First, contrary to implications, there is nothing new, experimental, risky, or even medically interesting about the process of gender reassignment. That process has been refined for over 60 years, since before Christine Jorgensen went to Sweden in 1952. Today, the whole process is quite well understood and standardized, the psychological and behavioral indications, the drugs and hormones, the social and cosmetic aspects, the surgery. It is a straightforward medical matter for Ms. Jenner and her doctors.
Second, the entire publicity storm was obviously artificially created to boost ratings and sell magazines. With respect to Ms. Jenner being awarded an ESPY for “Courage”, there is a distribution agreement between Disney/ABC which owns ESPN and Comcast/NBC which owns E!, the home of Jenner’s reality show. In the biz this is called “synergy” and Disney is notorious for it. Simply put, a media corporation uses its many outlets to publicize one of its “stars.” People see this star all over the TV on the different channels and they naturally assume there is some real basis for the coverage. But it is all manufactured and phony.
I resent the hell out of the fact that something people I love have suffered and bled for is being used as a publicity stunt for schlock TV.
Ah, but am I contributing to the stunt by writing this? Worse yet, am I acting in bad faith, contributing to their hype and hoping to grab a little for myself? Maybe. I prefer to think of it as judo, using the opponent’s strength against him.
Here’s the point I hope you will consider: Television manipulates us in an absolutely irresponsible and immoral fashion for no other reason than to increase ratings and profits. Irresponsible because they do not consider the consequences of their actions either to the culture or to the individual and immoral because they treat us like things, objects to be manipulated for their own gain, rather than as persons. They are unconcerned with the mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, sexual, financial well-being of either you or our culture. In doing this they violate the most fundamental moral precept known to humankind. In the words of Jesus of Nazareth, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In the words of philosopher Immanuel Kant, “You must never treat persons as things.” In the words of Rastafarians, “I and I say I and I, instead of we or you and I, because the other is an I also.” To sum it up in the words of Jane Martin in her play Talking With, “You’re jus’ merchandise to them, sweetie. You’re jus’ merchandise to them.”
Perhaps the greatest producer in television history, David Chase of The Sopranos, stated this all very clearly: the overriding purpose of television, all of it, the programs as well as the commercials, is to create docile, easily manipulated consumers. To this end the message they portray is “Everything is wonderful. Let’s go buy something.”
Reference for media ownership: Wikipedia articles on E! (esp. note 9) and Comcast.
David Chase from interview on NPR’s Fresh Air -> http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1741153
Christine Jorgensen -> http://www.christinejorgensen.org/MainPages/Home.html
Jane Martin, Talking With -> http://www.amazon.com/Talking-With-Jane-Martin/dp/0573630216. There are several monologues from the play on youtube.
Photo from Before It’s News -> http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2013/09/blow-up-your-tv-2755730.html
Video by Jake and Justin, The Weiner Bandits -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVAiBrW1EzU
Full Disclosure: Since I do not watch TV, I almost missed this whole thing. It was brought to my attention in a post shared by an old friend arguing that Lauren Hill might have been more deserving of the ESPY. To show you what I know, my first thought was, “What the heck does Lauryn Hill have to do with ESPN?” I understand now and wish that I had known her, since my friend and mentor Andrew Elkins also died, with courage and dignity, far too young, of an inoperable brain tumor. For Lauren Hill and Andy then, again from Jane Martin, “She instructed me with her death. Taught me with her going.”