Vanity Fair's fawning Megyn Kelly profile makes you wish someone like Megyn Kelly would attack it

I watch Fox News for a living, and the only host who disappoints me is Kelly, because she clearly knows better

Published January 4, 2016 5:17PM (EST)

  (AP/John Minchillo)
(AP/John Minchillo)

Megyn Kelly and Salon have complicated relationship, certainly, but we do respect her for swimming against her network's various rising tides, even if we're disappointed that she doesn't do so more often.

But it's difficult to read Vanity Fair's new profile of her and not wonder whether this is the sort of story someone like the person we believe Kelly to be would actually appreciate. Consider its second sentence: "The crew dudes finish shining her glass desk, through which viewers can see her shapely legs."

While it may be true that her legs are "shapely" and that producers at Fox News emphasize that by seating her at a glass table and, presumably, suggesting that she dress in a certain fashion, it's not exactly an intellectually flattering way to begin a profile about a professional journalist. Nor is emphasizing the fact that she'll be interviewing Jeb Bush while "girded in a snug black dress and four-inch strappy heels."

But Evgenia Peretz's interest in Kelly is supremely superficial -- the cumulative effect of all of Peretz's flattery is that Kelly's success is a product of how she looks and not, as she's repeatedly quoted in it as suggesting, despite it. For example, Kelly quotes Steve Martin saying "be so good they can't ignore you," which Peretz follows up by noting that Kelly's "skinny jeans, hair pulled back, her wide eyes rimmed with dark eyeliner, looking more the take-charge hot New York mama than glossy Fox News anchor."

Peretz refuses to allow the reader to forget what Kelly looks like, and focuses on how she puts "all the male their place," which while true, strongly suggests that her appearance is an integral part of why she's able to do so. This isn't to say that journalists don't take advantage of every edge they have -- Joan Didion famously used her bikini-clad persona to infiltrate pockets of American culture that would've been otherwise closed to her -- but Megyn Kelly isn't Joan Didion.

She's not diagnosing American culture so much as documenting it, and that doesn't require the kind of subterfuge Peretz's dogged attention to her appearance suggests she uses to trip up the likes of Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. The simple fact is that Kelly's smarter than either -- she outwits them not because she possesses the "star power...of Julia Roberts," but because she's capable of "[u]nnerving would-be leaders, blowhards, and didacts from both parties" on the strength of her intelligence alone.

By Scott Eric Kaufman

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Fox News Megyn Kelly Profiles The Kelly File Vanity Fair Video