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Thursday, June 02, 2005

The System We Have in Place to Keep Ugly People Off of TV Is Failing.

A Special Opinion by Guest Blogger, Sarcastic Mike.
(From time to time we have to provide a forum for others outside the Epth Nation to write their minds about the issues of the day. We do this to provide balance to our normally pleasant and well-thought-out opinions in accordance with the upcoming Everyone's Gotta Be Fair Act that's not in Congress now but probably will be soon. It is our plan to be retroactively compliant to this future piece of First-Amendment-Squashing legislation, and so avoid any retroactive fines Congress might impose. We here at Epth Nation apologize if the following makes no sense to you but also feel obliged to point out that there's at least a 50% chance that it's your fault.)

As a human being named Sarcastic Mike, I have dedicated myself to the study of sarcasm in its many forms. I have been all over this globe on which we breathe trying to find the most wonderfully sarcastic things of all time. Today, however, I've decided to branch out of my comfortable tree a bit and tackle a critical issue facing America. There comes a time for every man to grow up, grab a shovel, and beat supposed progress back. My friends, today is our shovel-beating day.

I'm speaking, of course, about the breaking of the Unwritten Rule that keeps ugly people off of television. If you turn on a USA TV right this second, any TV at all, you are liable to find some less than attractive people on it. Is this what we want our kids to see? We thought the six inexplicably smoking-hot Friends solved this problem once and for all, but apparently we were wrong.

Do I need to remind you TV executives how far we have come? We can't give up now! The future of TV, America, and dare I say your jobs all depend on what we do about this problem.

In the olden days before the Unwritten Rule, ugly people filled our TV screens and we didn't care because we didn't realize they were ugly. They looked like us, and we looked like them. It never occurred to us that TV could be better than this -- better than us. We just accepted it because we had no time to watch TV. With all the farming, cleaning, and walking we had to do, we were so tired at the end of the day we barely noticed the superficial quality of the people on our screens. Or should I say, the lack of superficial quality. The picture was black-and-white and staticky, and old man, Milton Berle, dressed himself as an incredibly ugly woman and entertained America for free. It seems unthinkable today, but that's what happened.

Gradually, and as technology gave us more free time, TV watching became more important and nuanced for USA humans. As people watched more network TV, they began to subtly change the looks of people on TV through the Rule of Hotness (the proper name for the Unwritten Rule), which states:
If people on show A are hotter than people on show B, then (all other factors being equal) more viewers will watch show A.

But just as producers began to see the results of applying the Rule of Hotness to television schedules, feminism took hold and forced women to feel guilty if they looked hot. This only delayed the inevitable, and by the late 1980s Feminism had conceded that it had been wrong about the whole looking hot being a bad thing. In an elaborate ceremony at a Motley Crue concert, Gloria Steinem recanted and flashed the crowd. This only happened figuratively by the way, but it definitely did happen. It was at this moment that the TV Revolution truly began. The Figurative Flashing of Feminism was the 95 Theses nailed to the Church Door of ugly sweaters and unshaven legs.

During the 90s, the revolution took shape in all sorts of interesting ways: moderately hot Jane Pauley was replaced by the more hot Deborah Norville who was replaced by the merely cute Katie Couric (who since then has succombed to the Rule of Hotness, dyed her hair blonde, got professionally tan, started showing off her guns, and tried to become America's sexy schoolteacher); fat people (defined as those who merely aren't skinny) were gradually eradicated from the face of television; every reality show had to have sexy contestants; every cable show had to have a sexy host and/or hostess; every sitcom had to involve a hot skinny girl and a fat or dorky but totally cute guy; Friends ruled the airwaves despite not being funny in the least; Spike TV was born; Fox News introduced the world to Laurie Dhue's stupefyingly glossed lips and Shepherd Smith's bland but affable good looks; CNN and MSNBC followed suit with literal armies of hot anchors; local news got rid of most of their olds and uglies and replaced them with beauty queens and Ken dolls who could barely read the teleprompter; it became impossible for pop singers to have hits on MTV if they weren't young and attractive; and Oprah Winfrey, the most powerful woman on TV and whose audience consists largely (ahem) of unemployed housefraus, was forced to lose weight and get hot. If the viewing habits of the Cult of Oprah obeyed the Rule of Hotness, it was assumed the Rule would never be stopped. How wrong we were.

The Rule of Hotness provided us with the golden age of TV, but we are dangerously close to getting in a Dodge Dart, driving away, and seeing those days in our rear-view mirror. Seemingly overnight, reality TV hit a bump in the road and became slightly passe', Janet's boob set ancient and long-forgotten forces in motion to "clean up" TV, CBS replaced Dan Rather with an even older dude, Elisabeth Filarski got pregnant and took a leave of absence from The View, Sam Cassell and the Minnesota Timberwolves almost made the NBA Finals, and (most disturbingly) David Caruso and his creepy pastiness started to show up on network shows again. In the past year, both the botoxed-up and the naturally ugly have started making a comeback. I half-expect to see a 300lb Oprah again. This, my friends, is unacceptable. Does progress have to stop when the winds of change start blowing? I hope not. If it does, we have to build a giant wind machine that blows those winds of change back into the happy stasis they were in before.

The really insidious thing is you never know when these uglies are going to pop up. I like to flip channels very quickly, but you can never flip channels quickly enough to avoid seeing a brain-branding flash of leathery Barbara Walters or some puffy puke playing poker. Finding something to watch on TV is becoming more and more like a horror movie, where the next scare is just around the corner.

What makes this time unique and critical is the slow proliferation of HD TV's, which deliver a much clearer picture than our old tubular TV sets. If we don't apply the Rule now, we could be cursed with a super-clear picture but nobody on TV worth that great clarity. Who wants to see Sam Cassell in High Definition? We prefer him in Very Low Definition, like with a bag over his head. HDTV + Ugliness = massive amounts of despair and rampant nausea.

But there is good news -- we have the power to stop this trend right now. We have the remotes. We deliver the ratings. The next time you see an "old" delivering the local news, turn it to a "hot" and complain to the station's management. The next time you see a non-cute fat man on a sitcom, change the channel to a cute fat man like Jim from According to Jim. The next time someone comments on how unhealthily skinny and anorexic the people on TV look, remind them that those people are better than us, so they must look better. We must reclaim the ground we've lost in the past year, or we'll go back to Uncle Miltie and grainy footage of him in a dress. Ugliness, not Carthago, Delenda Est!

(ed. note -- The opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect anything. Speaking of reflection, are those reflective pants you're wearing?)


  • At 6:46 PM, Blogger Danny said…

    Wow, I have to admit that that is some great writing...truly great.


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