Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sexist or Showmanship?

In mentalism it is a necessity to have volunteers participate in the action. Of course, we all know that sex sells and keeping with that line of thought I always choose the sexist woman I can find to be an assistant. I never thought of my actions as being sexist but rather practical. I mean, if you ask some nasty looking thing (no offense to nasty looking peoople - I am no Brad Pitt myself) on stage then you risk the rest of the audience tuning out and getting bored - I blame society.

Don't get me wrong, I use other people as volunteers too. However, I always try to pick good looking ones when the volunteer is the main focal point of the effect. For instance, during my version of Fourth Dimensional Telepathy I don't care what the specator's look like. Instead, I just pick people randomly throughout the room. On the flip side, whenever I perform Richard Osterlind's Watch Routine (Mind Mysteries Volume 1) I always choose good looking participants because the audience's attention is directed towards the spectator for a prolonged period of time (while the watch is being randomly set, while the other spectator is thinking of their time, etc.). My thought process is that the good looking participants will hold the attention of the audience.

Usually I don't get any complaints from anyone for choosing sexy volunteers. However, the other day I may have crossed the line between sexism and showmanship in a rather overt fashion. I was doing a show for free (my mentalism is not yet ready for paid performances) and had a crowd of only 15 people. I asked for a volunteer for a center tear type effect so I chose a very good looking lady to assist me. I should mention that my performing "character" is one that is sarcastic and a wise ass; just like my normal character come to think of it. So, I have this sexy assistant and this is what I said, "Do you know why I picked you as my assistant? Well, it is because this part of my show is new and it doesn't always work right. I figured that you should be my assitant so that if anything goes wrong everyone else here will still see something amazing." Implying, of course, that she is amazing to look at because of her good looks.

At the time of delivery, the line got a good laugh from the audience and my lovely assistant didn't seem offended. At the end of the show, I got a good round of applause and I thought things went great. However, a friend of mine told me later that he thought the line I used with the sexy assistant was offensive and sexist and that I should drop it from my shows. Of course, I disagreed with my friend for a couple of reasons. First, the audience laughed. If it was so offensvie shouldn't I have been scolded or walked out on by my audience? Second, the assistant herself didn't seem offended. Well, I didn't get slapped by her anyways. Although, I do agree with my friend that if she were offended she probably wouldn't have said anything since she was in the spotlight and was probably nervous. Finally, I think the line is okay because it fits in with my character. I don't play mister proper and nice when performing so when I use a line like this it isn't a shock to the audience. It is a natural extension of my persona and it is said in a playful way.

Overall, I really do not think that what I did was sexist or offensive. I like the line and I plan on using it again. Maybe I am wrong and just can't see that I am a horrible sexist person. My girlfriend keeps trying to tell me how bad it is, but I can't hear her when she is far away in the kitchen gettin' me another beer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that it's too easy to flatter a hot-looking chick. Your girlfriend's complaint isn't so much about sexism as it is about envy. The heavy, aging women in the audience will resent the fact that the bimbo is the star yet again.

I think a better approach is to start by ignoring her beauty. The men will still enjoy the eye candy. Then make her slightly uncomfortable; see Doc Dixon's version of a Matt Schulien effect, "Under Your Seat." Now the not-so-hot women in the audience are with you.

Another approach is to follow Doc Dixon's advice and avoid a woman who spends too much time on herself. You may be better off chosing the woman who seems most "into" the show.

3:45 PM  

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