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By this point, not yet seven weeks into the current congressional term, the whole country has grown tired of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The freshman radical socialist phenom from New York’s 14th congressional district has been radically overexposed by the media.
Her gaffes are getting old. Her narcissistic, defensive tweeting is tedious. And yet, the media keeps obliging her with photo ops, social media clips, and endless sound bites. They cannot look away, lest they forfeit clicks.
Last week she grimaced at the State of the Union, while wearing white. Half the Democratic field of Presidential candidates embraced her “Green New Deal,” before it was withdrawn out of embarrassment. This week she took credit for tanking 25,000 potential Amazon jobs in her district, and betrayed her stunning ignorance of what a tax incentive is, by demanding that the $3 billion dollars in incentives promised to Amazon be used to give stuff to the poor, as if it were cash in hand. If the media really loved her they might help her maintain some mystique. Instead, Annie Leibovitz just photographed her and her live-in boyfriend at the Bronx apartment she barely lived in.
The media chases AOC because she generates clicks: Watching a train wreck is mesmerizing. Seeing a live demonstration of everything we fear about the ignorance of Millennials is riveting. But those are small matters.
The real reason that neither cameras nor citizens can look away is, of course: sex. The woman exudes a wild kind of sex appeal. She is hugely mediagenic. Her thin, lanky body, with the attention-grabbing, er… rack; the expressive face; the crazy eyes and large, invariably red lipsticked mouth—any casting director could have predicted her ability to grab attention.
To use the Hollywood term of art, young Alexandria is, “fuckable.” That is a rare quality among political women, possibly never previously seen in any elected female Congresswoman or Senator. (Though Harry Reid thought that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) had it early on, when he called her “the hottest Senator.”) Remember how the extremely hot Sarah Palin disrupted the political landscape, and we learned the acronym MILF? This attribute explains why there are so many politically conservative men telling the world that they would “do” her while complaining about her “stupidity” and irritating voice. Men are obsessed, despite the fact (or because of it?) that she is a clear candidate for the top right corner of the Hot-Crazy matrix.
Meryl Streep first publicized this Hollywood casting criterion in a now-scrubbed NPR interview. Asked how it was that she had been given all of the serious female roles in her generation, Streep responded, and I paraphrase, “In Hollywood, they decided early on that I wasn’t ‘fuckable.’ So I got to be interesting instead.” Amy Schumer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus elaborated on the concept in a sketch known to all Millennials.
Lest you think I am insulting the looks of all women previously elected to Congress, please note that the opposite of “fuckable” is not unattractive. It is “serious.” Serious in the manner of women who wish to be taken seriously in the serious endeavor of making the nation’s laws and policies. Serious so that citizens trust them, as we must. It’s not an accident that the women who have held the most power—Margaret Thatcher, Patricia May, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir…. everyone except Benazir Bhutto and Evita, were post-menopausal. Even Hillary Clinton, no sexpot, had to be “a certain age,” to be plausible as president. No one trusts a woman—or man—who radiates sexuality as a primary calling card, and excites it in others. This is true in real life, though not on TV, where the implausibly attractive imitate the serious.
For the record, this attribute of AOC’s is the major reason anyone—anyone—takes her “ideas” seriously. There’s no there, there. To be sure, the Socialism she spouts is a threat. But all those old people running for the Democratic nomination apparently believe that she is the ticket to eternal life, or at least to the millennial vote, because of her vibe, not her thinking.
Fascinating as it has been to watch, this AOC dumpster fire of sexuality in Congress is terrible precedent—for our political culture, and for women in politics. Charisma—the ability to charm—is tough enough for the admirably substantive to beat.
We are far better served by the somewhat dowdy style that women who actually hold power in Washington have settled upon. Being well groomed, and wearing professional dresses and suits that are flattering but don’t, say, cling to the bustline, or expose a large swath of clavicle and chest…that seems to work for normally attractive women in Congress. Even if they do not know the origin of the bright red lipstick, which, over the centuries frequently denoted that the wearer was a prostitute, or, more recently, merely loose, women in power have generally eschewed it. They learn the issues, so even if they aren’t eloquent, they are, in fact, informed. (A number get away with emoting, and big hats instead, but they have special constituencies.)
Sexual allure goes only so far when the actor doesn’t ever deliver. If Ocasio-Cortez wants to be taken seriously, she will rein it in, and master policy substance, if she can. I’d bet against it happening. And now that you know what the strange hold she has really is . . . you can look away.
Photo Credit: Gary Gershoff/WireImage