Is this rant on sexism from a gaming show a sign of progress or did it go too far?

Is this rant on sexism from a gaming show a sign of progress or did it go too far?
Olivia Munn arrives at the Stella McCartney Autumn 2018 Presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

There used to be a cable TV show about gaming called “Attack of the Show” which lasted from 2005 until 2013. One of the co-hosts of the show between 2006 and 2010 was Olivia Munn who would later go on to various acting roles on television and in films. During her AotS days, I think it would be fair to describe Munn’s role as being the sexy but funny gamer girl. References to her sex appeal weren’t just off-hand comments on the show, they were turned into a running gag, one that was clearly designed to appeal to what I would guess was a young, mostly male audience.

The reason I’m bringing all of this up now is that the same network that created the show just relaunched it with a new set of hosts. And this week one of the new female hosts, who goes by Froskurinn (Icelandic for frog) made a big splash when she went on a rant about “sexism in gaming” and in particular her role on the show. “It’s somehow accepted that you can talk about how much you jerked off to women as a compliment. It’s not a compliment. It’s dehumanizing and it’s weird,” she said. She added, “Women do not exist to be nice on the eyes for you! Morgan Webb, Olivia Munn did not exist to be nice on the eyes for you!”

Clearly she has a point in saying that women don’t exist to be nice on the eyes for men. Women and men exist prior to and apart from any such considerations. However, what works as a broad statement about existence doesn’t necessarily work as a statement about a TV show that really made its name off the sex appeal of its hosts. So when she says that “Olivia Munn did not exist to be nice on the eyes for you” that’s a bit of a category error. It’s not why Olivia Munn exists but it was clearly part of why she was on a television show for male gamers for four years. And again, there was nothing subtle about that at the time as many people were quick to point out.

There was also a gag where she pretended to pull off her panties and throw them into a pile on stage. She once jumped on a baby oil slip and slide. Then there was the time they had her jump into a giant pie wearing a skimpy maid outfit:

Or the time she wore a Princess Leia bikini while reporting for the show in 2014:

Or the skit where she wore a wonder woman outfit:

There’s really nothing new about this. Back in the 1960s producers for the UK TV show The Avengers hired a series of beautiful actresses to co-star with Patrick Macnee on the show. One of those actresses, Diana Rigg was given the name “Emma Peel” as an inside joke of sorts. The name was based on the idea that the show need to have “M appeal” or man appeal. And it clearly worked since the show was a hit and Diana Rigg went from The Avengers to being the next Bond girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Getting back to the question I started with. Is it a sign of progress that we’re now calling out the idea that men might tune into a show because of a beautiful actress or is it going too far? My own take is that working as a spokesmodel or actress on television isn’t the same thing as working as a subject matter expert. That’s why news anchors tend to be fairly good looking (men and women, on Fox News, CNN and your local news channel) while the experts they bring on to talk about things often look more like regular people.

If Froskurinn wants to argue that she’s there as an expert on video gaming (something she seems to be) not as an object for the male gaze, that’s fine. If she wants to argue that men demanding she look and behave like Olivia Munn are being unfair to her, that seems reasonable too. She deserves to be taken on her own terms and if that doesn’t include dressing in skimpy costumes and making bawdy jokes, that’s up to the show’s producers. But I think she goes too far when she suggests previous female hosts also weren’t there to draw male eyeballs when any review of the show proves that’s clearly not the case.

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