When is hot too hot?

One of my favourite TV historians is Bettany Hughes. But as a presenter, she gets hit from the opposite angle to actresses, being criticised for (what boils down to) looking too hot, and thus cheapening her subject in some way.  On the other hand, Michael Wood, my other favourite TV historian, gets to be the “man who made history sexy.”  So why is a historian and history presenter too hot, while if she were a Hollywood actress would be under endless pressure to dye, diet, inject, or cut in order to become “hotter?”  Is it just that beauty comes in discrete strata, with women required to tunnel from one to another?  Well, obviously yes, but why?  What service is Hughes failing to perform here?

She’s blatantly being a person.  Moreover, she’s blatantly knowing things and explaining them to the viewer, when she should be unobtrusively in the background – since the background is in this case what would obscure the fact that we’re being taught something worthwhile by a woman.  A fictional woman, in most of Hollywood’s output, is there for decoration – that decoration offered as a phony role to cover up the lack of a real one.  But you can only do that to a presenter if she’s speaking about something trivial.  If she’s presenting a serious subject, and imparting serious knowledge, men critics need some other way not to take her seriously.

Hence – she looks too hot, and cheapens the subject.  Alternatively, hence – she distracts from the subject.  Or hence – she doesn’t *really* know her subject, she’s just been given words to look hot delivering – back to decoration as denial of her real role.  Or hence – well, any number of rationalisations that all come down to concealing the fact that women can say important things.

Comments

  1. says

    Reminds me of that mess with Jade Raymond. I’m attracted to her, therefore she’s trying to attract me, therefore she has nothing else going for her, therefore her employers are using her as a pretty little puppet to sell their game, therefore I am perfectly within my rights to draw her as a pretty little puppet with no personality and no brains. I’m just saying what everyone already knows. She deserves it, because I’m a man and am incapable of restraint around pretty women, so by existing and being attractive she’s victimizing me! Bleh. Oh, I could go on.

  2. SunlessNick says

    Yeah, it’s exhausting navigating this crap. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be told my whole worth depends on doing so all the damn time.

  3. says

    And, of course, if she were not convetionally attractive, she would get the “you’re too ugly to be on t.v.” thing thrown at her. Or maybe people would demand she shut up and iron their shirts.

    *sigh* Can’t win for losing.

  4. says

    Back when there was the whole debacle where Southwest Airlines tossed out a customer because her skirt was apparently too short (huh?) – and then it turned out that said customer also happened to be a Hooters waitress….

    That’s when I decided that the rule isn’t so much about hotness or skin or anything of that nature at all, no matter how much “they” pretend it is. No, it’s all about who is getting the benefit of the hotness. Or rather, who is in control of the hotness. With the caveat that complete lack of hotness is always bad because then you don’t have any hotness that can be controlled.

    Therefore:

    Example 1:

    Wearing short skirts in public for ones own enjoyment = bad. Wearing skin tight tops so that other people (usually men) can make money off of your breasts = good.

    Example 2:

    “Hotness” in video games = good, but “hot” video game makers = bad. Especially if it’s easy to tell they are hot and/or they are successful and making games and high up on the food chain.

    See? It’s easy when you get the hang of it!

  5. MaggieCat says

    Back when there was the whole debacle where Southwest Airlines tossed out a customer because her skirt was apparently too short (huh?)

    Okay, seriously– the HELL?!? This may be the most asinine thing I’ve heard all week, and this is the same week as the insanity that is Idol Gives Back. Yeah, the skirt she’s wearing in the photo is a little shorter than I’d be caught dead in, but considering that she was in Tuscon in early September, it’s not bad and I doubt they’d try and kick someone off for wearing shorts that short. Of course that’s all BESIDE THE POINT because where the fuck do they get off judging someone like that who’s adequately dressed for most public spaces? It’s not like she was running around doing cartwheels, she was sitting in a (painfully small) seat with no leg room.

    I also have the distinct feeling that if she was tiny and waif like no one would have questioned it because she would have looked younger, so I’m willing to bet that “too revealing” in this case means “revealing the fact that she has breasts”, and the crap about that is something I’ve complained about before. Like BetaCandy said and I can sadly confirm, there’s a sizable segment of the population that thinks that simply possessing large breasts is a sexual act in and of itself and then responds accordingly. And people wonder why I wear cardigans in the middle of the summer.

  6. says

    Like BetaCandy said and I can sadly confirm, there’s a sizable segment of the population that thinks that simply possessing large breasts is a sexual act in and of itself and then responds accordingly. And people wonder why I wear cardigans in the middle of the summer.

    You ain’t just whistling Dixie, there. I’m just a large C-cup, (36 or 38; it varies according to brand), but I developed early in my life; I became a C-cup while most of my (waif-like) friends were still in “training bras.” They were all so very, very jealous, but I was just mostly uncomfortable. I spent most of my young life in baggy crewneck t-shirts because I didn’t like the attention, positive or negative.
    I do agree that the issues with hotness seem to be what can be controlled. Some people are “supposed” to be attractive, and others are not. It reminds of back when X-Play, (which I used to love to watch, though I haven’t played a video game since the original Ninja Turtles), was smarter than it is now. They managed, somehow, to subvert the idea that co-host Morgan Webb couldn’t be attractive, smart, funny, and enjoy video games. And they mocked anyone that would believe otherwise. Then, Tech TV was bought by G4, Webb’s looks were used to sell the program, and nothing has ever been as good on that channel.
    I think the idea that “hot” individuals being intellegent can “distract” from the subject is a load of bullshit we are being fed by the people in power. If someone is smart/talented/good at what they do, their looks don’t have to matter. They only seem, to matter, fromn most of my experiences, to the people in charge.

  7. Lavode says

    There seems to be very different standards for what’s considered sexy, in the “mainstream” sense of the word (if there is one). Men seem to be perceived as sexy just for being professional – just for doing their job, especially if they wear nice clothes or have deep smooth voices while they do it.
    If it’s used about a woman, it often seems to mean she shows some skin (definitely more than the man would be expected to) and acts in a more smiling and playful way – *not* too serious or “professional”.

    Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but not that much, I think.

  8. says

    And, by constantly redirecting the discussion to women’s looks, this type of sexism keeps many women feeling like jobs in the media expose one to too much hostility to make a media career desirable. What was leveled at Jade Raymond was aggression aimed at keeping her and other talented women in the background.

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