Fun With Libel And Slander!

Apparently one of my new job skills is “near-libel.” That is, implying something nasty without saying it directly, or managing to quote someone else doing the libeling. My review of the latest travesty from VH1, “The Pick-Up Artist,” has an example:

It’s a pretty reasonable premise: Find eight guys who just don’t know how to act around women, and give them lessons. “Beauty And The Geek” managed to make the geekiness-makeover work. But “The Pick-Up Artist” makes it stupid, sleazy, and exploitative.

More than the usual VH1 reality show, I mean.

First off, where “Beauty And The Geek” had some balance, requiring contestants to learn from each other, “The Pick-Up Artist” is focused solely on the failings of men who can’t “get” women. Second, and most important, all the advice is pointed toward techniques from “The Game,” the borderline-misogynist manual that tells men how to bed women with the techniques of a used car salesman. In fact, the show is hosted by the man who more or less invented The Game.

He wears a purple-furred bucket hat, charges big bucks for weekend seduction seminars, and calls himself Mystery. He and his sidekicks J-Dog and Matador are the sort of guys whose nicknames should alert potential partners to the fact that they’re sleazebags. That, and the way they approach seduction as a male competition in which women are merely the method of keeping score. And the fact that they just look like they’d give you herpes and then never call you back.

In other words, “The Pick-Up Artist” is about turning shy men who don’t know how to relate to women into sleazy men who relate to women as prey. Great job, VH1. What’s next? Will it be a show based on The Rules that teaches women how to lure men into a loveless marriage, or one in which you explain that women can generate interest from men by participating in wet t-shirt contests?

In this example, the almost-libel is the herpes joke. I didn’t say he had herpes; I merely said he looked like an inconsiderate sex partner. Close, but an important legal distinction.

Which makes me wonder… why is herpes the STD everyone makes jokes about, anyway? Is it because it’s icky but not really dangerous? If so, why not joke about crabs, which are equally harmless and equally icky?

I also wonder if my high-school English teachers would be proud of this use of my writing skills and the way I made herpes a metonym for reckless sexual promiscuity. Probably not.

2 thoughts on “Fun With Libel And Slander!”

  1. I love how the subjunctive, boiled down to just two characters, with only one of them a letter, saves your ass: ‘d.

    As for the implications of crabs vs. herpes, I think the real distinction is that crabs can be cured trivially. You don’t even need prescription drugs. That being the case, spreading crabs doesn’t so much imply a history of promiscuity as it implies a complete and utter lack of hygiene. It’s not just that someone has slept around a lot; it’s that they’ve slept around a lot and not bothered to *do* anything about the uncomfortable consequences. The mental image is not of J-Dog (though the name does suggest fleas) but rather of Pigpen.

    Moreover, I’ve heard jokes about crabs. Either you need to get out more, or else your circle of friends just doesn’t find cause to joke about them much. Then again, the crabs humor I’ve heard predates widespread awareness of herpes (stories an uncle brought back from ‘Nam). Maybe it’s a generational thing.

    Get off my lawn!


  2. The number of jokes about herpes is probably also a result of just how damn common it is. Accoring to recent studies, 1 in 5 Americans has herpes. This rate is higher in urban areas (in DC I think it is around 1 in 3) and if you are black (incidence is around 45%). So statistically, not only do these guys look like they have herpes, they almost certainly do have herpes.

    So the moral of the story, kids…wrap up and practice monogamy.

    Also, I find most of my STD jokes tend towards oral gonorrhea. What is oral gonorrhea? I’m not even sure it exists, but I am certain that it is funny.


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