by Amy Zidell
[Sorry I didn't post this earlier but holiday, vacation, time away from the computer, you know.]
It must be a slow news cycle when reports about a nearly thirty-year-old men's magazine interview with a male celebrity being raunchy, ribald, risqué and lewd populates worldwide news output.
So a 29-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger did a boastful, at times outrageous, interview with Oui, a French adjunct of Playboy in 1977. Courtesy of www.thesmokinggun.com I read the entire Oui article. Frankly, I don't see why the big deal. Sure if all was quiet on the newswire front it makes sense to be a small headline in places other than Access Hollywood, sort of. Lets scan the other news going on when this story hit: transcripts of 911 calls from 9/11, potential nuclear show-down with North Korea, Middle East turmoil, Iraq, power problems, killer weather. Oh... nothing of much importance.
Could it be that news directors are getting jaded? Are they becoming desensitized to the sex and violence that's permeated the newsroom as well as prime-time? Has the fascination with everything celebrity clouded their better judgment? Has the search for and promotion of scandal anything created an even scarier monster: scandalebrity?
Political reporting has degenerated to the political science level of Joan and Melissa fashion critiques from the red carpet -- entertaining but not educational about policy beyond hemline dos and don'ts.
Trying to turn this '70's Schwarzenegger interview into a political scandal is shameful. At the time of the interview, Arnold was a young studly bodybuilder doing promotion. His cocky attitude -- absolutely appropriate -- and in fact, a requirement for young male celebrity hunks. He was asked in the article about sex, drugs, and penis size. He answered questions about sex, drugs, and penis size. Outrageous answers to outrageous questions. Now he's mature, still studly, and many hope a political savior for California.
While the not so honorable Packwood, Clinton, and Condit having trouble keeping their pants zipped while in office, some particularly around interns (and we know one had this problem in his office), seems reasonably fair political reporting territory, reports on unrelated, personal, pre-political career activities pushes the envelope too far.
In the frenzy to get the dirt, I fear what passes as journalism may have a chilling effect on the political gene pool. Nowadays, ask a bright, gregarious, glad-handing 11-year-old if they'd like to be in politics or president when they grow up. I have. The response, a visceral, "Eww, no!" I believe that representatives should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen when they're a representative. However, the threat of invasive microscopic reporting viewed through a political scandal lens on every aspect of an individual's entire life may deter many qualified people from pursuing community service in the form of politics. I'm not suggesting we ignore someone's past; that and their background is of course important, but keep it relevant and in context. Do we really want representatives that were never young and foolish? I don't know about you, but I find learning from my mistakes, maturity, and personal growth to be powerful things that make me a better, more understanding, more well-rounded person. I find people that don't believe they ever make mistakes to be delusional and scary.
Perhaps I'm wrong as to the reason this story got such muscular legs. Perhaps the fascination about the story was that it was about an unmarried, pre-politician with references to sex. The press perhaps did not know where to file a story about a politician that wasn't about them cheating on their spouse. Why not a big deal about a politician in office who keeps their pants zipped? Different angle; could be interesting.
How many times has the question of penis size in proportion to a politician's body ever been asked? Perhaps it should be asked, but in relation to the proportion to their ego. When asked in the 1977 Oui interview if his penis was in proportion to the rest of his body, Arnold responded this way (imagine his direct manner of speaking), "Well, that depends on what you mean by disproportionate. The cock isn't a muscle, so it doesn't grow in relation to the shoulders, say, or the pectorals. You can't make it bigger through exercise, that's for sure." He continued, explaining that bodybuilder's penises are no different than anyone else's.
I can't imagine any politician fielding such a question in a more forthcoming or informative manner. While I won't predict the outcome of the recall election, I can say for certain that no one is going to ask Gray Davis about his penis.
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