Editorial: ‘Sexiest’ search arouses public disgust

All right, America. Enough is enough.

Thursday saw the latest addition to the family of so-called “reality” television shows: ABC’s “Are You Hot? The Search for America’s Sexiest People.” The aim of the show is to scour the country looking for the hottest people around, narrow them down to a field of 128 contestants (using celebrities to help decide who should be ousted and who should remain) and allow viewers to choose the sexiest man and woman, who each will receive $50,000. Or, as several of its critics have termed it, “American Idol” without all the fuss of evaluating one’s singing — or any other — talent.

There are multiple programs of a similar nature that compel us to turn off the set, but this one is the ultimate. Do we need to budget an hour into our schedules to watch judges tear people apart for simply not being attractive enough? Who was the person that decided we needed another way for people (both on screen and in the audience) to feel inadequate? Actually, to no one’s surprise, the creator is the same genius who brought us such trash as “The Bachelor” and “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?,” shows which are both similarly impressive in terms of the amount of revulsion they inspire.

Some of the casting directors are just as bad as the person who conceptualized the show. In a recent edition of Entertainment Weekly, one of them is quoted as saying, “We’re not looking for your deep, philosophical notions on politics. We’re trying to get down to the bare basics of what is hot — and what is not — to the American people.”

The real challenge for these directors might be paying attention long enough to make such a superficial judgment. To that end, contestants are urged to take it all off, since the judging panel sees so many applicants that the extra attention garnered by showing more skin is indescribably valuable.

It’s hard to decide what’s worse: the fact that sex appeal alone is now grounds for 15 minutes of fame (and a huge cash prize) or the fact that so much of television is devoted to this. Even movie stars who only have a pretty face going for them are forced to shoulder the title of bad actor. Now, your acting can be atrocious and you don’t have to carry a single note so long as you have washboard abs or a big chest.

This is not an isolated case, however. Much of reality television belongs in the same toilet this show occupies. Shows like “Joe Millionaire” (which is predicated on a lie, ironically on the channel with the highest-rated network news show), “The Bachelorette” and “Fear Factor” eagerly bound across the line between taste and disgust with reckless abandon and immense popularity.

The one thing that is certain, though, is that this show will likely generate tremendous ratings. After all, the old adage says that sex sells, and “Are You Hot?” has conveniently eliminated everything but sex. There are certainly more pressing issues facing the country than the fate of a reality television show, but hopefully concerned citizens will see this program for the absolute waste that it is and ignore it entirely.