I’M Abig fan of the TV quiz show The Weakest Link. I enjoy trying to answer the questions that host Anne Robinson asks the contestants.
Although my ego gets a little boost whenever I can answer a question that one of the contestants gets wrong, I’m ashamed to say that I sometimes feel a little smug and superior when the person answering a particularly easy question gets it spectacularly wrong.
For example, the question, “What is the main ingredient in chicken liver pâté?” elicited the following response: “Erm, err, um … beef steak.”
A short while later, when Ms Robinson was evaluating that particular round of questions, she said to the beef steak fan: “Your intelligence knows no beginning.”
However, the insults that Ms Robinson spits out often make me feel a little sorry for the contestants and stop me from thinking that I’m overly-smart.
I’m not sure why anyone would volunteer for a dose of public humiliation, especially since the prize money awarded to the winner of The Weakest Link is relatively small. If I were to expose myself to ridicule and shame on national television, I would make sure that I was being adequately compensated for it.
There’s another aspect of The Weakest Link that I don’t quite like: there’s something about the way Anne winks into the camera at the end of each show that sets my teeth on edge.
I’m not sure what it is: the twitching of the facial muscles that precedes a forced wink, the fluttering eyelids or the accompanying smile. Her wink could say many things:
“Hey, it was all just a bit of a lark.” Or “What a bunch of bozos!” Or “I really don’t want to do this but the producers are forcing me to bond with you in the hope that I don’t completely turn you off me.”
Other than close friends and family, who might wink at me in public as a show of support or to convey an unspoken message that is instantly understood, I’m generally suspicious when someone winks at me.
The assumed familiarity can even be a little creepy at times.
I first encountered an unfamiliar winker when I was a young girl.
There was a travelling grocer who used to drive his van around the farming communities in my part of the Scottish countryside.
The first time I placed one foot on the step at the back of his travelling shop, he looked down at me from his vantage point and winked at me in a way that made me nervous.
I was only eight years old at the time, but there was something about his ruddy complexion, his big hands and that wink that told me that I ought to be on my guard.
As I watched him with his large back to me, deftly cutting a chunk of cheese from a large block of Cheddar with his wire cutters, I imagined him applying the cutters to my neck.
This was certainly nothing more than the workings of an overly active imagination, but a few seconds later when he turned around with the wrapped cheese in his hand and winked at me again, I almost expired on the spot.
That wink told me that he had unspoken intentions; intentions that were so dire that they couldn’t even be put into words.
Then there’s the wink that is laden with sexual innuendo. The wink that says, “Hey, how about it? Me and you?”
When I was in my early 20s, I had a boss who would often wink at me when he thought no one was looking.
I tolerated his behaviour stoically because I needed the job. These days, such antics would have him hauled up for sexual harassment.
The latest winker to hit the big stage is Sarah Palin, US presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate.
During her debate with Joe Biden, her Democratic counterpart, Palin winked a few times in a deliberate manner.
I thought her winks made her look dishonest and manipulative and depicted her as the sort of woman who uses her sexuality to get what she wants, not the sort of person you’d want sitting at the right hand of the US president.
Anne Robinson, the biggest winker of them all, had this to say about Sarah Palin’s misplaced gestures:
“It’s depressing that she exists, never mind that she winks.”
Palin’s antics might just have turned her into her party’s weakest link.