New VH1 Series "The Price of Beauty" Features Jessica Simpson Still Looking Unreasonably Attractive
I just need to get my frustration about this out at this point I think, so please humor me whilst I vent a spell. You see, the entire frame of reference and basic thinking behind Jessica Simpson's upcoming reality show on beauty and body image REALLY rubs me the wrong way. As in, MAKES ME WANT TO GOUGE MY OWN EYEBALLS OUT WITH A SPORK. Yes, *that* kind of 'rubs me the wrong way.' Please allow me to explain (and/or rant semi-coherently) (Don't say I didn't warn ya!) (Wheee!).
The series, being produced by VH1, appears on the surface to be a solid concept for a show. Entitled The Price Of Beauty, the series follows Simpson -- best known for being, as luck would have it, exceptionally pretty -- to different parts of the world, where she'll explore native cultures' conceptions of beauty, their dietary fads, cosmetics use, etcetera. So it's sort of like In Style meets National Geographic. Or something. In any case, of the show Simpson herself has said (and one can't help but imagine this being uttered in her best Miss America on-air interview response voice): “I have always believed that beauty comes from within and confidence will always make a woman beautiful, but I know how much pressure some women put on themselves to look perfect." (PS: She believes the children are our future!) (PPS: WORLD PEACE!!) Well pardon my snark, but can I just say: Riiiiight.
Because you see, here's where my brain begins to itch. Am I really the only person who finds the positioning of Jessica Simpson as someone whose life experience could, in a substantive way, inform a show purported to be about exposing and interrogating the demands put upon women all over the world to mirror their respective culture's conception of "beauty", oh, just a little troubling? Perhaps even a smidge discomforting?
Okay, wait -- let me back up a minute.
Here, near as I can tell, is the nexus of Jessica Simpson's credibility and/or credentials as someone who can speak to the matters at hand:
This photo, and a few others taken of Simpson around the same time period (January, 2009), were plastered around the web by a number of gossip blogs early this year, positioned as evidence of some kind of mammoth, unseemly weight gain deserving of public shaming. Basically, put in the bluntest of terms, a few dumb internet dudes called her fat. Which, uhh, REALLY? I mean, I don't think I'm even vaguely going out on a limb in saying that not only is Jessica Simpson not 'fat' in this photo, but obviously solidly average to below average in weight. However brainless she might be, there's no denying she's freaking GORGEOUS -- even those hideous mom jeans and accompanying tacky gold belt can't mute her shimmering, golden-tressed beauty. Most women would freely donate a kidney to look something even vaguely like that. Heck, I might donate a kidney just to have HAIR that looked that good.
The truth is that, if anything, what those gossip blogs were demonstrating in attacking Simpson wasn't the demands our culture puts upon the women living in it to be beautiful, but rather the media's expectations of celebrities -- men and women alike -- whose primary talent and value is their ability to achieve and maintain an ideal of beauty that is for the most part unachievable, and one which no 'normal' people in our culture are actually held to. The ugly bottomline here is that it is Jessica's Simpson's job is to be insanely thin and absurdly pretty, because that is the value our culture and the entertainment industry has attributed to her, and she has most certainly played along with and to that. And so it follows that when she deviates even slightly from those expectations, the screams of "FAT!" resound, though she is anything but when seen through a lens other than "Hollywood Starlet." The pressure put upon Jessica Simpson to be skinny and pretty is clearly NOT the same pressure you and I experience as women within that same culture. I'm not saying that pressure isn't there -- it is, and we all know that because we've all experienced it to one degree or other. But our version of that pressure, as people whose actual livelihood is not dependent upon what size gown we can squeeze ourselves into before the Oscars, is of a wholly different caliber. After all, it isn't *OUR JOB* to wear Daisy Dukes (or BE Daisy Duke) and shoot a video like this one, that functions as the visual equivalent of a gentlemen's club lap dance:
Now don't get me wrong, I am in no way denying that there are cultural pressures on women in the United States to maintain themselves within a certain weight range, and to keep themselves coiffed, and good-smelling, and tweezed, and all of that. Those pressures are very real. But I have never in my life felt as though I was supposed to look like THAT. Nor have I ever felt that other people -- women or men -- expected me to. And sure, women who look like that do exist out in the real, non-Hollywood world, but they're obvious freakish exceptions to the rule. Out in Hollywood though? You'd better be a size negative 10, or you'll never work in that town again. And though I hate to say it, Jessica Simpson totally signed up for that, and is paid quite handsomely for it, whether you agree with her doing so in principle or not. And the truth is, she knows all of this. Want proof? After Simpson was lambasted on the gossip blogs for that photo -- ie, for what amounts to achieving something akin to a normal weight for an adult woman -- what do you think she did? Stand tall and proud and thumb her nose at her critics, retorting that "beauty comes from within and confidence will always make a woman beautiful," have a sammich, and buy some jeans with just a leetle bit more spandex in em'? Quite the contrary. She flew immediately into damage control mode, rapidly dropped a bunch of weight, and staged a public "comeback" just a few short weeks later, pointedly wearing her Daisy Dukes for the first time in years to show all those meanies that she's, like, totally not a cow and is still really pretty and stuff!
Yeah, she really showed them, huh? Way to make a stand for beauty from within there, Jess. BY COMPLETELY CAVING IN TO EXTERNAL PRESSURE TO LOSE WEIGHT. My hero! [slaps forehead]
Couldn't they have at least gotten, oh I don't know, Ricki Lake or somebody? A woman who, when positioned as someone who can speak to American women on the matter of body image and beauty wouldn't make my eyes roll so far back in my head that I can actually SEE my brain shrieking WTF - ARE THEY SERIOUS WITH THIS S%*T? But maybe that's just me. cough.
Is it just me? What do you make of all this? And will you watch?
. . . . .
Tracey, aka Sweetney, writes about Pop Culture & Entertainment at MamaPop, and concedes she is nowhere near as attractive as Ms. Simpson is, but takes comfort in her superior ability to differentiate between chicken and tuna.
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