The Thinking 

Hypnotized by Prettiness

February 4, 2011


KATHLENE M. writes:

“Do women make for better news?” I would say no. When I see a glammed-up Dana Perino, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Sarah Palin, Diane Sawyer or even Nancy Pelosi talking or pontificating on television, I cannot pay attention because I’m too distracted by their appearances. Dana Perino is perfectly coiffed and exceptionally pretty. Ann Coulter’s long hair and long fake eyelashes hypnotize me. Michelle Malkin’s large glossy red lips overpower the screen. (Even my husband agrees on that one.) Sarah Palin is one of those “hotty” moms who dress as young as their teen kids. Diane Sawyer and Nancy Pelosi’s perfectly coiffed hair and flawless skin are preternatural. Diane Sawyer’s fake eyelashes add to the illusion. I imagine that men must get even more distracted by these women and cannot really hear what they’re saying.

But I wonder: would having a plain or cute woman deliver the news help? No, because men would be bothered by a plain or cute woman’s appearance too. Think Janet Napolitano, Katie Couric or Christiane Amanpour. In general though people probably do take the plain and cute women more seriously than their prettier sisters.

There’s an old Far Side cartoon that I always think of in relation to this subject. The cartoon depicts a dog owner speaking to his dog. The caption reads, “What dogs really hear” which is something like, “blah blah blah blah TREAT blah blah blah blah.” That’s how most women in the news and politics sound to their viewers: blah blah blah OBAMA blah blah blah EGYPT. (By the way, lest I offend the opposite sex, I’m not comparing men to dogs.)

                                                                                           — Comments —

Bruce writes:

Opinionating on looks is pretty subjective, but I would not regard Dana Perino as attractive to men – neither in your picture nor on Google images. Neat, well-turned out, inoffensive… but surely not attractive. Like most U.S. media women she has the off-the-peg, standard-issue plastic surgery nose; which absolutely prevents her form being seriously good looking.

In a nutshell, she seems like the kind of woman that other women say they find attractive, and supposedly want to look-like – whether or not they really mean it, I am not sure.

The kind of women that (decent!) men find most attractive are more describable as ‘lovely’ (with connotations of roundness, softness and kindness) rather than beautiful; certainly not the hard-faced sculpted stick-insect type which Dana Perino represents. Not many such girls go in for public display of themselves, so I am hard pressed to think of an example that you would have heard-of. But perhaps Samantha Cameron, wife of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, is more or less what I mean. She looks pleasing and she also looks like a nice person.

(I have no idea what she is really like, but that is how she looks.

Laura writes:

Perhaps the many thousands of women who run themselves ragged at gyms to achieve that stick-insect look are wasting their time.

Bob writes:

I agree with Bruce. Most of these women have a “hard” prettiness. I find their voices, with few exceptions, to be very unpleasant to my ear. Strident or harsh best characterizes them. I imagine the cosmetics departments have to work much harder now with the advent of HDTV. Yes, under all that make up they are probably tough as nails. I wouldn’t want to cross them – especially if they’re wearing stiletto heels!

Thomas F. Bertonneau writes:

In his original comment, Lawrence Auster ascribed to Dana Perino the visible character of someone utterly self-absorbed, or of a narcissist.  I suspect that this, the self-absorption, is what turns off sensible, adult people.  But really most television opinion-mongers are in their visible character narcissistic, the men as well as the women.  Perhaps the best thing one could say about Dana Perino or Ann Coulter is that she might be attractive if she weren’t so full of herself; but she will never be other than full of herself.  One part – and it is no small part – of our precipitous deculturation of the last few decades is that genuine comeliness whether in male or female appearance has disappeared, to be replaced by clichés of glamour and a type of institutional severity, which we see not only in the faces of the people but in their garb.  Pretty-faced insipidity, fine-tuned as a sexual come-on, is also rampant.  Perino and Coulter are severe.  All the twenty-something Brad-Pitt and Angelina-Jolie clones are insipid. 

My one-time dissertation advisor and longtime friend Eric L. Gans has written a book extolling the 1940s b-movie actress Carole Landis as the most beautiful woman of the twentieth century: Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl (University Press of Mississippi, 2008).

Laura writes:

“A type of institutional severity,” yes. It’s canned beauty, whether in a man or a woman. Insipid faces are like glassy pools. One can stare into them, almost mesmerized by the lack of depth.

Michael S. writes:

My wife “looks pleasing and also looks like a nice person,” because she is both* — but I’m not posting any photos. Sorry. :-)

*Subject to the usual conditions.

Paul writes:

Fox is being practical with its lovelies. Dana Perino is gorgeous and brilliant. I disagree with those that think her beauty distracts from what she is saying. Just the opposite in my view. I am long familiar with her because of her liberal Bush years, when I avoided listening to her as I avoided listening to the liberal Bush. But the main reason I learned she was a disappointing Bush liberal was because her prettiness caught my attention. I already knew Bush’s positions from his prior male spokesman. She was so pretty that I paid close attention for a while, hoping I would detect a conservative heart. I again paid close attention when she was free to speak her mind on Fox, only to be disappointed again. I still linger for a little while impressed with her prettiness, but I ain’t listening to what she is saying anymore. 

Malkin is the most conservative (in my view) of the “conservative” lovelies that I know about. But I watch her because she is conservative (and quick) not because she is attractive.


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