I was delighted to notice last week that the "Hooters" on my route to work has gone out of business. Business failure doesn't usually give me that warm, happy rush of schadenfreude, but for Hooters I'm glad to make an exception.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm no puritan. I've got no problem with people strutting their sexuality. Regarding the Hooters namesake, I've got no problem with large breasts, or the appreciation of large breasts. Like, whatever.
What I do have a problem with is disingenuity, and the whole Hooters concept is nothing if not disingenuous. The basic business model -- hiring friendly young women on the intensity of their smiles and the volume of their boobs, and having them serve food in, basically, underwear -- has always attracted notice from people with the crazy notion that this sort of thing might somehow reduce women to a crude sexualized cartoon. The Hooters response has remained quite consistent over the years: their critics are killjoy fuddy-duddies who just don't get the joke. Too serious! Lighten up!
It's amazing how effective this line of defense has been, considering the obvious flaw in its reasoning: there's no joke to not get. I mean, sure, the IDEA of a restaurant staffed exclusively by big-boobed young women might have been kinda funny; there was a Seinfeld episode that explored the concept if memory serves. But when you take that idea and start writing a business plan, the laughter dies down a few sentences into the first paragraph. A restaurant chain is a money-making enterprise. To claim that the hundreds of thousands of hours of work put in by executives, financial professionals, attorneys, graphic designers, managerial staff, kitchen staff, and of course the attractive young female shock troops -- to claim that all of that maintains the spirit of a "joke" is absurd on the face of it. Defending the enterprise as some sort of elaborate performance art installation, a revolutionary comment on the place of boobs in modern society, is just asinine. It's radically disingenuous.
Moreover, it's OBVIOUSLY disingenuous. Whether or not you buy the idea that the Hooters business plan is demeaning to women, for its owners to respond by saying "you just don't get the joke" is not addressing the critique. It is merely insulting the critics. It is a gloating sneer of a reply from people in power who feel no responsibility to respond to or even really acknowledge the concerns of the community in which they operate.
And really, that's no way to behave. Their parents should have taught them better. To laugh in the face of those who criticize you corrodes the basic civility that holds a culture together. So it's this that has always pissed me off about Hooters, much more than the two-bit T & A reality of the place, which is just kind of adolescent and tacky.
So farewell, Montavilla neighborhood Hooters! It makes me happy that you couldn't turn a profit here. Wouldn't it be grand to see a more socially valuable enterprise taking your place between Stark and Washington? But who am I kidding. Doubtless we'll get another payday loansharkery, or maybe a strip club. Still, even that would be an improvement in my book. I’m not crazy about strip clubs, but they are usually pretty honest about what they are.