Tag Archives: television

Beauty in the Movies: Pleasantville

This week’s film passes the Bechdel test, but features both prominent female and male characters. Although I usually focus on strong female leads, it’s important to note the real goal is equal presence and development of both sexes on film. While Pleasantville does have strong female characters, it is really a story about liberation for all.

Jennifer and David are teenage twins from a broken home. Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) is popular and promiscuous (FYI: singer Jenny Lewis makes a brief appearance as one of her friends), while her brother David (Tobey Maguire) is shy and geeky. He’s also obsessed with a black & white Leave It To Beaver-esque TV show called Pleasantville which he sees as a perfect world, unlike the one he is living in.

David and Jennifer don’t get along, and after fighting for control of the TV and breaking the remote, Don Knotts appears at their door as a mysteriously chipper TV repairman. He gives them a new remote which transports them into the sterile, black & white world of Pleasantville, where they have two happily married parents (Joan Allen and William H. Macy), and nothing bad ever happens.

There are no fires or death in Pleasantville, there’s also no need for toilets and no such thing as sex. David wants to play their parts while they figure out how to get home, but free-spirited ’90s woman Jennifer proves unable to assimilate so easily. When she seduces her chaste TV boyfriend, Skip (Paul Walker), she unwittingly brings about a revolution.

David sets change in motion as well when he accidentally introduces the idea of free will to Mr. Johnson (Jeff Daniels), his boss at the soda shop. As creativity and curiosity begin to blossom throughout Pleasantville, so do hatred and ignorance, turning this “perfect” world completely on its head.

The metaphor in this film is obvious but also effective. Not only as an illustration of the absurdity of racism, but also that the price we pay for perfection is imagination. Pleasantville is the garden of Eden and woman is once again the cause for its downfall, but in this reality the expulsion is actually an emancipation.

Gary Ross, the writer and director, has said his intention wasn’t to make a feminist statement, especially in regard to Joan Allen’s character. However, since equality and repression are both major themes of the film and Joan Allen is a fantastic actress, intentional or not, her story arc is the most compelling and does convey a feminist message.

Pleasantville received Academy Award nominations for Best art direction, best costume design, and best original score (by Randy Newman), all of which were well deserved.  The film was shot in color, mostly on digital, and then selectively desaturated, which makes for striking visuals.

Pleasantville drops us into a society that is still longed for by many Americans, a world without sin or emotion, and then shows us how stifling it would be to live there. It’s a simple idea with complex repercussions and overall it’s beautiful and magical to watch—what more could you want?

Beauty in the Movies: Pleasantville
Beauty in the Movies: Pleasantville by justinez featuring a yellow cardigan

Dress
99 GBP - vivienofholloway.com

Vintage dress
150 GBP - lovemissdaisy.com

Knit cardigan
$75 - topshop.com

Dorothy Perkins short cardigan
22 GBP - dorothyperkins.com

River Island peter pan collar blouse
25 GBP - riverisland.com

Cardigan
95 GBP - lkbennett.com

Oasis summer tee
45 GBP - johnlewis.com

Eastex yellow cardigan
60 GBP - houseoffraser.co.uk

Dorothy Perkins short sleeve top
17 GBP - dorothyperkins.com

Bennett
75 GBP - lkbennett.com

Giambattista Valli tweed pencil skirt
441 GBP - net-a-porter.com

Alice by Temperley pleated skirt
$126 - theoutnet.com

La Perla bullet bra
$86 - journelle.com

Pleaser halloween costume shoes
$28 - endless.com

Rupert Sanderson high heel shoes
$575 - boutique1.com

Vintage leather handbag
$35 - modcloth.com

Vintage handbag
$40 - modcloth.com

Vintage clutch
$35 - modcloth.com

Double strand pearl necklace
$99 - myjewelrybox.com

Monet pearl earring
25 GBP - houseoffraser.co.uk

Vintage glove
$20 - modcloth.com

Vintage hat
$40 - modcloth.com

American apparel
$8 - americanapparel.net

Marc by Marc Jacobs gold hair accessory
$22 - couture.zappos.com

Old Navy hair accessory
$3.50 - oldnavy.gap.com

Poodle Skirt
69 GBP - irregularchoice.com

Estee Lauder Radiant Bloom Powder Compact
$175 - bergdorfgoodman.com

Pride and Prejudice
$20 - modcloth.com

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Beauty on Television: 30 Rock

I wasn’t going to do a Beauty in the Movies this week, what with Thanksgiving and my turkey hangover and all, but I decided I would just keep it light and simple instead. A friend recently told me he watches 30 Rock each night before bed because it makes him happy, so I gave it a try myself and I have to say, laughing before sleeping is a great idea.

If you haven’t had the chance to fall in love with 30 Rock yet, do yourself a favor and watch it streaming on Netflix or borrow the DVDs from someone, because this show is best watched in bulk, 21 minutes is never enough. 30 Rock follows Liz Lemon, head writer of sketch comedy show TGS (The Girlie Show) and her life behind the scenes as she tries to keep things together on and off set. 30 Rock is a character driven comedy, and the more you know about these people the funnier they are, which also means you can watch each episode several times and keep finding new things to laugh at.

In her day-to-day life, lonely lady Liz Lemon must balance her controlling (but needy) boss, Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), her self-centered (also needy) friend and star of TGS Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and the other (bigger) star of TGS Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), who also happens to be incredibly needy and mostly insane too. Liz often turns to Kenneth, the morally perfect, endearingly dense NBC page, (Jack McBrayer) to help quell the madness in the studio.

As she tries to please everyone, and stay in the good graces of her lazy apathetic staff of writers, Liz also attempts to have a love life and often finds herself eating dozens of doughnuts alone in her apartment as her biological clock ticks away. Liz has been known to steal baby shoes, hallucinate Oprah, and eat a $54 dollar steak in under three minutes. In many ways Liz Lemon is a modern incarnation of Mary Tyler Moore, a single career-gal in the big city surrounded by crazy characters that constantly keep her on her toes.

30 Rock is pretty darn perfect, the one part that can get a bit trying is the way Tina Fey’s attractiveness is downplayed. It’s kind of like Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That, put some glasses on her and viola, she looks like a troll—oh no wait, she just looks like a pretty girl in glasses. Obviously nothing about the show is meant to be taken all that seriously, and Tina Fey has become something of a sex symbol, so I certainly hope there isn’t anyone at home who believes Liz is as unattractive as the show pretends. It does make you wonder what would happen if the character had been played by an actress who wasn’t conventionally attractive, suddenly those jokes would be less funny and more cruel. Calling beautiful women ugly and making jokes about their bodily functions are both SNL trademarks so it’s no surprise that as a former head writer for that show some of those jokes have found their way on to 30 Rock, but unlike SNL this show has a lot more going for it than toilet humor.

Tina Fey recently received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and all you have to do is watch a few episodes of 30 Rock to understand why. The woman has the talent and smarts to write comedy that appeals to everyone, it’s too bad there aren’t more comedians like her. Luckily for us 30 Rock has been renewed for a sixth season, and since the show seems to get better with each episode, that’s definitely something to look forward to.

Alright, now you can go eat your leftovers, and have a great weekend!

30 Rock: Liz Lemon

30 Rock: Liz Lemon by justinez featuring striped scarves

Cashmere V Neck Sweater
70 GBP - uniqlo.co.uk
V neck sweater »

Purple pretty camisole
15 GBP - debenhams.com
Purple jacket »

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Your Body is Not a Fruit

The other day I was looking through images to use as reference and I stumbled across this illustration, I’m not sure who it was done by:

It was featured with an article about how it’s important to know your body shape in order to be a snazzy dresser and “know your flaws” or some such advice that doesn’t seem like anything new, but it struck me how flipping annoying it is that we’re always focusing on the shapes of women. In case you don’t know, let me give you the breakdown:

If you have broad shoulders and a narrow waist you’re called “apple-shaped”, because some apples look like this.

If you have wide hips and a smaller chest and shoulders, you’re “pear-shaped”, because you see, pears look like this.

If you have more of a straight body, then you get to be a “banana”, lucky you.

And if you’re super lucky and have a small waist but a generous bust and hips, then you get to be the very coveted “hourglass” shape.

If you’re not as lucky you don’t get to be a fruit, or even a time measurement device, you just get to be a “circle”. See that girl all the way on the right in the illustration up on top? Notice how she is the only one with a different face and legs? If you’re overweight your body apparently has no real shape rather than “round”, isn’t that nice?

The shapes and fruits are always changing, in the July issue of Glamour there is advice for how to wear flattering shorts, and the categories are pear-shaped, plus-sized, and petite.

(Click to see larger image)

I know Glamour is trying, but to me this page says, “if you’re pear-shaped or plus-sized and going to wear shorts, you should stick to dark colors and a loose fit so nobody will actually notice that you’re wearing shorts. If you’re petite, only wear short-shorts because they make you look tall”— so what do you do if you’re petite and not comfortable showing that much leg? Or what if you’re petite but plus sized also, quelle surprise!

That is yet another problem, there can’t be only these five shapes can there? With so many millions of women, how can we fall into so few categories? I’ll use myself as an example, I would be a pear-shape in that my lower half is at least two sizes bigger than my upper half, but I also have a big bust, and a small waist, what does that make me then? All humans are so diverse in so many ways that we should know by now that we can’t be classified, and all that happens when we do is further separate ourselves from each other—and that is how wars start people! Ok, it’s not that serious, but in a way it is.

So I ask you, does it really help to look in the mirror and remind yourself, “well I’m a banana shape, so I’d better strap this here belt around my waist to give the illusion that I don’t actually look the way I look?” I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, everyone should dress however makes them feel good. If wearing a belt to give yourself more of a waist makes you feel feminine, that is fabulous, but as I always seem to be repeating, it shouldn’t be a mandate. Also, it’s depressing to constantly be beating yourself (and all of us) over the head with these rules.

You see, I don’t like my body compared to fruit, I don’t like my body compared to inanimate objects, or shapes, or you know what? I don’t like comparing my body to anything or anyone. I hate labels that are perpetuated by magazines or given as advice on reality shows as a way to help people dress to accentuate their assets. I know that the people who use these classifications have the best intentions, but they really don’t mean anything. I’ve never met anyone who was helped by being told they were a pear or banana-shape, it doesn’t make you feel better about yourself or your body, it’s just another label, and I am so sick of labels.

Why do we feel the need to put everything in categories? It can be fun sometimes, when it comes to astrology, or numerology, but those things are defined by the day you were born, not the way you look. People love the zodiac because you can take an ancient system of symbols and personality traits and see how you fit up against it, or how you don’t. I’ve never felt bad when someone has told me I’m a typical (or an atypical) Capricorn, sometimes it’s a little annoying because that’s not all I am, but when someone calls me a pear-shape, that gets me really pissed.

I’ve never seen a man’s body compared to fruit, and they come in all shapes and sizes too. Why not a cucumber shape for those tall lanky guys? Or perhaps a melon shape for the gentleman with a bit of belly? Nope, won’t happen, and it shouldn’t. The last thing I would want to do is make men feel bad about their bodies, it’s bad enough that women have to deal with it. What’s scary is that it seems like that is the direction we’re headed in—everyone gets to be scrutinized. We just can’t stop comparing ourselves to everyone and everything, and it’s incredibly unhealthy.

Why is it that the world thinks women need so much help? It’s true, it can be hard to get dressed some days, and when you have certain parts of your body that you would like to downplay and others that you would like to highlight it helps to know what they are, but usually we already know that don’t we? You live in this body all the time, you know its flaws and its strengths, having them pointed out to you only makes you more self-conscious.

What if you don’t care that you’re a banana shape; what if, god forbid, you like that you have a body with straighter lines rather than curves, what is wrong with that? Why are we made to feel that there is something wrong with our body shape and then told to dress in order to make it look more like another woman’s body—the ideal body shape?

This is just one piece of advice I see repeated over and over again, and it’s become so much a part of the vernacular of fashion that we don’t even think about it anymore. That’s why I’m talking about here, because the whole point of this blog is to put some darts in those conventions, and question where they came from and why we need to have them. So repeat after me:

I am not a fruit, I am a person, and thank goodness for that!

Do any of you like being compared to fruits? let me know!


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Filed under acceptance