The Word “Fascinating” Has Lost All Meaning
12:30 pm, December 13th | by Carmen Shardae Jobson
Barbara Walters’ annual December special covering the year’s “10 Most Fascinating People” is typically a banal hour-and-a-half reminder of everyone that you hated (or liked!) who shaped the last twelve months of pop culture. In appearing on this special, these people become not just E! News-worthy, but gain the cachet of being profiled by ABC News. And then there’s the “mystery guest,” the tsar of intrigue, the #1 most fascinating person of the year.
Laughably, former General David Petraeus was dubbed the most fascinating of them all (what is it about political scandals seeped in sex that people find so enthralling!) in Babs’ eyes, but to her credit there were plenty of ladies that made the list, including author E.L. James, gold medal Olympian Gabby Douglas, reality TV star Honey Honey Boo Boo, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. While Chris Christie had to justify his temper and Ben Affleck was still seeking forgiveness for inflicting “Bennifer” upon us, the crop of “Fascinating” women all seemed pretty likable (to be fair, so did Christie). However.
OK, OK! I’ll beat you to the punch. How on earth can you place Secretary Clinton and Honey Boo Boo on the same list of achievement? The answer seems to me because they’re both representative of disparate aspects of The American Dream — and evidently the American people find them both relatable. Honey Honey Boo and her family of Southern hillbillies may be lacking in etiquette, but it’s exactly their imperfections and unexpected love and confidence for themselves in the face of them that calls to mind the adage of stars being made, not born (or, as Walters put it: “Her mother looked at her child and saw a winner”). And for the past decade or so, Hillary Clinton has grown in to a preeminent figure with the kind of poise and intelligence that both men and women alike can respect. Though she appears adamant about not running for office again in 2016, her supporters are still hoping she’ll change her mind.
The other two most fascinating women, E.L. James and Gabby Douglas, are noteworthy for similar reasons. James debuted her blockbuster book Fifty Shades of Grey this year, and the world will never be the same. Though lampooned by literary elitists as trash, new fans of James became swept up in her lascivious tale. Erotic fiction has been around for years, but James’s take on it made her iconic. Douglas may be the most extraordinary honoree on Babs’ list, as she was just an ordinary girl with big Olympic dreams a few years ago. By overcoming many personal struggles, and in dealing with bullies and naysayers who said she wasn’t good enough, Douglas’s was the sob story with a fairy tale ending for 2012.
So while last year’s list included the presence of a certain privileged family whose stories were fed to us as dishes of gossip fodder, this year the women receiving Barbara’s recognition called to mind a trait other than “fascinating”: inspiring. We just wish that, in spite of all their achievements, a philandering general was named number one.