Beyonce? Cindy Crawford? Kate Middleton? Bodies are lumpy, bumpy and sometimes saggy – so why peddle perfection?

Cindy Crawford has a not entirely taut stomach. Beyoncé gets the occasional spot and the Duchess of Cambridge has a few greys

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Flawlessness is overrated

Cindy Crawford has a not entirely taut stomach.

Beyoncé gets the occasional spot and the Duchess of Cambridge has a few greys hidden somewhere in that magnificent mane. But you could have guessed that, right?

If your common sense hadn’t already alerted you to the fact that real human bodies are lumpy, bumpy and sometimes saggy, then the un-retouched pictures from Lena Dunham’s Vogue shoot in 2014 should have. Or Lorde’s make-up-free Twitter pic. Or Kate Moss’s belly on the beach. Or any of the many other similar images which are eagerly sought and gleefully reproduced on a daily basis.

Judging by the reactions to last week’s bumper batch, however, the human body in its natural form retains the power to shock. Cindy and Beyoncé were both praised as “brave”, despite the fact that the images were disseminated without their prior knowledge or permission. The Daily Mail followed up their front-page splash on the grey hair shocker with these kind words: “There can’t be a single woman who, after seeing the pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge’s grey hairs yesterday, felt anything but sympathy for her.” Yeah, sure, “sympathy”, that’s what it’s about.

Here, again, is the disingenuous little dance we do whenever unflattering pictures of beautiful women appear in the media. It’s not supportive or sisterly; it’s just spiteful. Children and teenagers may struggle to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, but not grown-ups. The truth is consenting adults choose to buy into the fantasy of glamour because, for the most part, it’s enjoyable. So why do we keep up the pretence that exposing flaws is either reassuring or revelatory?

 

Women learn early that they must skillfully self-deprecate if they hope to be considered likeable, but showcasing your flaws for public view isn’t any healthier than striving for unattainable perfection. As teenagers I remember the ritual my friends and I used to discuss our unsatisfactory bodies. “I hate my fat thighs,” one would say. “Oh, no your thighs are fine,” her friend replied. “But my skin! Urgh!” And so on. I also remember the surprising occasion when one girl said, actually, there was nothing about herself she’d change. She was quite happy with the way she looked, thanks very much. Now, I appreciate the strength of character behind that statement. At the time, no doubt, we dismissed her as a stuck-up bitch and got on with comparing body fat percentages.

So the Beyoncé-style myth of “Flawless” is a lie – of course she didn’t “wake up like this” – but so what? These lies have their uses as an armour which helps women to resist the steady pressure to feel terrible about the way they look. Never put yourself down, my stepfather used to say. Other people will do that for you.

Abuse of the most vulnerable

Every new claim regarding widespread child abuse at British institutions is shocking but, by now, also somehow familiar. “My professional opinion is that [the police] viewed them as worthless,” said one former Nottinghamshire social worker last week, when asked by the BBC why victims’ allegations were ignored for so long.

Her words are an echo of what many people have said before. Police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping has also conceded that “historically, victims haven’t been listened to enough”, and, meanwhile, investigations continue into more than 100 allegations of abuse at 13 local care homes, dating back to the 1960s.

Before Nottinghamshire was in the headlines, it was South Yorkshire, where government agencies and the media speculated over the “culture” that had led to the crimes of mostly Asian grooming gangs. One popular theory was that these crimes were informed by Islam’s view of women. Another focused instead on the “medieval” values of rural Pakistan.

In all that time, one obvious cultural issue was overlooked, one which connects every serious case of widespread abuse from Rochdale to Rotherham and any other place where such cases are yet to come to light. It’s not the race or religion of the perpetrators which determines how seriously allegations are taken, but the social standing of their victims: almost all children from poor families or in care. What is it about British culture that makes it so easy to exploit the vulnerable and protect the powerful?

More money than talent

It’s the Oscars tonight, and this year’s buzz is all about posh British actors, offbeat biopics and the snubbing of black talent by the 94 per cent white Academy. But never mind the Oscars – what about the Razzies?

Every year since 1980, the Golden Raspberry Awards, or Razzies, have kept Hollywood humble by recognising the greatest non-achievements in cinema of the past 12 months. Just as a society can be judged only by the treatment of its weakest members, so must a film culture be assessed by its most truly garbage productions.

Leading this year’s Razzie nominees is Transformers: Age of Extinction with seven, including Worst Screen Combo for “any two robots, actors, or robotic actors”. Also nominated is the vaguely racist rom-com Blended, Seth MacFarlane’s unfunny and overlong A Million Ways to Die in the West and the franchise reboot Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

You’ll note that none of these are micro-budget indies, though many of those must have also failed to pass muster. The Razzie Academy understands that for a film to be truly objectionable, it’s not enough that it’s simply bad. It must also have wasted vast amounts of money, talent and effort to that end. May the worst film win.

It’s always the quiet ones

It’s traditional for TV viewers to whinge about the resolution of a whodunnit, especially one as painfully drawn out as the 10-month Lucy Beale murder mystery. Still, only a sourpuss of Pauline Fowler’s calibre (long may she rest in peace) would deny that EastEnders played a blinder last week.

Some felt the sight of Bobby Beale, the baby-faced bludgeoner, looming over Lucy’s corpse was a little far-fetched, but the biggest disappointment would have been if the culprit had been either too guessable (Max Branning) or too obscure (Tracey the barmaid). A child, on the other hand, can hide in plain sight, always present, yet peripheral to the action. That’s what makes them so darned creepy.

Twitter: @MsEllenEJones

Comments