Beauty in Hollywood by Karen Durbin

Julianne Moore by Gilles Bensimon
  • “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.”
  • “a beauty that easily looked cruel”
  • The original meaning of glamour: magic, a spell.
  • Films are escapism.
  • Womens struggle in Hollywood is about “sex and sexual definition”.
  • USA cultural puritanism meant Hollywood divided women into good girls and bad girls.
  • Both men and women share anxiety about a “bad” woman’s “dark and dangerous thrills”.
  • Lulu: “the dark thrill-to dream of being dangerous and desirable”
  • Mary Pickford was the ultimate “good girl”.
  • The 1934 Hays Code repressed/censored film and made it conservative. It asserted sex as a greater threat to public morals than violence.
  • Camille Paglia correctly identified the pre-Code cinema era as “the twentieth-century’s first sexual revolution”.
  • “the irreverent liberationist spirit of the 1930s”
  • Hitchcock “championed the openly sexual woman”.
  • Blaxploitation prefigured the attitude and content of rap music.
  • Hollywood responded to feminism with male buddy films and won’t give female directors second chances.
  • Through the 2000’s women in Hollywood (actresses and directors) were still greatly shortchanged but had more niche opportunities.
  • An incomplete list of films mentioned: Becoming Jane, Pandora’s Box (Lulu), The Blue Angel, Madame Satan, Thou Shalt Not (documentary about pre-Code cinema), Queen Christina, Mildred Pierce, Notorious
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Ariel Levy on current day “sexiness” in Female Chauvinist Pigs

Quoted from pg. 29-31.

“If the rise of raunch seems counterintuitive because we hear so much about being in a conservative moment, it actually makes perfect sense when we think about it. Raunch culture is not essentially progressive, it is essentially commercial. By going to strip clubs and flashing on spring break and ogling our Olympians in Playboy, it’s not as though we are embracing something liberal-this isn’t Free Love. Raunch culture isn’t about opening our minds to the possibilities and mysteries of sexuality. It’s about endlessly reiterating one particular-and particularly commercial-shorthand for sexiness.

There is a disconnect between sexiness or hotness and sex itself. As Paris Hilton, the breathing embodiment of our current, prurient, collective fixations-blondeness, hotness, richness, anti-intellectualism-told Rolling Stone reporter Vanessa Grigoriadis, ‘my boyfriends always tell me I’m not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual.’ Any fourteen-year-old who has downloaded her sex tapes can tell you that Hilton looks excited when she is posing for the camera, bored when she is engaged in actual sex. (In one tape, Hilton took a cell phone call during intercourse.) She is the perfect sexual celebrity for this moment, because our interest is in the appearance of sexiness, not the existence of sexual pleasure. (Before Paris Hilton we had Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson to drool over: two shiny, waxy blondes who used to tell us over and over again that sex was something they sang about, not something they actually engaged in.)

Sex appeal has become a synecdoche for all appeal: People refer to a new restaurant or job as ‘sexy’ when they mean hip or powerful. A U.S. Army general was quoted in the The New Yorker regarding an air raid on the Taliban as saying ‘it was sexy stuff,’ for instance; the New York Times ran a piece on the energy industry subheadlined ‘After Enron, Deregulation is Looking Less Sexy.’ For something to be noteworthy is must be ‘sexy.’ Sexiness is no longer just about being aroused or alluring, it’s about being worthwhile.

Passion isn’t the point. The glossy, overheated thumping of sexuality in our culture is less about connection than consumption. Hotness has become our cultural currency, and a lot people spend a lot of time and a lot of regular, green currency trying to acquire it. Hotness is not the same thing as beauty, which has been valued throughout history. Hot can mean popular. Hot can mean talked about. But when it pertains to women, hot means two things in particular: fuckable and salable. The literal job criteria for our role models, the stars of the sex industry.”

The enlightenment and “pleasure”

“The Enlightenment was convinced, as Bayle wrote, that basic to the human temperament was ‘our natural inclination to seek pleasure.’ In reaction to the religious view that in this life and under its veil of tears a virtuous person lived a life of self-denial and privation, Enlightenment writers emphasized enjoyment and happiness, not the least of which was sensual pleasure. How better to ridicule the asceticism and self-denial preached by religion than to mock it in sexual fantasy. So it was that the eighteenth century is the fountain of modern pornography, be it the Marquis de Sade or John Cleland’s Fanny Hill. Montesquieu, Diderot, and even Franklin wrote their share as well. In his Encyclopédie entry on ‘Enjoyment’ (jouissance), Diderot praised sexual pleasure as the most noble of passions. To the ‘perverse man’ who takes offense at this praise ‘I would evoke Nature before him, I would make it speak, and Nature would say to him: why do you blush to hear the word pleasure pronounced, when you do not blush to indulge in its temptations under the cover of night.'”

Jennifer Silva on working-class young adulthood in the USA

Jennifer M. Silva is a Professor of Sociology at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The following quotes are from her book Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, a contemporary classic.

“She taught me love
She taught me patience
How she handles pain
That shit’s amazing
I’ve loved and I’ve lost
But that’s not what I see
‘Cause look what I’ve found

-Ariana Grande

“Over and over again, the men and women I interviewed told me that growing up means learning not to expect anything from anyone. They told stories of investing their time and energy in relationships and institutions, only to find that their efforts were one-sided. I demonstrate how experiences of betrayal, within both the labor market and the institutions that frame their coming of age experiences, teach young working-class men and women that they are completely alone, responsible for their own fates and dependent on outside help only at their peril.

They learn to approach others with suspicion and distrust. Many make a virtue out of necessity, equating self-reliance and atomic individualism with self-worth and dignity: if they had to survive on their own, then everyone else should too. In an era of short-term flexibility, constant flux. and hollow institutions, the transition to adulthood has been inverted; coming of age does not entail entry into social groups and institutions but rather the explicit rejection of them.”

“For the vast majority of the men and women I spoke with, coming of age has been reimagined as a psychic struggle to triumph over the demons of their pasts. These ‘demons’ take several different forms: pain or betrayal in past relationships; emotional, mental, or cognitive disorders (e.g., depression, dyslexia, or anxiety); or addiction to drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Hurtful and agonizing betrayals within the family lie at the root of these torments, grounding their adult identities in the quest to heal their wounded selves. Through telling their stories of confronting a difficult past, working-class women and men stake a claim to dignity and respect, based not on traditional markers of adulthood but on having undergone emotional trauma and emerged, triumphantly, as survivors.”

“…couples who want to create relationships that foster the growth of their deepest selves find that self-realization requires resources that they do not have, and they must decide whether commitment is worth sacrificing their own interests and desires. For women, fears of losing the self predominate: their sense of self feels too fragile to risk in a relationship. Because many young people fear disappointment, betrayal, and dissolution, they often choose to be alone.

In a world where you have only yourself—hard-won through privation and suffering—to depend on, relationships feel overwhelmingly risky. Caught between two impossible ideals of love, many find themselves unable to forge romantic relationships that are both satisfying and lasting. Respondents thus numb the ache of betrayal and the hunger for connection by embracing cultural ideals of self-reliance, individualism, and personal responsibility.”

“As the coming of age stories of working-class young people reveal, the strain of risk-bearing has split individuals, families, and communities apart, leaving them with only the deep and unyielding belief that personal responsibility is the key to meaning, security, and freedom. In an era defined by neoliberal ideology and policy, collective solutions to risk run counter to common sense. Young working-class men and women understand personal choice and self-control as the very basis for who they are, and blame themselves, rather than large-scale economic precariousness and risk privatization, for lacking the tools they need to navigate their futures.”