Addicted to novelty since 2001

Propagating the Beauty Myth

If you open any popular women’s magazine (Cosmo, Vogue, etc), you’ll find the usual rail-thin models shilling the usual crap. If you turn to the masthead, you’ll find an entirely female editorial staff. I’ve always wondered a bit about that. Do these powerful women in the publishing industry feel any guilt about propagating the beauty myth? Should we expect more of them?

The latest (and impressively gratuitous) example of this phenomenon is D.E.B.S., a new film written and directed by one Angela Robinson. [more]

Here’s the plot summary:

This film focuses on four of these plaid skirted debutantes as they’re recruited and engage in their first mission, which is an effort to rescue one of their cohorts who has been kidnapped by the D.E.B.S. lesbian nemesis who calls herself Lucy in the Sky…

It’s the usual girls in short skirts, wielding usual big guns and enjoying the usual lesbian kisses. Ms. Anderson’s previous work amounts to Chickula: Teenage Vampire, so it’s no surprise that she’s turned out this dreck. Here’s what the New York Times offers:

Because of its mild sexual ripple, “D.E.B.S.” – the title is an acronym for discipline, energy, beauty, strength – is the kind of movie that might tempt an overzealous film student to read all kinds of deeper meanings into it. Don’t bother. The film has no idea of how to develop its one-joke premise. The tepid love scenes are as erotically charged as a home movie of a little girl hugging her Barbie doll, and the satire as cutting as the blunt edge of a plastic butter knife.

Lost in Translation, it’s not. Does Anderson have a responsible to not make this movie? Or is that too much to expect?

It’s easy–too easy–to write these films (and TV shows and magazines) off as sexy, trivial fun that don’t affect anybody. However, I think their cumulative effect is hard to ignore. We’ve shown that it’s possible to make quality, entertaining content that’s popular, but doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator. Buffy is a great example, as is The Simpsons.

Don’t get me wrong–I know that Ms. Anderson’s only the messenger. The really decision-makers at the studios are old white guys who try to follow the dollars. And I fully appreciate that the male editors of Maxim, Playboy and a zillion other magazines are as guilty. However, I’m often struck by how similar the photo spreads in Maxim are to those in Cosmo.

2 Responses to “Propagating the Beauty Myth”

  1. Preach

    An astute observation Darren, and something that I have found eternally perplexing and to my everlasting shame have actually given some serious thought to. If indeed Helen Gurley Brown and her ilk are running these magazines then how is the pressure of ‘looking beautiful’ and ‘being un-naturally thin’ continually placed at the doorstep of men’s expectations of women being unattainable.

    I lump it in with everything else that surrounds successful marketing. If you want to sell something, you construct your images around the archetype. The uber successful businessman, the rugged individualist, the sexiest woman alive. You want to impart the qualities this archetype has to your product, and make the buyer feel that they too will be bestowed upon them with the simple purchase of an item.

    End the end it all comes down to what successfully and most profitably sells and we have no one to blame but our collective consumerism. If their approach did not work then as quick as a biscuit to sop up gravy they would be onto the next approach. The beauty myth moves product and therefore it is here to stay,

  2. Robin Scanlon

    Thoreau’s blog contained an interesting post pertaining to the “beauty myth.”

    “The walker and naturalist does not wear a hat, or a shoe, or a coat, to be looked at, but for other uses. When a citizen comes to take a walk with me I commonly find that he is lame,—disabled by his shoeing. He is sure to wet his feet, tear his coat, and jam his hat, and the superior qualities of my boots, coat, and hat appear. I once went into the woods with a party for a fortnight. I wore my old and common clothes, which were of Vermont gray. They wore, no doubt, the best they had for such an occasion,—of a fashionable color and quality. I thought that they were a little ashamed of me while we were in the towns. They all tore their clothes badly but myself, and I, who, it chanced, was the only one provided with needles and thread, enabled them to mend them. When we came out of the woods I was the best dressed of any of them.”

    I love going there.

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