June 18, 2009
So yesterday I posted my first Stern blog, put my computer to sleep, went down to my car and turned it on. The first words I heard out of the radio were: “Super elongated [female body part].”
I had to laugh. Here I was trying to describe Stern in the most elevated terms, dedicating a whole blog to understanding his critical impact on culture—and then he smacks me in the face with a super-elongated….
Here’s where Stern differs from the rest of the media pack that has covered the lurid story. First, he stakes out a position. He’s a Jew and he has an opinion. I’ve listened to the show long enough to know that he has a knee-jerk rant against sex change operations. “The doctors who do these things should be locked up,” he says. He calls it mutilation. He says the same about circumcision (he has three daughters, so he never had to face the choice).
Then, after giving his opinion, Stern demanded details. Exact details. How do they form her organs into his. A skin graft? A bone transplant? Does it have sensation? Can it be used like an authentic one.
Keep in mind Stern’s on Sirius now, so there’s no FCC regulation. This is adults speaking to adults, using adult words. Stern is unafraid to be graphic in the pursuit of information, and as difficult as it is to hear, it is fascinating. That’s one Stern attribute: He doesn’t look away. Most of the media draws us in to a topic especially for its lurid value, but then takes a polite step back. If Stern has a transsexual on the show, he has the woman pull down her pants and has someone describe, in detail, what’s doing. “Nothing human is strange to me,” the Roman poet Terence wrote. The truth is, almost everything human is strange to us, and Stern forces us to look.
I get in the car this morning and Stern is still talking Chastity. This time he is getting a report from one of his reporters, Lisa G (née Glasberg), who he sent out to investigate how exactly a sex change operation works. She reports back that it involves clipping a ligament, freeing up a woman’s sexual part, adding a kind of prostheses, creating a sort of robo-penis. The gang on the show cracks some jokes about it.
And here is where Stern’s talent really impresses me, and where society underestimates him: by going deep on Chastity Bono, he has just educated his audience, brought a hidden and shamed world into the light, laughed about it—used humor and information to foster tolerance. We fear what we don’t know, we hate what we don’t understand. Stern’s show goes a long way, among a wide demographic, to reducing that ignorance.