Three cheers for Amanda Beard!!

Before I write this, let me make one thing clear: I am just as impressed as anyone by Michael Phelps’s eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. It’s an unprecedented accomplishment that definitely merits some attention.

But I’m getting seriously tired of the shit-storm of media coverage, interviews, and even ads for video memorabilia. Yes, immediately following Phelps winning his eighth gold, NBC showed an ad for a Michael Phelps 2008 Olympics commemorative video.

To add insult to injury, I had to hear Morgan Freeman narrate yet again, as his March-of-the-Almighty-Shawshank-Penguin voice congratulated Phelps on his accomplishment. Thankfully, every time I feel Morgan Freeman’s been ruined for me, I go back to this, and I feel unparalleled bliss.

I should also point out that I’m not about to say Phelps is a bad guy. Nothing that criticizes media treatment of a public figure need be interpreted as character assassination. So, if any Phelps fans feel like weeping over what I’m writing, just calm down and know that nothing I say deals with Phelps as a person.

Okay, now with that painful bit of diplomacy out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff…

Yesterday, fellow swimmer Amanda Beard, who recently posed nude for….PETA????…dared to say something negative about Phelps.


She’s taken a lot of flack for this, and she’s since made a public apology, which kind of disappointed me. While most interviewers, interviewees, sports journalists, and celebrity columnists line up like sheep to swoon over Phelps, spouting out praises like irrepressible verbal tics, Beard dared to say what many women I’ve spoken to really think: the dude is butt ugly!!!

I’ve watched the Olympics with many different groups of people, and each time Phelps was on screen, I had to hear “STOP SMILING!!” from at least one female in the room.

But the discussion of his unsightliness is incidental when compared to the fact that Beard was castigated for her honesty. Untactful and a bit over-the-top? Perhaps, but frankly, it’s a bit warranted (and I personally find it hilarious). Again, this has less to do with Phelps the person than with Phelps the movie-of-the-week, the icon that’s invaded national consciousness in the past few days.

Anytime the media machine inappropriately and distastefully advances its hegemonic agenda on the public, it’s nice to hear from a dissenter. Beard’s pointed, undiplomatic, plain-spoken expression of an individual opinion should be treated as a breath of fresh air amidst the suffocating din of Phelps idol worship.

This idea of idol worship has just spawned in me a beautiful vision. I will share it now:

Amanda Beard meets the ghost of Edward R. Murrow at the top of a mountain. She then climbs down to the mountain’s base, where she finds a crowd of fans and media executives dancing in front of a 50-foot likeness of a grinning, mostly-naked Phelps (constructed entirely of gold medals). In anger, she lifts her arms over her head. In their grasp are two copies of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, bequeathed to her by Murrow. With a war cry of “Ewww!!” she heaves them with all her might, striking Phelps in the smile. The mega-Phelps explodes in a manner similar to a Michael Bay film. The crowd then turns to Beard who proceeds to get naked and tell people not to wear fur.


1 comment so far

  1. Amanda on

    Michael Phelps is not attractive from the neck up. Period. Some people just need permits to smile. His body — not his face — got him to where he is. And the only reason women are swooning over him is because of the ongoing media attention. Show an ugly suit enough times in a magazine with the words amazing and beautiful underneath it and enough consumers will buy. But I’m not one of them.

    Every four years, women (and men) have the opportunity to view scantily-clad men — not women — on network tv display. I was looking forward to it. I was looking for the real thing. But instead Phelps’ scary grin eclipsed more worthy pretty male coverage.

    Was I the only one who looked up flights to Tunisia? Oussama Mellouli — god — I mean gold medalist in the 1500 meter free really caught my eye. But did you see him? No, probably not. Because NBC switched him off, so you could get out your credit card: Phelps candy commemorative medal — only $19.95.

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