Friday, January 9, 2009


Ok, you may have to bear with me a moment here. I've read a number of things that are connected for me in the last several days that have got me thinking:

Women and men have always caused themselves pain or exposed themselves to danger or dismemberment for beauty. Everytime I wince at the descriptions of the white mask powders that Queen Elizabeth used, I think about the fact that women now insert silicone into themselves for a type of otherwise unattainable beauty. And before anyone lets men off the hook let me just remind people that high heels were originally popular in Europe to make men's calves more shapely and masculine and that in Italy during a period we refer to colloquially as "the Dark Ages" Men wore short tunic and tights to show off their butts. It was a guy who was searching for the fountain of youth in Florida and he wasn't looking to sell it off to L'Oreal.

So in short order I read about Lisa Rinna, I saw a really interesting photo of Brad Pitt where he specifically requested a photographer who uses derrogotype  , I read a number of female movie critics who were trying to find a way to talk about the effects of plastic surgery on the ability of actors to act on film, I saw this review of a series of intentionally altered photographs, I read comments in FARK about how a woman who wrote a blog entry about a French Politician went back to work a couple of days after a c-section, and those people called her a "fatty" ( the blogger not the politician, who actually looks like she could use a sandwich) and quite honestly that blogger looked normal/PTA-mom-not-gross-attractive to me. I will not link to the comments, FARK is not for amateurs and I think that they were posting in a manner that is true to the nature of FARK. I was NOT offended by it but it did get me thinking about the nature of attractiveness used in the media. 

Then my favorite artist was writing about the few extra pounds she put on, and quite honestly I look at her pictures with a certain amount of envy, because she is talented and beautiful and quite frankly thin. Then in a completely unrelated action I had to weigh myself and find that my weight was lower than I thought it was, and certainly lower than I felt, but that didn't help. Then I saw this picture of Kelly McGillis ( a farking brilliant actor) then and now, and thought "wow I wonder if anyone will hire her" and then I saw poor Nikki Cox and went " Oh dear I wonder if any one will hire her?"

It is Nikki and Lisa that stayed in my mind most as I was reading all of the other items. These women are beautiful and while I think Nikki is a gifted comedic actress, I think from everything I've every seen from Lisa Rinna that she's a genuinely nice person. Here they are before they felt that they needed to interfere with their aging process - Lisa, she's the one on the far right, and Nikki. Lisa flat out admits that she went too far and I'm not sure what Nikki was thinking but honestly, I really hope it fades. But what made these women feel that what they were looking at in the mirror needed to be so drastically altered?

But I know. I know the dirty little secret. These women don't see themselves in the mirror, they see parts, and each part is looked at not through their eyes but through the eyes of the people they are trying to get to cast them. It's not about youth or sex or any of those things. Nicole Kidman's forehead is frozen because when she looks in a mirror there are slight lines in it and she can only see those lines, not that they are altering her ability to act. None of the rest of us can see those lines, and unless you are Brad Pitt, you are not allowing anyone to photograph those lines, because you don't have enough power to make people accept them.

 And that's the reality in the U.S. Since only about 2 percent of the people in the world have the right bone structure to look good on film, that leaves the other 98 percent out struggling for "character" roles . Roles, incidentally that they seemed to have stopped writing, both for women and for less than attractive people. The "ordinary best friend" role is played by the brunette pretty person, Jeneane Garafolo is considered the "ugly one" in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs". If she's the measure of ugly on film, I was SOL until I was old enough to play bag lady extras in the background.  

So here's what I am thinking - I don't really know what I look like, but I have learned that I don't see what other people see. My mirror is distorted. I can look regal and ugly and interesting but there is no part of me that ever sees "attractive". Because I see myself the way I must look at an audition. I have no idea what I look like "in life". And trust me I'll never get cast as Juliet, but I was cast as Romeo once. Nowadays I might have a chance at the Nurse. These women all had a chance at Juliet. 

When these actresses look in the mirror, I think they see "how much longer will they let me act?" and then, because they see the nose, or the chin or the lips instead of themselves . . . they change those things. Their view is distorted  so the changes they make are distorted too. 

There is no Linda Hunt or Margaret Hamilton paving the way for character actors who are female and less than beautiful. The only older women we get to see are Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and Diane Keaton, who were not exactly normal looking when they started out. Also they get to be old because they've won Oscars and such, and have mad skillz. Do you think we could even find anyone to cast in a remake of Arsenic and Old Lace? 

These women, Nicole, Nikki and Lisa are truly beautiful in every conventional sense of the word, and a large number of the unconventional ones, but they aren't alright with themselves either. I wonder if any of those funhouse mirrors are even capable of being broken. If they are distorted to themselves, how distorted are we?

Sigh. Pass the clown suit, but I think I'll skip the surgery. My starting material isn't the same caliber as theirs so there's a lot more room for error.

1 comment:

Micki said...

Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and Diane Keaton are some of my favorite actresses, and I LOVE the way they have looked at all points in their careers. I am always astonished at how bad people look after their surgeries to make themselves look younger. I hate that mommy dearest eyebrow, and those stupid fish lips, do they really think they look better, how bout those joker smiles? Every time I look at a picture of myself, I hate it, but when I look at it a couple of years later, I think, wow, you looked fine, what was your problem? Yes I could stand to lose a person in weight, but I am not gonna go lop it off with a knife. Botox is a nice idea in theory, if they could keep it seeping into uor brains, after all, by the time we need Botox we need our brains to work better than ever.