Heidi Klum says "auf wiedersehen" to her clothes

The opening to last night's Emmy Awards show didn't offend me as a woman. It offended me as a television viewer!

Published September 22, 2008 6:42PM (EDT)


Heidi Klum

Last night, I watched the Emmys. As Heather Havrilesky noted in her terrific recap, it was lame. Like, suuuperlame. There were so many annoying and baffling things about the show that it's hard to pick out just one. However, Broadsheet received this e-mail from a reader, and I wanted to respond -- as someone who knows, who cares and who has been there. The e-mail reads:

"Please tell me that you will be addressing the whole Emmy incident of Heidi Klum getting her clothes ripped off. Why, in 2008, is this a) OK and/or b) funny? My boyfriend, god bless him, was dumbfounded. Not in a, 'Wow Heidi's hot' way, but in a 'Why is it OK that William Shatner just ripped her clothes off?' way. "

Ooh ooh ooh, I know this one. First, let me tell you how it played out in my apartment: I watched the show with a male friend, who turned to me after Heidi Klum's clothes were ripped off (a stunt I called the moment Klum showed up onstage in a tux, by the way).

"Does that offend you as a woman?" he asked.

"No," I said. "That offends me as a television viewer."

So, now, to your question, piece by piece. "Why, in 2008, is this OK"? Well, it's not. Next: "Why is it funny?" Well, it's not. It's neither OK nor funny. But that doesn't really get us anywhere. Because what I think you want me to address is: Why did it happen?

That answer is longer. Stay with me.

It happened because, for some desperate reason we don't understand, ABC asked five reality show hosts to host the Emmys. This is bad thinking. (Kathy Griffin would have killed! But she's a loose cannon in a politically charged season. Can't offend anyone!) So someone decided, "Oh, I know: Let's ask these five loquacious and Emmy-nominated reality-show hosts to open the show, because, let's face it -- a recession is on, and these dudes will work for peanuts and porn."

Now, one problem: What to do about Heidi Klum? She's eye candy, but she's a liability. Because the supermodel host of Bravo's "Project Runway" is A) not a native English speaker and B) not comfortable working outside her milieu and C) not remotely the salesman/performer that her fellow nominees are. In particular, it was going to be problematic to ask Klum to engage in any patter with her co-hosts at the show's opening. So someone (and who knows, maybe it was a woman -- all I know is, it was someone extra-desperate) came up with the idea that her clothes should be ripped off. And then someone else said, "But get Shatner to come up from the audience and do it!" And Shatner (like Gary Busey) is always a sign that a sketch has gone creatively bankrupt. (I love Shatner, but this is the truth.)

So, my friend, that is why this happened. It was horrible. It was cringe-inducing. And it was sexist, though that's just the tip of the iceberg. As Havrilesky rightly notes in her recap, the opening intro was possibly "the worst, most painful three or four minutes of self-indulgent, ego-driven delusion ever witnessed on live television. Their babbling winds on, there are no jokes, and it all ends with William Shatner ripping Heidi Klum's clothes off, which Klum responds to with her usual robotic interpretation of 'sexy.' How did these sad humans come up with this mess?"

Thank you, Heather. I was wondering the same thing myself.

By Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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