Nancy O’Dell, host of Entertainment Tonight and the subject of one of Donald Trump’s “brags” caught on a hot mic, said something about her experience that I’m trying to work out in my head.
“There is no room for objectification of women, or anyone for that matter, not even in the ‘locker room.’ The conversation has got to change because everybody deserves respect, no matter the gender or setting. And as a mom, I have to add that our kids, especially our young girls, need to know that their hard work, their achievements, their intelligence, their heart are most important, and those things will not go unnoticed.”
I support the idea that everyone should be treated with respect. My struggle is how these sentiments align with the entertainment news industry’s affair with vanity, youth, and celebrity. The industry is driven by objectification. Granted, Entertainment Tonight is not nearly the worst offender. But you cannot tell me that they haven’t done their share of fluff pieces on the wealth and beauty of the Trump family. It’s the industry that made Trump into a brand and profiled his feuds with Rosie O’Donnell – the ones where he called her a fat, ugly broad among many other things. This, my friends, might be our President in three months.
It was good television, wasn’t it, ET?
It’s an industry that highlights celebrities without makeup and compares their 20-something bodies with how they’ve ballooned in their post-celebrity 40s and 50s. It’s the industry that saw a middle-aged Heather Locklear out in public without make-up looking less than her industry-mandated ‘MILFY bombshell’ standard and speculated she might have cancer.
Tabloid media perpetuates a culture of impossible beauty and perfection that rejects (or a best marginalizes) normal-looking people. This is an industry that normalizes the behavior of people like Trump by shaming the imperfections that make us unique and dismissing the complexity of our humanity. Whether it is just promoting a film for Entertainment Tonight or tearing apart the appearance of some rehab survivor on TMZ.com, it is all about objectification.
When the story focuses on WHO you are and not WHAT you did, it’s objectification.
When beauty isn’t enough and we have to Photoshop out every blemish, that’s objectification.
When the media anguishes over a pregnant celebrity’s figure and wonders if she’ll ever get her “fab abs back” – – yeah, you get the idea.
Worse, women are sexualized. They are only as valuable as they are sexy or attractive. Even girls are held to some creepy standard of sexuality as they pass through the Disney talent academy.
This is not to say that Nancy O’Dell deserves any of what was said or later speculated. She is both a victim of Trump’s words and a casualty of the war to destroy him. She is also part of an industry that puts Billy Bush and Donald Trump on a bus and drives them through a fairy tale of glamour and sexuality, essentially paying them to perpetuate rape culture.
I hope this is the first step for women like O’Dell and other victims of Trump’s toxic personality to begin changing the climate of what is acceptable. But it won’t be profitable. For as much as we loathe hearing what Trump and Bush said on a hot mic, so many more Americans are in denial that they are just as guilty of similar thoughts.
No, most aren’t to the level of “I’m going to sexually assault someone because I’m a celebrity and can do things like that” but certainly to the level that they would clearly share their darker fantasies when surrounded by like-minded men.
Is there, really, NO room for objectification? Even on the red carpet? Are the Billy Bushes and Mario Lopezes of the world going to start asking the premiere night glitterati, “Who are you reading?” or “What’s your position on Aleppo?” Is the fashion industry suddenly going to consider personalities before sending models onto the runway? How about chess matches during beauty pageants? Will our movies and television shows accept actors and actresses based on the physical standards that existed in the “standard def” world? Probably not.