Just last week, Glenn Beck joked about being physically ill after seeing Meghan McCain appear to be naked in a PSA. Instantly, the country erupted into outrage with even Beck’s friends distancing themselves from the comment. Yesterday, Beck repeated the same exact fake-vomit joke after looking at a picture of Mildred “Patty” Baena, the mother of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s child born out of wedlock. Beck’s radio co-hosts warned him against going down that road as he started making comments but he did it anyway. And, then, a funny thing happened…no one said a thing.
There were no calls for Baena’s defense. No one was saying Beck should apologize. Not only were they not offended, they were joining him in his derision. All over TV, radio, and the Internet, people were deriding Schwarzenegger for having an affair with someone they thought was so unattractive. And this includes the people on supposedly serious news shows.
On Fox News, Martha MacCallum brought on Dr. Keith Ablow (he of Glenn Beck co-author fame) and dedicated a full segment to figuring out why Schwarzenegger would cheat with a woman like Baena. MacCallum quoted Paul Newman’s famous line, “Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?” But, whereas Newman was probably talking about all of his wife’s qualities, the Fox News segment seemed to be purely about looks. Arnold “could have any woman in the world!” MacCallum declared, saying she expected a “Cindy Crawford-type.”
Watch the segment below. The relevant section begins at the 2:30 point.
Obviously, as much as we try to deny it, physical appearance in incredibly important to our society. In fact, one of the biggest hits currently on television is a singing contest show that defines itself by promising to not judge the singers by their looks. Hell, they seem to think this is so unique that it deserves to be referenced in the title. And, in Fox News and MacCallum’s defense, one of the first things people think whenever they hear that a public figure or friend has left or cheated on a longtime partner with someone is “What does the paramour look like?”
However, it was striking just how much Baena was mocked and insulted these past few days. And it made me wonder why that was. People defended McCain even though she had the power (in the form of her own column) to defend herself. They defended her even though she has powerful parents able to defend her. All the while, a woman with no power receives no defense. Why did McCain get so much support and Baena received absolutely none.
Was it because people know and like McCain? Was it because she was so much younger than Beck or just young in general? Was it that she has admitted to having “fluctuating weight” and people hated seeing someone be mocked for something they’ve publicly struggled with? Was it because she actually is very pretty and everyone just disagreed with Beck?
All of these things probably contributed to the outpouring of support that McCain received. However, it seems to me that there’s another reason no one’s sticking up for Baena; people think she deserved it.
Mildred Baena broke the rules. She cheated on her husband and she slept with another woman’s man. Therefore there’s an enormous lack of sympathy for her in the public and reflected in the media. And it’s not just about her appearance, (although that was the easiest thing to latch onto, just look at the way The New York Daily News eagerly quotes the section of her MySpace where she describes herself as having a body with “some extra baggage”). Her whole identity is fair game. Read the fascinating and depressing story TMZ’s Harvey Levin tells where he accuses CNN of going back on their own standards of not releasing her name.
And, what’s interesting, is that everyone seems to have forgotten that Baena may very well be a victim here. While Dr. Ablow was explaining how Schwarzenegger’s impressive physique may have made him the “apple of [Baena’s] eye,” people forget to point out that he was the employer. There’s a possible predatory nature to that with the chance that Schwarzenegger coerced Baena into a sexual relationship by taking advantage of his position of power. Obviously, we don’t know that this is how it went down, but we don’t know that it’s not. (Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher goes into this fully in his column here) Is there perhaps a gender component to this? When a wife cheats on the help, do people blame her or the poolboy?
Whatever the case, people seem to think, maybe just subconsciously, that Baena is merely getting what she had coming.
To bring things back to Beck, I’d like to remind people of his ongoing crusade against America’s involvement with the “Arab Spring” going on in the Middle East. One of the main points he continuously brings up (besides the Nazi comparison stuff) is Arab nations’ treatment of those whom they deem have done wrong. Repeatedly, he reminds viewers that these cultures stone women to death when they’re accused of adultery. How can we side with people, Beck asks, who are so cruel? So different?
At this point, no one has lobbed any rocks at Baena’s head that I know of, but doesn’t it seem clear that we in America have our own way of punishing women that have broken society’s rules?
Now, I’m not really writing this to judge anyone, more as just an analysis of a cultural thing I find interesting. It just seems weird to me that you can be condemned and ostracized for pretending to vomit at seeing one woman, but, if you do the same thing to another woman, you’ll just end up another voice in the mob.
Below is the video of Beck mocking McCain and below that him mocking Baena:
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