Hunter Thompson, who should know, once said that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. The man, alas, was a prophet.
Things don't get any weirder than "Hunting for Bambi," the new "adult" paint ball game in which men pay large sums of money to hunt naked women who dash about trying to capture flags without getting zapped by a 200 mile-per-hour paint ball pellet.
On the one hand, this feels a little like a summer rerun. They're digging up Hoffa (again) and men are objectifying women (still). Haven't we done this already? Men angry; women stupid. Or vice versa. So what's new?
On the other, it's hard to avert one's eyes. What have we here? What we have is ... the next thing - an extreme response to an extreme culture that seems each day to pose a challenge: 'Oh yeah, top that!'
Unfailingly, we do. Jerry Springer, who brought human trash into America's living rooms, is seriously considered for public office; Larry King interviews and feels the pain of porn stars, who are, after all, just like the rest of us; the ubiquity and thus banality of pornography, meanwhile, makes gravel seem mysterious and alluring.
This exhaustive display of humanity's basest instincts, combined with the anatomical focus on the mechanics of intimacy, may simply have reached its inevitable evolutionary climax in the Xtreme sport of hunting naked women. Live sex and violence go real time, protected so far by the barely legal technicality of adult consent.
For those who've missed newscasts in recent days, this new game is the brain issue of Michael Burdick who, let me guess, couldn't get a date in high school? Kidding, kidding. I'm sure he's charming.
Burdick acknowledges, however, that his clients tend to be of the quiet variety. "For the individual who's used to saying, 'I can't go out with the boys tonight' ... it's a chance for him to come out and vent his aggression and really take charge."
For up to $10,000, fellow social failures can travel to Las Vegas, hit the desert and shoot at naked women. What could be more fun than that? The women, with names like Bridget and Nicole, are paid $2,500 if they don't get hit, $1,000 if they do.
Photographs on the Web site (HuntingForBambi.com) show nude women smeared with blood-red paint and displayed as one might any slain trophy. A hunting lodge wall features female "racks" - sculpted heads and busts displayed for the rapture of those whose solitary evenings are little mystery.
Just innocent fun, as Burdick and satisfied customers plea? Or something more ominous, as psychologists and women's groups are pondering. One psychologist quoted in a Las Vegas television report declared the Bambi hunt every man's fantasy come true.
It is? Huntin' nekkid wimmen, hoo-ey! They call this adult entertainment, but I keep mumbling 'arrested development.' My natural antipathy, nevertheless, is tempered by consideration of the probable action/reaction at play.
The question isn't why men (and women) would do such a thing, but why wouldn't they? Given our cultural currents and the dependable human propensity to do the worst thing possible, we might have predicted it.
Between the onslaught of porn, which endows women with all the humanity and self-esteem of a blow-up doll - and daily reminders of men's sexual inadequacy via the morning spam-athon for male-enhancing products - is it any wonder some men respond symbolically by paint-balling Bambi? Not an excuse, mind you, just an objective observation.
In the same week that Bambi made headlines, meanwhile, what else was all over the news? The new Bravo show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," wherein five gay men buff up a style-challenged hetero dude.
The featured men are predictably uncouth losers who need help attracting or keeping women, and who better to teach them? Gay guys get all the girly-girls: "Love the hair, love the shoes, lovelovelove the show! What's not to love about funny gay men ridiculing remote-controlling Barca-lizards whose idea of style is matching denim?
"You never want to match your denim," says the clothes vamp. "You'll look like some crazy farmer."
Or maybe some stupid hunter who thinks shooting Bambi is a sport? Stop or I'll scream!
You don't get much further - from one extreme to another - than gays guys poofing butch men and butch men poofing naked women. It's a riot, but maybe with hope, luck and time, they'll cancel each other out.
- - - -
Kathleen Parker's recent column about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction contained an incorrect date for John Kerry's comments about that subject to the U.S. Senate. The comments were recorded in the Congressional Record Oct. 10, 1998.