The following commentary may contain material unsuitable for all members of the family. So kids, please don't let your parents know you're listening. Have you seen the latest issue of Playboy? It's the one with female wrestling star Chyna on the cover and much, much more of her on the inside. Of course, those of you who subscribe just to read the interviews probably didn't notice.
Both the magazine and her employer, the World Wrestling Federation, are hyping this photospread to the max. Playboy is even selling her leather and chains outfit in an online auction. For her part, Chyna publicly extols the revolutionary editorial decision that allowed "someone like me who works so hard to look like I do" to appear naked for the entire world to see, at $9.95 a peek.
What she means is that, unlike the softly contoured bimbo playmates of the past, Playboy now acknowledges that hardbody women with bulging biceps and shapely but muscular thighs and calves are sexy too, especially if they have pretty faces and large breasts. Although we're talking about sex objects here, it's still gratifying for any purveyor of mass culture to recognize, even celebrate diversity in our perception of femininity.
The only problem with the Chyna example is that it's a fake. When she burst on the scene a few years ago, Chyna was a brutish, presumably lesbian bodyguard to the effete heel Hunter Hearst Helmsley. In a word, she was ugly, but her looks fit the character she portrayed. Then Chyna underwent a series of transforming and painful operations. Among them were breast implants, a nose job, and reshaped eye sockets. She had her jaw broken and reset and her teeth rearranged and who knows how many other nips and tucks to round out the package.
Then the writers went to work to turn this Wonder Woman into a three dimensional person and accentuate her newly constructed femininity. Now this compassionate Amazon has love affairs, replete with crises and tearful confrontations. She's booked on Leno and lands bit parts in sitcoms. Perhaps an autobiography is next.
Speaking as one who prefers sexuality to sex appeal, I find this entire process bizarre, freakish, and somewhat unsettling. There's nothing inherently wrong with women, or men, wanting to look better and using any available form of behavioral or physical modifications to achieve the result. And I have no complaint about folks in the entertainment business promoting and putting on a show.
But when the media go from manufacturing news to manufacturing the people in the news, I have to ask: "What's next?"