Thursday, July 23, 2009

Andrews Nude Controversy Puts Spotlight on Media Hypocrisy; Social Taboos Fall Away in Internet's Anything-Goes Culture, Peep Investigation Continues!

If nothing else, the Erin Andrews nude Web video flap has produced one moment of high comedy.

In its diligent reporting on the issue, the gossip site ended one dispatch with this: "We will not post this video because it is a clear invasion of privacy."

Yes, that would be the same TMZ that has videographers scouring Hollywood trying to catch celebrities in the act of leaving a nightclub intoxicated, being with someone who is not their significant other or getting annoyed at the videographers trying to catch them getting annoyed.

Then there was the media Web site - we're looking at you, New York Post - that railed against the "peephole pervert" exploiting the "sideline siren," then posted that story alongside a slide show of images captured from the video, complete with black bars covering Andrews' naughty bits.

Beyond the heaping tablespoons of hypocrisy, though -- oh, and the fact that most sites still claiming to have the video will probably load malware onto your computer -- there's not much that's funny here. Andrews, a 31-year-old ESPN sports reporter who also happens to be slender, busty and, by most estimates, beautiful, was apparently filmed illicitly in two hotel rooms naked.

There's nothing extraordinary about what she's doing in the clips - brushing her hair, ironing pants, checking her backside in the mirror - but the fact that it is Andrews, lust object of a high percentage of young American men, has made the video into the Pamela Anderson tape of the moment.

Judging by Google Trends data, much of the nation has spent most of this week looking on the Internet for some variation on "Erin Andrews peephole video."
More at the link.

And, more on the New York Post, "
Reports: ESPN, New York Post at Odds Over Andrews Story." Plus, at Deadspin, "New York Post: ESPN Made Us Exploit Naked Lady." See also the outraged Lynda Johnson, "Pop! NY Post Erin Andrews (Photos) Christine Brennan ..."

The Post is fighting back. From AP, "
NY Post: ESPN Outed Own Reporter in Nude Video." Check the Post's own report here, "ESPN Outed Erin Video":
NO one would have known that a sick voyeur had secretly videotaped ESPN reporter Erin Andrews nude in her hotel room, if the Mickey Mouse sports network hadn't sent a letter to an obscure Web site demanding that it take down its link to a fuzzy video of an unidentified blonde. The video had gone largely unnoticed since it first went up in February, according to a girlie-posting site, ...
And that would be the message from the Post's editorial cartoon yesterday, "Sean Delonas' Cartoons" (posted above). More commentary at these sites: Extra, The Superficial, What Would Tyler Durden Do, The Blemish, The Hollywood Gossip, Watchdog, and TV Tattle (some of these are NSFW, via WeSmirch).

Okay, here's some news from inside the sports world's guilty angst: Jay Mariotti comes awful close to saying "she had it coming," in "
Lesson of Erin Andrews: Grow Up, Boys!":

Unlike one of the Erin-consumed leeches - who admitted this week, "I have never met Erin Andrews,'' - I have met her as an ESPN colleague. She could not be more friendly and down to earth, which, in this case, probably contributed to the rampant EA Mania. If she were aloof, she wouldn't be nearly as popular and droolworthy among the testosterone-fueled masses. But by smiling everywhere and saying hi to everyone - from the face-painted freshman at Michigan State to, yes, even the very bloggers who exploit her -- she only fed the monster and left the absurd impression that she actually might dig them. Wrote Christine Brennan, the USA Today columnist: "I wish it didn't happen to Erin, but I also would suggest to her if she asked (and she hasn't) that she rely on her talent and brains and not succumb to the lowest common denominator in sports media by playing to the frat house.'' In truth, Andrews has been vexed in handling the intense amounts of attention, including her distinction as Playboy magazine's "sexiest sportscaster in America.'' One minute, she's on the dance squad at the University of Florida. The next, she's wondering how many millions of perverts are blowing up her photos on the Internet. Or what rumor is surfacing next on a blog about this sex tape or this baseball player or this college basketball player, none of which involved any attempts by the bloggers to substantiate.

But when another sleazy day has ended and the creeps tell their bosses about all their Erin-generated page views, Andrews still has to live with the fallout. She grew to be a well-respected sideline reporter who was placed on college football and basketball because, well, she's young and relates to her audience. They're not stupid in Bristol; she brought in ratings. And for anyone who suggests she exploited sexuality with some of her outfits, I'll remind you that it's 2009 and no one should expect her to dress like a Granny. I've seen Katie Couric wear shorter dresses. Last summer, Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella saw her in a stylish summer dress before a game in Milwaukee - professionally acceptable, according to my sample poll of females -- and cracked, "Is this a baseball game or a modeling assignment?'' That prompted an Illinois sportswriter to columnize that she "sauntered around the visiting clubhouse, flitting from one Cubs player to another. Her skimpy outfit - designed to accentuate her, um, positives - had players leering at her.''

What you need to know: Piniella is 65; the writer in his 50s.

"It's really sad that ... I have people watching every single move I make," Andrews told a Minnesota newspaper at the time. "These players are not into me like that. If anything, I think these guys look at me like a little sister or one of the guys. I don't look at myself as a sex object. I've never carried myself in that way. I'm a girl that loves sports. I'm a tomboy. That's the last thing on my mind when I'm in the clubhouse -- worrying about players checking me out.

"I thought at some point we were all past this. I'm not going to change. I can't change.''

Unfortunately, the perverts didn't change, either. It's unconscionable to think a human being would hatch a plot knowing the hotel location, the number of her room and, apparently, when she would disrobe long enough to shoot video footage through the door peephole. She is seeking criminal charges and filing civil lawsuits, but face it, she has been robbed of her privacy and equilibrium forever. How can she return to a hotel room without wondering if someone's peeping? How can she live wondering 24/7 if someone is leering? I wouldn't blame her if she left the sports business and entered the entertainment world. Just a few months ago, USC linebacker Ray Maualuga approached her from behind on the sideline and did a grind dance, which invites other athletes to do the same. But I fully expect her to stand firm and report back to work in September, when her college football duties begin on -- gulp -- college campuses across the land.

After reading this stuff all week, I'm not impressed with Mariotti's analysis, much less the blaming. He's getting some pushback, in any case. See Deadspin, "Jay Mariotti On Erin Andrews, AutoSummarized."

But, check the Wall Street Journal, "Assessing the Erin Andrews Feeding Frenzy." Lots of links there. Plus, see also Jason Whitlock, one of my favorite sports writers, "Who's to Blame for Erin Andrews Scandal?":

Invasion of privacy for profit is what we all do to some degree in this day and age of Internet, camera-phone journalism. We're in desperate pursuit of clicks and ratings. There was a time when athletes could visit nightclubs and whatnot without fear of being photographed or videotaped.

Actually, probably the second most important explanation for all of this comes from the female commentators. Check Jezebel, "Did Erin Andrews's "Good Girl" Image Work Against Her?":

Erin Andrews isn't the first "good girl" to be exposed in this way. Vanessa Williams famously resigned her Miss America title after someone tried to publish nude photos of her without her consent. A relatively tame sex tape purporting to feature Kristin Davis (Sex & the City's prudish Charlotte), surfaced last year. God-loving, gay-hating Carrie Prejean raised a stir with her topless photos. And just last week, claimed to have nude footage of Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester doing something or other with her feet.

So why are the anonymous and click-happy denizens of the interwebs more interested in a princess than a Playboy model? The simplest reason would be the opportunity to see something they don't ordinarily get to see — a body not usually on such display. Another, creepier reason, though (especially creepy in Andrews's case, because she didn't even know she was being filmed), is the unwillingness factor. Unlike a Playboy model, a princess doesn't want you to see her naked ...

Maybe the fascination of the Andrews footage is partly about "candor," but it's also about taboo — the thrill of seeing something you're not supposed to see. And it's about the sexual value of a woman's perceived virtue — as 1960s frat boys will tell you, a fallen Madonna is better than a whore.

Check also, Monica Hesse, at the Washington Post, "You Know You Want To Watch That Video: But Erin Andrews Would Rather You Not."

After you read Jezebel and WaPo above, be sure to go back and read Clay Travis at Fanhouse, "Erin Andrews Video Straddles Sports Culture's Sexual Fault Line" (this is the most important theory of the phenomenon, IMHO). There will be lots more analysis, but I think the Travis piece and the Jezebel article offer the best theories.

Also, pointing a little toward the way forward, see Captain Polemic, "A Turning Point in Female Sports Journalism – The Erin Andrews Story." (And some folks are behind the curve on this story. See another handwringer, for example, "Erin Andrews Saga a Reflection of the Sad State of Society Today.")

Okay, what about the investigation? Actually, the ultimate criminal, the original hotel stalker who taped Erin Andrews nude, will never be caught - unless, ESPN indeed did play an inside game and they know the identity of the perpetrator (and legal action forces the network's hand). That hypothesis, by the way, sounds supremely horrible if true. Remember yesterday's report from the New York Daily News, "Erin Andrews Peephole Video Likely Shot by Fellow ESPN Employee: Report."

Meanwhile, from Bob's Blitz, "Post Pervs Banned by ESPN Due to Erin Andrews Photos - Editors Could Face Sex Crime Charges."

And CBS News has a more tasteful video report this morning, "ESPN's Andrews Fights Voyeur." And the related report, at the Detroit Free Press, "Private Investigator Calls Erin Andrews Taping an Inside Job."

Finally, this one's NSFW, "Sportscasters Now Afraid of Peeping Toms." And, at the Boston Herald, "Heidi Watney: ‘I Did Cover the Peephole’: Nude Video Spurs Host to Watch for Perverts."
Updates forthcoming throughout the evening ...


UPDATE: Bombshell for conservatives! Bill O'Reilly shows Erin Andrews nude, "Erin Andrews Peephole Video Shown by Bill O'Reilly With Lame Excuse":

Read the analysis, here.

Actually, it's no surprise: O'Reilly's show is all about shock conservatism with hot-babe analysis. Frankly, I wish he'd have
Courtney Friel and Jane Skinner on the broadcast more often.

Added: More on O'Reilly from Gawker, "Pervy Flesh-Peddler Bill O'Reilly Plays Erin Andrews Peephole Video On-Air." And at Seattle SportsNet, "Erin Andrews Video Scandal an Indictment on System of Double-Standards: "Then there are those hellbound bastards who have seized the opportunity to boost their ratings by taking further advantage of ESPN’s sideline goddess. Yes, I’m talking about you, Bill O’Reilly."

Also, another bombshell! It's not just the guys!

From Associated Content, "Erin Andrews Video Peep Pictures: Have We Not Had Enough Yet?":

What bothers me more is how many women want to see the video of Erin Andrews undressing in her hotel room, some just as much as men. In earlier years, women might have stuck together, and instead of calling her a sleaze, they'd take the position that she has been malignantly exploited by some creep at hotel with a video camera.

Plus, check this analysis of the Erin Andrews search-index rankings, "Erin Andrews Peep Tape Brings Her From 0 to 100."

Yet more, recall the Jason Whitlock citation above; and then check out Associated Content, "Michelle Beisner Dragged into Erin Andrews Controversy by Columnist Jason Whitlock."

The piece hammers Whitlock for linking Beisner, a former Denver Broncos cheerleader, to Deadspin, the online sports magazine:

Jason Whitlock believes that the influential website Deadspin is largely responsible for popularizing and perpetuating the Erin Andrews peephole controversy because it posted a link to the website hosting the Erin Andrews peephole video (it has since been taken down). Whitlock points out that until Deadspin mentioned it, the Erin Andrews peephole video had been virtually ignored.

Whether this is true or not is highly debatable, but it does demonstrate in no uncertain terms that Whitlock has some issues with Deadspin.

Actually, it's not debateable at all: Deadspin indeed linked to the hosting website on Sunday, and on Tuesday former Deadspin columnist Will Lietch wrote his big mea culpa, "Erin Andrews and Guilt, Imagined and Otherwise."

And related, "Michelle Beisner: the Original Erin Andrews?"

Okay, more commentary on who's to blame: What about the hotel? See, "Erin Andrews' Nightmare":

What's interesting is that some hysterical commentators have taken the knee-jerk "blame the internet" view of the situation. Almost nobody has yet so much as pointed out that a presumably reputable (but as yet unidentified) hotel allowed a logistically mystifying act of privacy violation to take place on its premises. Privacy is the very pith of the hospitality business; it is part of what we buy when we rent a hotel room. The internet has been an engine of fame and fortune for Erin Andrews, and its power to intensify the effect of the original crime committed against her is inherently equal to its power to make her a celebrity. But what was done to her in that hotel -- and surely the hotel needs to be named and shamed, for the benefit of the world -- would be a sadistic crime of equally severe import whether the internet existed at all.

And, more from Deadspin, "It Was A Rough Week For ESPN," and previously, "ESPN Doles Out Swift Bristol Justice Over New York Post's Erin Andrews Coverage."

Plus, another attempt at explanation, from Michael Rand, "Sports Voyeurism."

And here's an analysis that combines legal aspects with moral condemnation, "Is it a Crime to Watch the Naked Erin Andrews Video? No, But it Makes You a Total Jerk." Yet, millions have now searched for and likely watched the video. See also, The Week, "What Made People Watch Erin Andrews Video Peep Clips: Was it the Media's Fault, or Yours?"


UPDATE II: From Jessica Valenti, at Feministing, "Erin Andrews and Consent":

I've been really happy to see that a lot of male sports bloggers are writing about feeling badly and almost feeling complicit in the objectification of sexualization of Andrews because of past posts they wrote about how hot she is, or featuring pictures of her that were meant to somehow titillate their male audience.

I also think that it's awesome that our own Community bloggers - like Dangerfield and Marc - have taken on the broader questions surrounding sports culture and masculinity.

What I'm really interested in, however, is the non-consensual issue that comes up in this story. People aren't interested in this video, this isn't a big internet sensation, because Andrews is a hot celebrity who people might be able to see naked. You can see plenty of hot women naked online. Folks want to watch this - and people find it interesting - precisely because Erin Andrews didn't know she was being filmed. And that reveals something really fucked up about the way American culture views women.

This would be a great analysis, up there with Jezebel above, except that Feministing, which is Jessica Valenti's personal blog, displays naked tail-flap women at the top of the banner masthead (an obviously sexist peep-exploitation gimmick that helps keep reader-eyes glued to the page). In other words, Valenti's a total hypocrite. Plus, she was called out big time for pumping-up her breasts in a comely sweater for ex-President Bill Clinton a few years back. Ann Althouse pointed it out her post, "Let's Take a Closer Look at Those Breasts," and Glenn Reynolds linked:

Quoting the title of this post unleashed some serious Instalanche action. (I knew it would.) The most ever, actually. And late on a Friday! What are you going to do? Guys love breasts. I think Jessica knows that quite well. And I think for all her gasping outrage, she's thoroughly pleased to get this attention.

The attention to her breasts, that is. She's a babe too, and recently married (to a man), so there's always hope for randy guys who meet her scheming for an untimely divorce. See Jessica Valenti, "My Big Feminist Wedding."

Added: Another woman writer who breaks with the hardline feminist meme: See, Kitt Badlove, "Erin Andrews Sexy Video is Instant Career Boost":

If you are not aware, ESPN sports news correspondent Erin Andrews has an illegally shot video of her walking around her hotel room naked buzzing around the Internet. Yes it's hard to find if you just browse the web and I'm not in the biz of telling how to easily find it. But what I can tell you is this. The video itself is no big deal. Yet for Erin it has accomplished a great deal for her. It's what I call the Paris Hilton Effect. Scandalous video equals instant celebrity status. After all, Paris Hilton was just a rich nobody until the video of her having sex with an ex boyfriend hit the Internet.

OK, the guys reading this are asking, what does Erin Andrews look like naked? In this case Erin Andrews was just standing in her hotel room naked, doing her hair. In the video there is nothing to see. The resolution is low and the poor video could really be of any tall nondescript blond. Yes you can see her fully naked but frankly it's not of an overtly attractive body. She's not overweight, but other than what appears to be evidence of potential breast implants there is nothing remotely exciting either.

A couple of points: One, while a single case (from an essentially anonymous blogger), here's a clear example that men aren't the only ones interested in watching the video. Indeed, in the case of Kitt Badlove, this is the most nonchalant secondary voyeur's account I've read yet. And second, I have to completely disagree that Erin Andrew's peephole invasion is a "career boost." Hardly anyone is speculating as to what Ms. Andrews should do next. But she's scheduled to start sideline reporting for ESPN's college football programming in September. When the football games start, the working assumption has to be that every guy in the stands has seen Erin Andrews nude. Ms. Andrews has declined interview requests, and ESPN - for all the scandal and speculation on an inside perp - appears set to keep Andrews on as scheduled. Yes, the fame will propel Andrews into the ranks of the media elite if she chooses to move on from the network. But who knows her psychological state? Not only will every handshake from a stanger feel like someone's copping a feel, but the small-town innocence that made Andrews so approachable to the fans by necessity must be abandoned. Anyone could be the next stalker.


scooter said...

quit deleting my comments. Are you afraid of having your cheap traffic increasing tactics exposed?

I am sure you've got that "moral clarity" running up your arse when you post 50 cheap shots about a hot blond chick, in order to get traffic to your site.