A baffling mixture of feminine perkiness with smug patriotic newsanchorliness. Possessed by women with high profiles in mainstream media, but usually abandoned for either perkiness or gravitas once the newswoman is experienced enough with both to decide between them. Currently the perkitas ringmaster on television is Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee, who must be blessed by a rogue star, because she remains the only female fake news reporter on a hit comedy show two women created.
(Yes, two women invented The Daily Show; and at least one, I am proud to say, is an out lesbian. Kind of makes you scratch your head when you see how few comediennes are featured on that program.)
Perkitas wavers uneasily and insecurely between all-American cutesyness (or, for our Canadian readers, all North American cutesyness) acceptable to male watchers, and gravitas, which ought to be gender neuter but is not, as many men find it threatening when possessed by a female news reader.
Defining characteristics: a nice round, solid Midwestern broadcast voice; the same suggestive pauses and stresses on certain words and phrases as found in gravitas, such as "terror", "patriotism", "homeland", and "national security"; but the piercing gaze is occasional, fragmented, cautious and discarded, in favor of alluring sidelong gazes and cute, perky nods used as punctuation marks. Usually the exclamation point.
The true connoisseuse of perkitas has shoulder-length, neatly groomed hair with highlights or in a color that is never dark brunette (dark blonde with a touch of auburn seems the going flavor), very average height, rounded, cute features, an upturned Caucasian nose; and an easily-identifiable-as-feminine name like Samantha, Kelly or Katie. Freckles and an air of wholesomeness are definite pluses.
Most news anchorwomen possess gravitas, but to appeal to male viewers they usually discard it in favor of perkiness. Katie Couric's fame shot through the roof when she decided to adopt perkiness. Elizabeth Vargas at ABC opted to enforce her journalism credentials and chose gravitas, as a man would have done. See where she is today.
Men, by the way, can possess perkiness. See below.
Personalities who possess perkitas:
Mega-Everything Oprah Winfrey
First Lady Laura Bush (we're unsure how to read her, as a result)
Closeted TV host Mario Lopez
Comedy Central star Samantha Bee
To a large degree, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert
TV supernewswoman Katie Couric
Former gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who may have invented it
Singer Marie Osmond
TV hostess Kelly Ripa
TV host Regis Philbin, the King of Male Perkiness
Experimenting with perkiness:
MSNBC news host Tucker Carlson
Former Daily Show alumnus Mo Rocca
Chose gravitas and were promptly exiled:
Former news anchorwoman Linda Ellerbee
Former news anchorwoman Elizabeth Vargas
NSA Secretary Condoleezza Rice, but Bush connection keeps her on party lists
First Dame of the Media Helen Thomas
Basically every smart woman you know who won't sleep with you
"You can't have both gravitas and perkiness. As a woman, you've got to choose."
"Okay, I choose perkitas."
"All right, Samantha."
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