- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2003

Dating decline

“Monica Lewinsky has a new job: doling out her sage dating advice as host of a new Fox TV ‘reality’ show, ‘Mr. Personality.’ In the show, a babelicious young stockbroker named Hayley is asked to choose a lover from a group of 20 masked suitors. …

“As host, Ms. Lewinsky functions as Hayley’s on-site girlfriend, giggling with her at hidden-camera footage that shows the suitors misbehaving at a party and helping her to make the undoubtedly difficult decision. … What does it say about our society that we now consider Monica Lewinsky qualified to help anyone find her soulmate?

“Lewinsky’s show is only the latest in a whole slew of dating-based ‘reality’ TV shows. … [T]he success of these shows — 40 million viewers tuned in to watch ‘Joe Millionaire’ choose his guileless mate — shows how much we love to watch other people date, especially when there’s a better-than-decent chance of witnessing an emotional train wreck. Why do so many eligible singles prefer to sit at home watching other people go out to dinner, walk hand-in-hand, and smooch in bubbling hot tubs than actually go out on dates? When did we start to consider dating a synonym for hell?”

Elizabeth Austin, writing on “In Contempt of Courtship,” in the June issue of Washington Monthly

Baghdad Penn

“Sean Penn … filed a lawsuit against producer Steven Bing for allegedly firing the actor from a $10 million payday after he returned from his Iraq fact-finding mission having found no facts — which he nonetheless recited endlessly to Larry King. The predictable result, just before a war that at the time had the support of at least half the country, was public outrage — and his unhiring.

“Now, $10 million paydays are a wonderful thing, and so is the freedom to say whatever’s on your mind, but they may not be wholly compatible. More and more often, the list of actors who command that — Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, among others — are all talented folks who command huge salaries not because they’re necessarily the most talented actors around, but because over the years they’ve built up an extraordinary amount of goodwill among the movie-going public. …

“Sean Penn, by contrast, has displayed a career-long disregard for the nice-guy images cultivated by Hanks and Cruise and Washington. …

“Penn’s ill-timed and ill-considered comments … made him look like Jane Fonda in Hanoi.”

—Joel Engel, writing on “Celebrity Injustice,” Friday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

The boy next door

“The man police say is the serial killer who has been terrorizing the Baton Rouge, La., area for nearly a year turns out to have been a local boy.

“He lived just down the road from my family. … ‘I would have let him in if he’d have shown up at my door. He was the nicest, most polite guy,’ says my sister, who was a classmate of suspect Derrick Lee’s. …

“Now I am hearing from concerned people back home that some of St. Francisville’s black residents are saying out loud that, despite the DNA evidence, Mr. Lee couldn’t have done the things of which he is accused, that surely this must be a case of racist whites trying to blame an innocent brother.

“This is bad news. Anxiety over the serial killer has been so high for so long in the area that racializing Mr. Lee’s upcoming trial would be an act of unspeakable cynicism and destructiveness. Derrick Todd Lee may or may not have murdered those women, but I fear that by the time the legal system is finished with him, he will have killed the spirit of a good community.”

Rod Dreher, writing on “A small town has lost its innocence,” Saturday in the Dallas Morning News

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