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Wemple‘s sports post previewing the Redskins-Giants game was so popular yesterday, let’s do another. But on tennis this time.
So everyone knows that 17-year-old Melanie Oudin made one hell of a run at the U.S. Open this year; the No. 70 seed dispensed with Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova, and Nadia Petrova, before being defeated last night by Caroline Wozniacki. The accolades have just streamed in.
But some in the blogosphere are wondering if there isn’t some reason other than her talent that she has been so readily embraced by the media: namely, her physique (petite) and her skin color (white).
Writes the women’s issues site Jezebel:
Oudin certainly seems to be a lovable sports star, and her accomplishments are definitely praise-worthy, but there is something off about the way she is being celebrated. She has been called the “darling” of the U.S. Open, America’s “sweetheart,” a “pint-sized, freckled-faced blonde from Georgia,” the “tiny little savior of women’s tennis,” everything it seems, save tennis’ “Great White Hope” (although given the media coverage of Oudin’s win, it would probably be more like the “little, teeny-tiny, super cute White Hope”).
Especially problematic was this article from the Daily Beast, which quoted ESPN sportscaster Michelle Beadle comparing Oudin to the Williams sisters. “From Day 1, I’ve never heard the Williams sisters referred to as sweethearts,” she said.
Even if racial considerations weren’t an issue before that reference, it seemed more than fair to talk about them after.
One question, as posed by Jezebel, is: What does that really mean, “America’s sweetheart”? And could there be something as radical as a black sweetheart?
Among those enjoying that label, over the years: Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe, tennis player Chris Evert, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, even Sarah Palin.
They’re not all blonde, but…
In July, the online site cinematical weighed in, almost desperately, it being the pre-Oudin age and all, on who might be the next sweetheart (since several of those mentioned above are “in their 40s now and are no longer interested in the title”). I scoured the list of a dozen candidates, certain that every single last woman on it would be white (if not blonde and white). Kirsten Dunst: check. Scarlett Johansson: check. Anne Hathaway: check. But just making the cut, at No. 12, was the African-American actress Meagan Good.
So that proves it: There can be a black sweetheart! Just not, God forbid, anyone as tall, in-your-face-muscular, and good – columnist George Vecsey of the New York Times suggested they are sometimes “too good” – as Venus or Serena Williams.