy trying to make her look more white, more skinny, more sexy, less Latina, less subversive, less smart… And poor, ditzy Carmen couldn’t even pronounce her name. Sorry, Miss Electra, but I think you may need to spend less time on that body and more time exercising your brain.

As per usual, for the men, it was about their music, their art – their bodies were the background, hidden by non-skin bearing clothing. For the women, the skin, the appearance, were foreground. Hence, the fact our culture continues to suffer from a sexism that objectives and sexualizes women was out in spades. Made me choke on my champagne.

Don’t get me wrong — I find female bodies beautiful and I don’t think they need to be hidden or shamed. But, I find male bodies beautiful too. Couldn’t there be some equal opportunity showing of both male and female skin? (Not of the objectifying variety, but of the celebratory, body-loving, aren’t we lucky to live in these great prison-houses of flesh variety.)

Then, there was all the glorifying of hetero monogamy and that golden grail/prison – marriage. How many damn proposals do they have to show? And do I need to see all those hetero couples lip-locking for so damn long? Where was the non-hetero love? Sorry, LGBTQ peeps, your kisses are not New Year’s Eve television worthy!

Ageism abounded too with cameras focused on the young and perky, with presenters with nary a wrinkle in sight, with musicians straining too look like they are still 20 even when they are NOT – Shania, I am talking to you…

Here’s hoping the second decade of 2010 can keep us moving along the progressive track where more women, more people of color, more different ages and body types can be celebrated for their contributions that are not only of the good body/perfect legs variety…

2 thoughts on “What if New Year’s Eve programming didn’t put our sexist, look-obsessed culture into such sharp relief?”

  1. One thing I learned working on television is that the bottom of any programming is ratings, and by association money.

    If the Hoi Polloi are determined ( via the math that is the ratings system, polls, and market research ) to want 20somethings prancing around naked then that is what the system will give them. The competing systems will try to provide more in an effort to get those ever so needed rating points.

    The truth of the matter is that at the heart of it all the social effects, social commentary, or exposure of the less than admirable aspects of culture are not even considered. What will make money is all that matters. This unintentionally promotes the observations you made ( which I agree with ).

    In the TV game, brain exercise is spent on counting the money, and making the money. Anything else, well there are people you can hire for that.

    1. Dante,
      Good points. I do think the “we are giving the audience what they want” argument is too simple though. As you point out — it is about the money and sometimes this means choosing options that also coss less to produce — hence the huge growth in reality tv programming. It’s not necessarily what the public wants, but it is a whole heap cheaper than other formats. Jennifer Pozner’s forthcoming book on Reality TV will cover these arguments — I can’t wait to read it!

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