The internet and mainstream media are abuzz about illegally-obtained nude footage of ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews. Would they be less interested, as Deadspin suggests, if Andrews weren't such a "princess"?
In an article creepily titled "You Know You Want To Watch That Video," Monica Hesse describes the footage thus:
Last Thursday, a video featuring a primping blonde in a hotel room surfaced on an adult Web site. The accompanying post hinted that the woman was a drool-worthy sports personality. On Friday, her Los Angeles attorney, Marshall Grossman, affirmed that it was Andrews, and that the video had been taken by an unknown peeping Tom.
Despite legal warnings, the video went viral, with top Google searches including "Erin Andrews peephole pictures" and "Aaron Andrews" ("from lewd but illiterate voyeurs"). Hesse's article is mostly concerned with the moral question of to-watch-or-not-to-watch, and she writes,
Perhaps it is your duty to watch, just to be informed. Wouldn't you watch a naked video of, say, Chris Berman, just because it was there?
But Will Leitch, writing at his former haunt, Deadspin, thinks maybe "you" wouldn't, or at least not in such large numbers. He writes,
This is not just any sideline reporter snoop video. It's Erin Andrews. If this is Holly Rowe, or Jill Arrington, or Michele Tafoya, this story is over in a day, if it even goes that far. But it wasn't. It was Erin Andrews. She was not called America's Sideline Sex Object: She was called America's Sideline Princess. Lisa Guerrero posed for Playboy. Jamie Little models when she's not updating us on NASCAR. Andrews was never like that.
Leitch goes on to say that Andrews was too busy traveling to pose for a photo shoots, but the implication is still there: she was too good. She was a Princess. Seeing her naked was different than seeing other sportscasters naked because she didn't have a "sex object" image. Leitch makes it clear that he doesn't condone this view, and that no one, Playboy model or not, deserves to be filmed against her will, but he may be right: Internet viewers may be more excited about objectifying women they haven't already objectified.
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, celebhotline.com 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. Newsweek's Jenny Yabroff writes,
What's really provocative about the Andrews tape, what makes it good copy for Fox et al., is not that she's naked, but that she thinks she's alone.
Privacy, it seems, is the new nudity. This is why, when Jennifer Aniston poses topless for the cover of GQ magazine no one does more than shrug, but when paparazzi catch her sunbathing topless, its tabloid fodder for weeks. Same with Britney Spears. Same with Janet Jackson. It's not so much a desire to see nudity as it is to see candor, to see what the person looks like when she's unaware she's being watched. [...] No matter how much access a celebrity gives us-posing naked, appearing on a reality TV show, revealing her deepest secrets in an interview-we're more interested in whatever part she wants to keep to herself, no matter how tiny or inconsequential.
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.
Did Erin Andrews's efforts to be taken seriously as a sportscaster actually feed this scandal (this is especially upsetting in light of TMZ's allegations
that the shooter of the footage may have been affiliated with ESPN, and thus familiar with Andrews's image and reputation)? And if so, how the hell are female sportscasters — female anything — supposed to win? At least, Hesse writes, the hotel footage is now harder to access, and links to it may point to viruses. Using an especially accusatory second-person, she says,
Your inner voyeur is slightly disappointed, clicking link after link, knowing that you would watch the appalling video for all the right reasons.
One thing's for sure: there are no right reasons.
You Know You Want To Watch That Video [Washington Post]
Jennie Yabroff: Erin Andrews' Peephole Pictures Are Privacy Porn [Newsweek, via True/Slant]
Andrews Peeping Tom — ESPN Investigating [TMZ]
Related: Erin Andrews And Guilt, Imagined And Otherwise [Deadspin]