April 1, 2010

This Is Baywatch

Three of the women in this picture don't exist

(An article from 1995.  I edited it and added some pictures.)


"Baywatch supports impossible standards that women are pressured to follow."

Everyone knows these women were selected because they are hot, that's the point.  They represent ideals of a certain kind.  How badly will "regular" women's self-esteem be mangled if they can't be ideals?  I think they'll be fine.

Will more women want to dye their hair blonde?  Get implants?  Probably.  Will this end up destroying America?  Probably not.  Will it set impossible standards for women, turn men impotent when confronted by A cups?  No.  Why would Baywatch do it if pornography can't?

Pamela Anderson isn't the problem.  CJ is the problem.  She doesn't exist.

It's conceivable that with the right supplies, you could look like Pamela Anderson.  This won't destroy society.  What women can't do is look and live like CJ on a lifeguard's income.

But Baywatch convinces people that there is a certain level of ordinary materialism that everyone can have.  "This is what it $20,000 a year looks like."

That's what's going to destroy America.


How much does it cost to be CJ?  Not Pamela Anderson-- CJ.  So, not how much are  implants, a nose job and a personal trainer; but how much are CJ's nail appointments, and hair?  How much does her (or any of the characters') makeup cost?  The car lease?  Her CD player and apartment in Malibu?  The sofas?  CJ and the gals never wear the same clothes in two shows.  Never the same shoes.  How much does that cost?  They don't shop at Sears, right?

Baywatch, along with Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, is changing America in ways you don't notice-- precisely because you don't notice.  In prior TV and movies any incongruous displays of wealth had an explanation, however cliched.  Magnum PI lived off the kindness of Higgins.  Rachel on Friends has rich parents.   But with rare exceptions, the characters in the new crop of 20 something TV have access to material goods way outside their pay range, but they are made so ordinary you never think to question it.  We know very well how Pamela Anderson affords it.  But it's made axiomatic that CJ can.

You are so busy wrestling with the sexuality of the show that you don't realize that a certain material lifestyle is being made normal.


Pretend one of the shows was about interracial dating.  Say, Guido gets upset that CJ could be with a Black Man whom he assumes is a thug because he listens to rap.  Following a standard script, Guido gets into trouble and is saved by The Black Man, and so learns that "it's the person inside that counts" and thus there is nothing wrong with interracial dating.  Ok-- let's say you disagree.  Let's say you're willing to accept that not all black people are criminals, but you still have some serious reservations about letting your daughter date white guys (see?)   "Oh," you think, "they're pushing a liberal agenda."  You assume that Hollywood is liberal.

Maybe-- but what's more important is that you just learned that the default is that there is nothing wrong with interracial dating.  The show said: this is how most of the world thinks.   If you disagree with this position, it's up to you to explain why-- not up to them to defend it.

Well, that's what the show does to leather sofas.  It makes having a big TV or new shoes the obvious and default.  You can protect yourself from the emotional damage of not looking like Pamela Anderson because you know she's "impossible."  But you have no defense against new shoes because they're ordinary. You've incorporated a certain level of materialism into your identity and you can't ever shake it.

Baywatch  will end up selling more clothes than breast implants.


Let's close our eyes and imagine, as I do frequently, peeling off CJ's red lycra one-piece.  I like to stand behind her when I do it.   What do you see that's impossible?  Oh, the lack of tan lines.

It seems like a trivial point, but it's not.  No matter what enhancements you do to your body, after days and days on the beach tan lines are inevitable.  So either she goes to a tanning studio as well, or her existence is impossible. 

Pamela Anderson with no tan lines makes sense, and so you being different is explainable.  But when CJ doesn't have them, then you're not going to have them either.

It's wrong to look at the Baywatch women as pornography, especially during a time when actual pornography is becoming so easy to acquire.  The real pornography is the surrounding materialism, the casual display of impossible lifestyles and unattainable goods as if they are ordinary commodities.  After ten hours of porn, a breast flash doesn't seem like a big deal.  After ten hours of Baywatch, leasing a car doesn't, either.

In twenty years, Pamela Anderson probably won't look like she does now, but she'll still have her money.  But what's going to happen to the 20 somethings who expect a certain basic level of luxury? Baywatch is popular all over the world, so this won't be limited to Americans.  What's coming is a worldwide generation of future 40 year olds who will not be able to afford what they are now being conditioned to expect.

gina nolin and stroller.JPG
Right now the solution is easy-- debt.  Because that's what everyone does to afford what they assume is basic standard of living-- e.g. cable TV.  Besides, the 20 somethings always have the future-- the promise of a better job, more money.  I wouldn't be surprised if in ten years it will be completely normal to be two or three annual salaries in debt.

The debts will come due, and they will come due the moment the 40 somethings realize that this is the most they will ever make; that they can't take on more debt; they can't live the lifestyle that they thought was ordinary.

I'm prepared to deal with the awesome social consequences of a generation of women with breast implants.  But how can I, or anyone, live in a world where it is expected that you live well outside your means?