Magazine article The Progressive

Heard the One about Janet Reno?

Magazine article The Progressive

Heard the One about Janet Reno?

Article excerpt

It is almost impossible to make it through a late-night talk show monologue without hearing a joke about her. In David Letterman's "Current Events" quiz, as viewers saw a photo of a giant Christmas tree, the question read, "What's eighteen-and-a-half-feet tall and can currently be seen at the White House?"

Correct answer? Janet Reno.

Or, high on Letterman's top ten list of the most dangerous toys for kids? Rock 'em, Sock 'em Janet Reno.

In another joke, Letterman posed the question: "Clinton was relieved when Janet Reno decided not to do what?" Punch-line? "Corner him under the mistletoe."

Jay Leno, commenting on the Clinton family's shopping trip in New York, noted that the President bought a pair of size 13EE running shoes at Foot Locker. "I guess we know what Janet Reno's getting for Christmas," he quipped. And Will Ferrell's ongoing drag impersonation in "Janet Reno's Dance Party" on Saturday Night Live features the nation's first female attorney general as a pathetic, love-starved nerd who throws herself at men and dances like a robot on angel dust.

The news media have picked up the script. That august publication the Weekly World News first floated the story that 78 percent of Japanese men surveyed allegedly said they'd rather be shipwrecked on a desert island with Janet Reno than with any other woman on the planet. Fashion photographer Kazutaka Itosu reportedly told the News that Reno is "a vision of beauty--and by far the sexiest woman in the world." On the Weekly World News's web site, Reno's head is superimposed on a woman's body wearing a black leather strapless bathing suit. Unlike the News's other stories about public figures, such as its famous photo of Ross Perot shaking hands with an alien, the rest of the media did not dismiss this curio. Instead, CNN, Time, The Boston Globe, and others picked it up and ran with it.

The New Yorker got into the act, too, with a report saying that Clinton staffers refer to Reno simply as "The Martian."

Why has this incessant ridiculing of Reno taken on such a regular, almost ritualistic, quality?

Sure, Reno is a far cry from America's corporate standard of beauty the underweight, poreless, thick-haired, slim-hipped, big-busted, pouty-lipped sylph who helps sell Oil of Olay, Special K, L'Oreal, and Diet Pepsi. But so is Madeleine Albright, and she's not a regular in Letterman's nightly monologue. She knows how to flirt with Jesse Helms.

No, Reno's transgressions cut beneath the skin and expose some rather sensitive cultural nerve endings.

Twenty years ago, in his best-selling assessment of American life, The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher laid out the traits of the narcissistic personality, the person whose sense of self was shaped as much or more by advertising images as by anything else. …

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