I'm Forrest Carr, novelist, blogger, land snark, and former TV news director and talk radio host. I tackle politics, cats, the media, paranormal psychology, dreams, God, guns, evolution, rat bastards, and anything else that might make you think or laugh, maybe even simultaneously. And, oh yeah, I have cancer, which makes me the Walter White of bloggers. You have been warned.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Waisted Daze and Waisted Knights
Who would have guessed some would
find this movie offensive and even dangerous. But they did. Here’s why, and where we’re going with all
my capacity as a local radio bloviator and as an experienced journalist I pride
myself in my ability to spot and dissect media trends. But I’m just going to say it: If you had asked me to review a list of
motion pictures slated for release in 2015 and pick the ones most likely to
offend, the word “Cinderella” would not have crossed my lips.
missing this one, I offer no excuses. I beat
my gums all the time on the radio about the social media’s flaming Outrage
Industry, onto which the mainstream media regularly and cheerfully poor gasoline. They
do so in the sure and certain hope that news consumers, like lab rats pressing
a food pellet lever in response to a blinking light, will click on these
stories or watch them, thereby doing their part to pad the bonuses of media
executives. And they do, with
predictable and profitable regularity.
so, I completely overestimated the current threshold for apoplectic outrage. In my defense, I’ll only say that who would
have thought that a traditional, 400-year old fairy tale, writ large in a
big-budget, family-oriented movie, produced by the most wildly successful family
entertainment business ever, and
garnished with a happy ending, would have offered anything to offend?
trouble started a few months ago when Disney released the movie poster. Among those raising the first alarms was a
fashion website called The Gloss. Samantha Escobar’s headline screamed breathlessly, “Did Anybody Notice How Photoshopped Lily James’ Waist Is?” Escobar offered no proof of her accusation that
the photo had been “digitally altered” and presented no sources for it. But that didn’t stop her from pointing
fingers at what she called an “overzealous photo editor.” And she didn’t stop there. The deception, she said, not only was “unnerving”
but “damaging”—her point being that now children will believe that real-life
people can, and should, look that way.
What--your waist isn't like this? Really? (Courtesy Disney)
The Twitterverse, as it is wont to do, erupted. Many (but it should be noted, not all) responders
flatly agreed the photo had been altered and that this deceptive act by deceptive
deceivers was dangerous, irresponsible, and reprehensible. “Poppy” tweeted: “Horrified by crazy CGI of Lily James' waist
in #Cinderellamovie, so bad for young viewers' body image & unnecessary.” My favorite tweet was from Gaby Dunn: “I'm gonna CGI myself giving this movie a big
As the release date of the motion picture
approached, the uproar intensified.
Actress Lily James denied anything had been altered, and called the
controversy “sad.” Everyone connected to
the production loudly insisted there had been no CGI or animatronic funny
Yes, James had been in a corset, they admitted. Of course she had. Cranked so tight that her feet swelled and
her eyes bulged. Director Kenneth Branagh pointed out to the Huffington Post that the dress at issue had a dramatic flair right at the hips, and actually said out
loud that a lot of Lily had been forced down past it, out of sight. “Basically you squeeze things in,” he said,
and “things come out at the bottom, you know? And it all gets hidden under there.”
So, what we’re left with is that a team of studio technicians
squeezed poor Lily into the thing, quickly ran off some footage of her smiling,
dancing, and pretending to enjoy herself, and then rushed to spring her from
the contraption before it could cause permanent organ damage. But no fancy special effects were used. Because that would have been cheating.
Did that tamp down the controversy, do you
think? What, you do? Ha.
HuffPo host Caroline
Modarressy-Tehrani told Branagh, “There's all this talk about body image.” And then she asked, “Do you think there's a
place for that kind of conversation when you're talking about a big-budget film
Branagh allowed as how there is, but then called the
flap a "non-story." And in the
next breath he felt compelled to add this: “Do I feel it's dangerous what this is
doing? No, I don't think so. The film is responsible.”
In case you missed the significance of that
statement, let me underscore it for you.
We now live in a world where the director of a major family-oriented motion
picture has to publicly deny his that film is dangerous for having placed an
attractive actress in the lead role.
Branagh also pointed out that Lily James is not the
only star in the film and that it’s stuffed (okay, my use of that word is a bit snarky in
this context—sorry) with human variety. “If
you look at our ball, it's full of diversity. It's full of every kind of shape.”
Yes, but let’s bring on some real here. James is the star. She’s the one in the posters. It’s her body image that will live in the
minds of our little girls and young women.
And it will scar some of them for life.
I’ve written before about the social movement at the
heart of this critical onslaught. Call it Cultural Communism. Economic communism
asserts that if we can’t all be rich, then no one can. The ideals of cultural communism are
similar: if we can’t all possess a given
coveted commodity or characteristic, then no one can. In this case, if we can’t all have narrow
waists, then it’s immoral to glorify those who do or to suggest it’s desirable that
Concerns about the portrayal of unrealistic body
images are nothing new; witness the flap over the Barbie doll, which has a waist some analysts assert would
require humans to remove ribs and/or some internal organs to achieve. But recently the movement has been spawning
attacks against people who are
perceived as beautiful, and against those who promote beauty. Case in point: Recently a couple of college students in
Britain became outraged (there’s that word again) over a Victoria’s Secret ad campaign. Not only did the promotion feature
svelte young models cavorting in their skimpies, but the ad featured the words “The
Perfect Body” in big, black letters. Really? It did that? Yeah. The
two offended students started a Change.org petition, which resulted in mass
media coverage. Of course it did. Change.org
petitions often do—if, and only if, reporters perceive the cause in question to
be progressive. Petitions with as few as
75 signatures have resulted in national coverage. This one garnered tens of thousands. Satirists produced a mock ad featuring a
variety of women, not all of whom rise to the traditionally accepted standards
of idealized beauty. Victoria’s Secret
caved. It didn’t insert plus-sized
models into the ad, but it did change the title.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m a heterosexual
male who has always liked women, and I really do believe you can find features
to praise in most of them. Maybe that
makes me an enlightened, happenin’ 21st century kind of guy. Maybe it just makes me an old-fashioned traditional
values horndog. But let’s face
facts. The human species exalts the
young and beautiful. Ever has it been thus. Is it reasonable to expect that to change? Ever? Do the finger-wagging scolds demanding that
we all alter our thinking and behavior have a right to do so? More to the point—I won’t name names, but
pick your favorite plus-sized actress.
Can you see her as Cinderella?
Maybe you can.
I make no value judgments and do not propose to tell you how to think. But I offer one observation and two
Observation: The prince in Cinderella is
pretty hot, too. I don’t hear anyone,
male or female, complaining about
that. If we are going to go down this
road, we need to do it from a standpoint of gender equality. Personally, I find the male body image
projected by Richard Madden and those like him to be very damaging to my psyche. In
fact, all my life I have struggled with the fact that I have never possessed
chiseled movie star looks, idealized washboard abs, or any of that kind of
thing. I have found that many women,
their minds corrupted and poisoned by the ideals of male attractiveness that
society has foisted on them, are put off by that. This has at times crushed my spirit. Guys, raise your hand if you, too, have been effed
up damaged for life by society’s unrealistic and unreasonable notions of ideal
And I absolutely do know how Lily James feels about
the contortions one must go through to meet those standards. I have felt her pain, and I mean that
literally. Just a few days ago, I pulled
an old pair of jeans out of the closet, determined to squeeze into them again. I did.
I’m wearing them right now. My eyes are about to pop out, I’m constipated and
I’m pretty sure I’m starting to suffer from deep vein thrombosis in my
legs. But the pants are on. This is due in part to the fact that Levi uses
metal rivets in the key stress points.
Now I know why they do that. I
feel pretty good about my accomplishment, but I do urge bystanders to keep a
safe distance. If one of those rivets
goes someone could get hurt.
So here’s my first suggestion. One, we could all decide to agree that the
social activists here are right, and that we must tackle this problem head
on. As the issue pertains to motion
pictures, in the name of equality the only fair thing to do is to end the whole
star system. Going forward, we must require
casting directors to choose actors and actresses by lottery, without regard to
physical characteristics. That’s the
only way to ensure that no particular body image gets held up as ideal. No, I don’t expect Hollywood to do this
willingly. I suggest that we start with legal
action. People are getting hurt
here. Someone has to pay. And we know where the deep pockets are. Legislation may have to follow.
Or, barring that, us non-movie star types could all
just quit our whining and accept the reality that the human experience is what
it is, with some of us possessing certain gifts, others possessing
different gifts, and most of us wanting things we ain't got.
I’m tempted to say we’ll muddle on as we always have, forcing ourselves
to endure the resulting angry Greek choruses of outraged special interests, of
which there is never any shortage. But I
called this wrong the first time. And
the ACLU will sue absolutely anybody over absolutely anything. Just sayin’.