Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Changing Faces of Beauty

I've just been doing some research on blonde bombshells and the remarkable thing is how few of the great actresses of the past actually fitted the title, which was coined for Jean Harlow to publicise her 1932 film Bombshell. That was the time when her hair, dyed almost white, also earned her the nickname of the "Platinum blonde", because that is what it looked like in black and white film - all there was in those days, of course. There were other blondes of course: Betty Grable, Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe were famed for their figures and a sense of sexual waywardness (albeit carefully nurtured by the studios), while Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren were all about class and the more subtle sexiness of unattainability. The fact that they were all very different in appearance actually helped make them stars. Other actresses, such as Rita Hayward and Jane Russell ("mean, moody and magnificent") were redheads and brunettes, with Elizabeth Taylor trumping them all not only for her raven hair but also her amazing violet eyes. It was the last era when all beauties were different.

Looking at the pictures of these old Hollywood stars I was struck at how variously beauty was interpreted and how vital it was to the screen image and persona to have an easily recognised and unique look. Then I checked out Madonna Style (see it at Amazon here). Here is a star who has totally destroyed any personality and individuality in her face in order to follow a bland concept of beauty based on the assumption that perfection (no distinguishing marks or unusual features) is what makes a woman sexy. It is wrong, of course. The fashion face - because this is what it is - is bland and empty, as a look at any fashion magazine will show. It is boring so that it offends nobody who might be thinking of buying.

Madonna has changed an interesting, challenging face that demanded attention into a mask. And she is far from exceptional among current stars and celebs. The result is that eventually all women will look alike (if they can afford the surgery!) and in 50 years' time no one will be remembered as an individual at all. And I am willing to bet that men won't find any of them sexy at all.

1 comment:

  1. So true Colin!! There is no longer any uniqueness. Expressionless, uniform looks are championed by celebrities, taking away that "je ne sais quoi" that made them special. I find this high-maintenance, "ageless" look completely abhorrent; it is unobtainable for many and unsustainable for most. I find I have to scold myself as I pull back the first creeping crows' feet....despite not aspiring to have a face like a mask, society's pressure to remain youthful still affects me, damn it!!!