Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Looks Good To Me

I know that it is way too soon to be anything other than solemn about the crisis in Haiti, but can we pause for just one moment to ask ourselves this: How jazzed is Andy Cooper?

Seriously – more than four years after Katrina, Anderson Cooper was beginning to fade back to bland; that colorlessness that seems to be more than physical, but emotional and visceral with him. Katrina was his moment to go from old grey mare to silver fox, adding a shock of electricity to the coverage and reporting with energy and empathy, perhaps for the first time ever.

So it should come as no surprise that, after years of regurgitating the news for a few hours at 10pm, trying to color it up with an array of pundits and outsize personalities to detract from his discomfort as an anchor, that he grabbed the first plane to Port-Au-Prince, staked out a great location amidst the rubble, and threw on a tight black t-shirt (yeah, the arms are pretty jacked, thank you Equinox, but the whole effect is a bit creepy. Like Taylor Lautner’s body with Dan Rather’s face.)

In other news, Massachusetts goes to the polls today to fill the Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy. Democrat Martha Coakley, who had a 30-point lead not long ago, is now slightly trailing the Republican challenger Scott Brown. Brown, who was once an actor and model, is married to a local newswoman and has a daughter who was once a semifinalist on American Idol.

He’s running as the candidate of the Average Joe.

The shocking thing is that he’s getting away with it. Largely because Coakley has run an entitled, lackluster, utterly antiseptic campaign. However, part of it simply has to do with the American psyche. Pundits can call this a repudiation of the Obama agenda (and they wouldn’t be completely wrong,) discomfort with single-party government, or simply an anti-incumbent sentiment fostered by the lack of improvement on jobs, the economy, healthcare, or anything major that the President ran on. And it’s sort of his fault because he’s spent so much time trying to build consensus that he’s lost sight of actually governing. Of the fact that compromises sometimes aren’t possible, or occasionally create results no one embraces. Bush knew this – he ran in 2004 as standing behind his own decisiveness, and the electorate rewarded him for it, even as they disagreed with much of what he was doing because at least he was doing something.

I’ve learned this from a career in sales – sometimes your client doesn’t mind not getting what they want, as long as you’re direct and honest about what you’re doing. That being able to do something is as important as what you do.

But I also think this election is about optics. Brown and I disagree on a multitude of things, but he’s conversational and charming and pretty damn good-looking. Coakley looks like a cold dyspeptic bitch – the cold eleventh grade teacher who always corrected “it’s me” to “It is I” and wouldn’t take your quiz paper if you were one minute past the due date.

We’re still a country where looks and charm make a difference – a big one. Clinton was charming and rascally. Bush was athletic and mischievous (and Gore was bloated and scary-looking.) Obama is lithe and (in the word’s of Harry Reid) light-skinned and well-spoken. If he spoke like Al Sharpton or was as dark as Esther Rolle, he might not even have made it out of the early primary states.

Even Andy Cooper is an object lesson. After 9/11, the ubiquitous Ashleigh Banfield went brunette and all but disappeared from national television in a few months. Andy Cooper blued his hair silver, pumped up his guns, and gets two hours a night, beginning in prime time.

I don’t know that I have a message for this entry, folks, or if I’m just proselytizing . It’s not decorous that we give good looking people a pass, or let them get farther than the uglies, but I don’t know that it’s unfair. After all, plenty of people are born smarter than others, and we don’t hold that advantage against them. When we look at both attributes as being somewhat innate, and then fostered or developed, I don’t know that favoring one is anymore more right or wrong than favoring another. You can make the argument that intelligence is more important to doing a good job than looks, but when you’re representing the message – in person or on the air – part of your job is having the audience embrace you, and physicality is a big part of that.

Changing the channel to NBC (Nighttime Blows Chunks), I catch the lead-in to the nine o’clock hour, where the news has softened to the consistency of brie at a picnic. Meredith Vieira is interviewing Whoopi Goldberg, who is currently admitting that she wanted to be a Rockette or act in Tarzan movies. I’d change the channel to Good Morning America, but I decided to temporarily boycott is when I realized the promoted Diane Sawyer and Chris Cuomo, and left the gays behind. I’ve never been a huge Sam Champion fan (and find the sight of him in orange sweaters and casualwear disturbing – why can’t they ever let the weatherman look like an adult?) but think Robin Roberts seems ill-as-ease with George Stephanopoulos. She had more chemistry with Diane. And George looks afraid of her (which he should be.)

So that pretty much leaves me with answering email or sitting through West Wing reruns and imagining a Democratic presidency I wish we had. President Bartlet why have you forsaken us?

1 comment:

  1. You rock. You have totally put into words what I'm feeling. Even about Anderson's guns. God I wish he were taller. And straight. But I digress ... thanks for the new take on yesterday's upset in Mass. I couldn't agree more.