Normal Versus Beautiful -
The New Class Warfare?

By Michael Goodspeed

After the media feeding frenzy that was the OJ Simpson murder trial of 1994, one of the talking-head legal analysts covering the case who rose to subsequent fame was defense attorney Greta Van Susteren. A frequent guest on Larry King Live and other CNN shows, Van Susteren was given her own nightly show by the Turner-owned network in 1998 called Burden of Proof.
In late 2001, Van Susteren was bumped in favor of former Fox News talk-show host Paula Zahn. It was Zahn, you may remember, who was the subject of the now infamous and short lived CNN ad campaign which referred to her as "just a little sexy."
Immediately after being dropped by CNN, Van Susteren joined her fellow-OJ trial relic Geraldo Rivera at Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel. The move perplexed some, given the fact that Van Susteren, like Rivera, is anything but the typical right-leaning pundit that seems to so dominate the Fox News line-up.
Van Susteren received a plum prime time slot at 10 PM EST, immediately following the Hannity and Colmes discussion hour.
Prior to beginning this broadcast, Van Susteren, to the surprise of many, underwent plastic surgery, reportedly to remove "bags under the eyes," which were the product of 20 straining years at the elite level of the legal profession. But when recent photos of Van Susteren were posted on the Fox News website, it became obvious that Greta's alleged "nip and tuck" entailed a heck of a lot more than we'd been led to believe.
Greta Van Susteren, in her days at CNN, did not resemble the new generation of hard-body bomb shells that have proliferated on Turner's and Murdoch's networks over the past decade. That is to say, she looked like a normal human being, with all the blemishes and imperfections that you and I see when we look in the mirror every morning. She was 47 years old, and wore the battle scars entailed by a stressful professional life in the modern world.
She didn't wear low cut blouses to accentuate a high and full breast line, didn't cross her legs at a side angle, ala E.D. Donahey and Katie Couric, giving viewers a tease of her upper thighs, didn't use her appearance to achieve a success that she could not attain by using her brain.
But the "new" Greta bears so little resemblance to the old Greta, it is likely that not one person out of a thousand would find her recognizable unless told. If removing bags from one's eyes can do this much, then a few hours with a plastic surgeon could turn Abe Vigoda into the next Brad Pitt. Gone are any hint of wrinkles on the forehead; the once crooked teeth are now straight and pearly white; the crows feet, sagging chin, and saddle bags have vanished completely; a new hair-do and makeover were an obvious success.
Greta's appearance is so radically different, it is startling -- perhaps even disturbing.
When Greta looks in the mirror, does she still know the person who returns her gaze?
Is Greta made shallow by the fact that she willingly shelled out a small fortune to make herself look a lot more appealing to male TV viewers? Or is Greta herself the real victim here, forced to evolve (or mutate) by the looks obsessed big wigs in the TV biz?
A time existed (not that long ago) when gorgeous TV anchors were anathema in the TV biz. One of the few true bombshells to first emerge was Jessica Savitch, who many critics (unfairly) deemed a "bimbo" and "airhead" because of her looks. Plane looking pundits and anchors were not the exception but the norm until the mid 90's, when Murdoch's network, a bastion of journalistic integrity if we've ever seen one, first emerged. All the women, literally EVERY one, on Fox News is not just attractive, but eye popping, drool inducing, jaw dropping sexy. CNN has inevitably followed the trend, hiring such anchors as the aforementioned Zahn, and former model and actress Andrea Kramer. It was Kramer, on CNN's Headline News, who generated controversy last year when her nude pics from 1986 became a popular item on the internet.
How sad a societal commentary is it that a woman of Greta Van Susteren's intelligence must engage in costly self-mutilation in order to be accepted in the vast TV wasteland?
In an era when 6-year old girls regularly die of anorexia, teenagers with rich parents receive liposuction and breast implants, and children are shunned and pushed to suicide because they're too "fat" and "ugly," how much farther can the media's standard of "beauty" continue to be pushed beyond all reasonable or realistic limits?
The gulf between the beautifuls and the norms is not limited to the world of elite media. A SUNY Albany study showed that people of both genders who are considered "attractive" are more likely to be hired and promoted than their homely counterparts.
Do you feel angry, short-changed, or bitter that you live in a world which places less value on qualities like wit, intelligence, creativity, charity, compassion, and courage than on physical appearance? Do you wish you could turn back the clock to an era in America when one's looks were not a pre-requisite to worldly success?
I'm not an exceptionally good-looking person. That is to say, I look normal. I'm short, my hairline is receding, my teeth are a little yellow, I have pock marks from my teenage acne. But I am just as smart, dynamic, inventive, knowledgeable, and capable as any young hottie I've ever met. Why the hell should I have to work twice as hard in order to find the success that I deserve?
Let's not put the blame for this sickening trend on anyone but ourselves. The TV, movie, and magazine execs throw images of taut and exquisite flesh at us because we demand it. We buy their homogenized sexual stimulation packages like the well trained drones that we are. We shell out $7.75 to catch a glimpse of Jennifer's Lopez's rear end at the local cineplex, we pay $1.99 for the latest TV guide showing traces of Gillian Anderson's bust line, we sit in stupefied arousal like horny dogs as ex-models and porn stars read us the "news of the day" from their teleprompters.
I'm truly sorry, Greta, that it's come to this, and I weep for you, but I must also thank you for serving as a great reminder of the total loss of our country's soul.
From Tobin Squires
Dear Mr. Goodspeed:
I recently read your article and wanted to say thank you. I am not in any danger of winning any beauty contests. I am an average looking 22 year old male college student, and to say the least I am sickened by the sexualization of almost every aspect of our society. That is not to say I am some bible thumping traditionalist, it just means that I also believe that we are certainly at a strange time in history.
I'm not usually inspired to write someone like this, but you have struck a nerve in me. I work as a janitor in the evenings and get a lot of time to think. Concepts of Beauty are a common inquiry for me and I have come to a strange way of thinking about it. I have taken to a "Napoleonic" concept of beauty... that is, everyone is ugly until proven beautiful.
It makes me laugh to see that written out, but it works in my day to day life. With this Napoleonic concept, I find it much easier to deal with people... and because of this way of thinking (I can look at my female peers, dancing on bars in the skimpiest of clothing, and not be fooled by the festival of flesh (such is college life). I don't know if I am making any sense, but it works for me.
Thank you again for the article and the insight into this era of artificial beauty that we seem to be stuck in. In some small way I take comfort in the digital revolution that we are also stuck in, because in its purest sense, it strips a person of any physical body and leaves them with nothing but the power of reason. Rene Descartes would be proud.
From Chris
Mr. Goodspeed,
Your article Normal Versus Beautiful was tremendous! I agree with you totally.....It appears we are facing a new and dangerous way of thinking and looking at the world around us, of course, all bought and paid for by our favorite corporations. I loved how you wrote:
"I'm truly sorry, Greta, that it's come to this, and I weep for you, but I must also thank you for serving as a great reminder of the total loss of our country's soul."
How true! I never liked Greta, but it was because I disagreed with almost everything she said. After reading your article, I even questioned myself if it was because of her looks. But honestly, Mr. Goodspeed, I shudder to think of our future in this new world of the advantageous and opportunist methods and preferences of self-appeal.
Thanks again for your great article!
From Jaime Ballester
Michael - I just ran into your Greta article posted at I just can't believe my eyes! I'm still picking my jaw from the floor! I never watch FOX but I was wondering why Greta left her CNN show. Thought she had gone back to practicing law full time again. This is unbelievable! You said it very well, its even DISTURBING!
I will be showing your piece to my "normal" 43 year old wife tomorrow, as she is asleep already tonight. Your closing paragraph says it all, what a sad state of affairs, and it will only get worse. Will be watching FOX tomorrow for more shock treatment.
"Normal" 45 year old father and husband...
Jaime Guaynabo Puerto Rico
P.S. Can't fathom her voice with that "face".

From Anton Thidis

You know, there are many, many people who would describe the old Greta as "attractive." I think its abominable the way Madison Avenue sets the standard for what it and is not "attractive" or appealing to the eye, especially with women.

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