27 August 2015

Banksy at the Warrington Museum & Art Gallery exhibition "(R)Evolution of Urban Art" (2009)

Kate, Banksy 2005

“Beauty? What is that? Beauty itself is nothing.”
     - Andy Warhol

Banksy has taken Warhol’s image of Marilyn Monroe and replaced her face with that of Kate Moss, who represents for her generation something of what Monroe did for hers. Moss’ image is very widely known through its use in advertising, fashion etc. Banksy has taken an icon from today, as Warhol did in the 1960s, and satirised it in this portrait. For Warhol, the purpose of the Monroe portrait was to integrate an everyday image, something never considered to relate to ‘high art’, into his own art. 
The theories of semiotics circulated by Roland Barthes and Theodore Adorno have a great relevance to the work of Warhol, and by extension, Banksy. Barthes and Adorno argued that a myth is created when an image (or word etc) is taken from its original context, which is then silenced and placed to one side, though never forgotten. The image alone can then take on whatever meaning, history and idea the creators wish to give it. Warhol has taken the image of a famous film star, and whilst her history and story are relevant and widely known, they are not allowed to become the focus of the piece. Instead, by multiplying, re-colouring and chopping the image, Warhol makes his own agenda the subject of the myth. People seeing the image may know of Monroe’s story, but what they see in Warhol’s work is the repetition of fame, the falsehoods etc. Banksy adds to this myth: the idea of replacement becomes part of it, for Moss’ image is for Banksy what Monroe’s was for Warhol, and yet there is no conceptual difference between them, all that has changed is that Banksy is saying that not only is fame/Hollywood/celebrity repetitive and illusory, those involved are also thoroughly replaceable. Banksy’s piece also implies a certain lack of imagination on the part of the media world, and also, perhaps, on art itself.
Andy Warhol’s 1962 print, ‘Marilyn’, shows the face of Marilyn Monroe reproduced many times and printed in bright colours; it is, essentially, the direct ancestor and inspiration for Banksy’s ‘Kate’. Warhol chose sex symbol Marilyn Monroe as his model for a series of prints which speak of celebrity culture and the use of iconography. Warhol understood, saw through, and yet was fascinated by the nature of pop culture and media imaging. He was concerned with representing an image in a way that would shape its meaning, despite there already being a back story behind the subject itself. Just as Banksy has not set out to make a nice picture of Kate Moss herself, Warhol used Monroe as a symbol of a wider message.

19 June 2015

A Political Input: Come on, Denmark! You can do better!

Wow. Not particularly proud of my country (Denmark) right now after the general election yesterday. I don’t know whether those who have voted right-wing are afraid or desperate or just plain stupid since it has come to this ... Goddammit - I know we can do better than this! We KNOW better than this..! You probably all hate us right now (which is understandable, really, and it wouldn’t be the first time).
However, the right-wing parties only won marginally. Half of us haven’t gone over to ‘the dark side’ yet. I know many headliners around the world make it sound like we have, and this new government may very well manage to tighten the noose around culture, education, immigration, integration, our longtime partnership with EU and any other human decency before they are let go. But believe me, half of us will put up a fight all along! So many of my peers and fellow students find it appalling the turn this election has taken.
We are a little, fairly unknown country of no significant consequence, but we are privileged on so many levels - compared to so many others who have little to nothing, and it still matters how we are viewed by and how our choices reflect upon those around us. Unfortunately, few Danes realize this and are mostly concerned with themselves and their own lives. That’s why this election has bothered me so much: We, of all people, can and must choose to take a stand against everything that is happening around us: right-wing extremism, xenophobia, etc.. Not because we are better, but because we know better. We are a tight-knitted community who must be able to show an example of how to treat your neighbor, your next of kin, with tolerance and respect. To help those most in need. To dare speak our minds; where nothing is too holy to debate, criticize or confront, not even our own methods. That is some of our greatest virtues, I believe. However, our general nitpicking, navel-gazing, and taking too much for granted are our biggest vices. Whether it’s because of our welfare model; that we’ve become too content and self-absorbed, or if it’s a cultural thing; a mentality we’ve established throughout time and become renown for, I can’t say. A dry satirist would say that Denmark is, roughly, a strange composite of navel-gazing inhabitants who rarely go anywhere but Majorca when they travel, and ambivalent cosmopolitans who know better but too often become disappointed in politics.
I may be wrong and utterly naive. But the image we are sending right now is one of hostility; hostility towards anything that isn’t us or isn’t with us, and it is far from the picture I have or want to send of my own country. Right now, in a ideologically divided Europe that is also in an economic crisis, we do not need another hostile front. Nor does the rest of the world that too battles crises of various kinds. It will do us no good. Not now and not in the long run. I only hope my generation will try to do better.

27 May 2015

Going to Italy: Cinema, Hollywood and Romance on the Tiber

I'm going to Rome with the family this early fall, having never been there before (or anywhere in Italy for that matter), despite having pretty much grown up in an well-traveled, Italophile home. I'm looking forward to it, because of - well, all the above reasons, but also because I've been interested in art of all kinds since a young age, and you simply cannot avoid coming across Italian culture and history when it comes to neither music, architecture, theatre, sculpture, painting, food, film, etc., etc.. There's SO MUCH to see in Rome that has just been piling up on my to-do-list over the years, so that's a big plus. But also because I - being a classic film fan - have watched several romanticized Hollywood renditions of the famous city throughout my youth - and I mean, who wouldn't want to visit the city as epitomized in "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck?

Roman Holiday

Though, I must admit not everything Italian has always struck my fancy. It has always been my father's italophile influence that has surrounded everything Italian I came in contact with. He loves the food, the opera, the film makers, etc.. I'm not a big opera fan, but as a kid I fell in love with Maria Callas' recording of Bizet's "Carmen" (I imagined I was the evil queen from Snow White, waltzing majestically around in a big cape, haha!), and I liked Mozart's "The Magic Flute" as well (but that's also one of the more kids-friendly operas, I guess). None of them Italian, I know, but I guess it still somewhat counts since it all started in Italy, anyway ;)

My father was at one point convinced that me and my sister would love Fellini's "Roma" (1972) and find it as amazing as he did, even though we were perhaps a bit too young to understand the more than two hour long, poetic film ... Every time it has been mentioned since then he's spend the time demonstratively, passive-aggressively 'apologizing' for showing us such a film (his usual mode, ugh). Oh well, maybe we were a bit too loud and exaggerating in our critic at the time, but I also think we were simply too young. Besides, he practically sold the film solely on the basis of his own, personal childhood experience of arriving in Rome by train for the first time as a small boy (just as the main character in the film does), which isn't always the best way of selling a film to kids. There are also many cultural, inside jokes to account for when your parents choose a film director who has a specific style only they are familiar with, as well as a better understanding of a specific culture i.e. the Italians, Italian cinema and all its hidden commentaries to its society and history, and then continue to laugh at places kids just don't get. But I guess that's an everlasting dilemma when growing up, trying to understand and coming to terms with the world.

To begin with I found some of the old masters of Italian cinema to be frightfully grandiose and theatrical - like their opera and everything else they did - as well as hypocritical in their portrayals of women, painting them as stereotypical as Edward Munch did; as the virgin, the mother, the vampire, the prostitute or the old woman; praising and chauvinistic at the same time. But as I got older I realized many other (film) industries and directors have done so as well, just without me being aware of it before. Italian cinema may have been more ambiguous than what appeared to be - and always with a great sense of humor - though I don't doubt some of these boisterous fellas behind the cameras had as many personal faults as some of the masters in Hollywood (such as Hitchcock, Ford or Welles). I'm still not sure about the portrayals of women in (classic) Italian cinema, though.
The most male-centered of them all is perhaps Sergio Leone, but I simply adore that man and all his spaghetti westerns (despite he basically was a copycat of Kurosawa), as well as his genius collaboration with composer Ennio Morricone! I know, it may be a betrayal to my sex (his films are practically devoid of women when they aren't used as rag dolls) - but his films are just so meta-commentating, so pre-postmodern, so self-mythologizing about its own genre and the American western, that it really doesn't matter that much in the long run.
Also, as I got older, I began to appreciate the baroque feeling of Fellini, the naked neo-realism of Rossellini or the patient dramas of Visconti and Bertolucci (I've even sat through some of Pasolini's highly controversial films!). I guess, it was this over-all unapologetic feeling Italian cinema had about itself that was and is so unique; seemingly highly self-aware and satiric, unafraid of controversies, the grotesque and the dirty; of cutting into the bone and beyond. There's this distinct European or rather South European feeling tied to it, which sometimes only Europeans understand or recognize, as it so often is with different cultures. I began to understand just how big influences they were on film-making in general, such as the Nouvelle Vague in France - or in Hollywood (albeit the Americans were a bit slower to pick up on these new trends in their mainstream productions and have mainly stuck to their classic models, even to this day). 

So, speaking of Hollywood (and really the subject of this post - I apologize for the digressions once again), their renditions of Italy were, as said, much more romanticized than realistic or anything artsy and fancy than what the Italian film makers experimented with. No experiments here! Nope! Just good, old-fashioned romance after the typical, naturalistic Hollywood model.

Hollywood on the Tiber became the name of an era of film making in the 1950s and 1960s where in particular Rome or other parts of Italy became the center of the plots, given all the history, drama and romance the country had to offer (though, one could argue other countries had so as well). In contrast to the native Italian film industry, these were English speaking productions, targeted mainly American and British audiences. There were all the 'usual' epic, swords-and-sandals-films and then, of course, the romantic comedies set in a - at that time - contemporary yet romanticized setting. Usually single, young, innocent girls or lonely, wallflower spinsters from the Western hemisphere vacating there and meeting their handsome, exotic Prince Charming or just a fellow - yet equally dazzling - American. And then the chase goes - however slow or fast, up- or down-hill it may go. I will look closer at a couple of films from this genre in the following paragraphs. (There may be spoilers ahead!)
However, as time went on, the native Italian industry gained footing and escalated in popularity, but not without borrowing from Hollywood and its classic genres, as the swords-and-sandals films continued and the highly popular Spaghetti Westerns came about. The values of the 1950s were slipping in the sand and its idyllic visions of Italy disturbed by new and violent images of the 1960s.

Back to the topic, one of the most enduring and classic examples of Hollywood's settlement in Italy at the time is of course William Wyler's timeless "Roman Holiday" (1953). Also remembered by being Audrey Hepburn's breakthrough role as well as her first and only Oscar-winning role. I don't know what to say about it that hasn't already been said, other than I love it and that it's one of those films you'll never get tired of watching. Sentimental yes, but never so much it gets soppy or cheesy (albeit, you could call it a tear-jerker because of its ending). It is both light and serious, funny and heart-breaking. Audrey is one of the most authentic, humble and unpretentious actresses that has ever lived and she never fails to bring that to a role. Gregory too brings his ever so solid, yet gentle, calm and believable personality to the table, and the fact that he insisted on giving Audrey equal billing for her role makes him all the more 'the Gentleman Icon', as I choose to call him. I wonder that if it had included the natural expectation of a happy ending, whether its legacy would have run as far as it has today? Audrey is wonderful as always and Greg as handsome as ever and together they make a brilliant team, but would we have liked them just as much, felt for them just as much, if they had ended up in each other's arms? Perhaps. Perhaps not. We cannot be sure now, but its legacy has definitely cemented itself in film history.

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

The following year came another romantic 'comedy' film set in Rome: "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954) directed by Jean Negulesco.
The movie itself is basically a lovey-dovey, or let's use the wonderful word 'schmaltzy', feel-good story, or rather: a battle of beauty between the younger cast members which include Jean Peters, Maggie McNamara, Dorothy McGuire, Louis Jourdan and Rossano Brazzi. Hot dayum, what a cast! Personally, they couldn't find much more beautiful, alluring, exotic and refined gentlemen from France and Italy, respectively. Those brown, puppy dog gazes - and those accents, oh boy! I could listen to them speak all day long. And the women are equally beautiful in each their compelling ways that never bore you, despite their character stories are rather contrived and limited: Jean is sensual, cynical, yet never one-dimensional, Maggie is waif-like, naive, curious a la Jean Simmons/Audrey Hepburn, and Dorothy is mature, yet shining, almost childlike in her enthusiasm and sorrow.
And even more a battle between the beauty of the cast and the beauty of the city, Rome, shot on location, and also a short peak of Venice! Not many films of that era takes us round the streets and sceneries of a 1950s' Rome, so all in all, the film is definitely worth a watch for all its eye candy (cast included) ;)

Dorothy McGuire (left), Maggie McNamara (middle) and Jean Peters (right)

However, its plot lives up to its era and that it's Hollywood produced. It's awfully antiquated, as expected, when it comes to values regarding female roles and what women are taught: That their sole purpose in life is to find a man, or more precisely, a husband. A rich, eligible husband.
One of the women is disillusioned (Jean Peters' character), another still carries around (false, declining) hope (Dorothy McGuire's character) and a third arrives to fulfill the above goal no matter the means (Maggie McNamara's character). The three single girls and secretaries of course get three male components to seek out: Jean's meeting with a poor, rural, soon-to-be-lawyer (Rossano Brazzi's character) just as she is about to leave the country, Dorothy's unrequited love for her unaware, curmudgeonly employer (Clifton Webb's character) and Maggie's manipulative, yet naive and highly worrisome pursue of Rome's royal playboy numero uno (Louis Jourdan's character).

Rossano Brazzi
Louis Jourdan

When I first came across Jean Peters I must admit I was afraid she was just another stoic, pretty Jeanne Crain-face but she has surprised me every time I've watched her. She's got this pouty-seductive, girly-yet-womanly panache going on and boasts of a dry, intelligent wit and determination, not without an enthralling, melancholy vulnerability attached to it, which makes her an odd combination of depressive and beautiful in a very human, relatable sort of way (Hedy Lamarr had the same feeling about her, but just seemed more like a goddess than a human). You can almost feel Jean's inner fight for being regarded as more than a sex symbol shine through some of her more sarcastically delivered lines in several of her movies.

I haven't watched Dorothy McGuire before and though her character in this one is a bit of a pushover and a wallflower, she surprised me with a serene sense of depth and warmth as well as a very cute and funny drunk performance in the end of the film. She doesn't at all appear as the no-good, unattractive spinster, whose life has practically ended because she isn't married (Dorothy is only 36 here, for crying out loud!), as she is painted out to be and it makes me so angry to think if all women back then truly thought of themselves like this at that age or that they were 'told' to feel so by society! The idea that women should put so much effort into being something of value (for the men), whereas the men just are valued! You feel like shaking some sense and self-respect back into these women; to tell them to stop serving the men and go make their own happiness - which is possible without the men! Okay, I'm ranting again, but those 1950s ideals just get on my nerves sometimes! At least, "Roman Holiday" had the decency to be a bit more creative and modern with the whole 'romantic chase'-thing, if you could call it that.

Maggie McNamara invokes, as I said before, the Jean Simmons/Audrey Hepburn vibe, but sadly falls in between the two of them, not really personalizing the role (or gets enough time or material to do so). She gives her character that cute, naive, curious trait that you would think is just right for Louis Jourdan's notorious playboy character, but she does everything wrong - in the most demeaning and cringe-worthy of ways (especially for a feminist)! - by deleting herself and wooing him solely based on what HE likes. Of course, she ends up realizing how wrong this is when he truly falls for her, and in the end admits stringing him along. Unfortunately - and highly unsettling - they do end up together despite this, which makes one wonder how this could come to be if his love for her was based on an entire lie and, the fact, that they have nothing in common??
Like Laura, the couple I was most interested in, Jean Peters and Rossano Brazzi's characters (and two of my favorite actors), had the least amount of screen time, which is a shame.

Jean Peters (left), Maggie McNamara (middle) and Dorothy McGuire (right)

Clifton Webb, who plays Dorothy McGuire's employer, is always a treat to watch in all his cool, acerbic flamboyance - which worked perfectly in "Laura" (1944) - but here his surprisingly badly concealed sexuality unfortunately skews the plot to become something else than a man motivated to get married because he is on his death bed and because his sweet and lonely secretary is in love with him. Suddenly it becomes a homosexual man's last resort to save himself and his secretary from further loneliness - in a world that doesn't look kindly on his sexual preferences or her spinsterhood. And then suddenly the reason behind her unrequited love for him has an entire new meaning than what she assumes: That she's just not an attractive enough woman for him. Maybe I'm just reading things into it and I'm definitely sure there was no intention whatsoever by the film makers or studio to hint to this. Though it surprises me that they didn't at least try to make him seem 'less' flamboyant in that case or choose another actor to play the role (Webb, as I said, is brilliant being himself, but I doubt he could be any less himself, and I would be sorry to see him try that). Don't get me wrong, I almost wish it was intentional; that it was some sort of hidden commentary to the bigoted, polished society of the 1950s' view and horrible treatment of homosexuals, but sadly, the film never goes that deep. Actually, don't expect any film from the 1950s to touch on such sensitive subjects directly (I can't even think of any that did it indirectly... "Rebels Without a Cause" perhaps?). Instead watch Todd Haynes' "Far from Heaven" from 2002 which deals with those matters and comes highly recommendable.

In Venice

At the Trevi Fountain in Rome

The single girl/spinster/secretary-topic was apparently hot in the '50s and continued the following year with David Lean's "Summertime" (1955), starring one of my favorite actresses, Katharine Hepburn, and, once again, handsome Rossano Brazzi in the lead roles; this time shot in beautiful Venice. I really want to experience this version of Venice when I go visit it one day, but having heard rather off-putting stories of how the tourism has practically invaded the place I'm afraid it cannot be quite as idyllic and peaceful as portrayed by Lean. Anyway, I just want go there before it drowns.

Katharine plays the single, middle-aged (Kate is 48 at the time) secretary, Jane Hudson, who travels to Venice on a long awaited summer vacation and encounters the younger, swarthy, dashing Renato (Brazzi) eyeing her up in a café. At first she is put off by this and hurries away, but when she meets him again by chance, she slowly becomes attracted to him yet is confused by her feelings and keeps him at bay when he starts to pursue her. Eventually, she gives in and they start a sweet, but passionate romance. When he admits being separated from his wife, it throws her off, but he convinces her to seize the day and give in to what he offers. However, in the end, she sees their relationship as eventually doomed, and despite his protests she returns to America with a bittersweet farewell between the two lovers.

Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi in Summertime

On the surface, it is a somewhat cliché tale of a 'prudish', American spinster who tries to hold the moral high ground when she meets the younger, exotic and dashing foreigner who pursues her. Any other actress in the role of Jane Hudson would have seem pitiful to the point of laughable, or maybe it's just me who cannot picture the film without Katharine's great sense of vulnerability and human insight. If it wasn't for Katharine's wide-ranging acting abilities and David Lean's sensitive direction the film might not still be able to power through with its quiet and surprisingly relevant philosophy about life and loneliness. 

I think we can conclude, in its essence (and most stereotypically of fashions), there's something beautifully tragic or melancholy-romantic about Italy that just draws lonely people to it. People who hasn't much else in life to live for; people who are sensitive, contemplative, who appreciate and seek out beauty and put up walls or facades to protect themselves from temptations, but end up giving in to them, despite inner struggles of what one should or shouldn't do. Just like Gustav von Aschenbach in Visconti's "Death in Venice" (1971). Some seek solace, romance or adventure; the exotic and different; where time and history stand still yet live; while others simply run from their old lives or present situations at home.

Death in Venice

These films also made me think of American photographer Ruth Orkin's wonderful illustrative series of photographies from when she was a young girl in the 1950s and went alone to Italy. There she met a fellow American, Ninalee Craig (also known as Jinx Allen) and used her as a model for her experiences in Italy. I find the pictures very much invoke many of the feelings from the above-mentioned films and give you a sense of how it was (and maybe still is) to be a young, single girl travelling in a foreign country on her own:

Ruth Orkin's most famous photo: American Girl in Italy, 1951

Maybe when I return from my vacation this fall, I'll be able to recognize some of these portrayals of being a foreigner visiting Italy. I've already romanticized the hell out of Paris and the real thing has yet to disappoint me.
Who knows? Maybe I'll meet my own Rossano Brazzi and make him fall in love with me..? (Nah, I wish!)

Hubba hubba!

14 March 2015

The Scandalous Haircut and The Loss of Virtue

When Mary Pickford in 1928 cut her famous golden curls, opting for a more smart, cutting edge (no pun intended) haircut attuned to contemporary 1920s' fashion, it raised an outcry among her fans around the world. 'How could she do it?!', people gawped, miffed that their beloved, petite starlet could shed what had so long been connected with her image and stardom as 'America's Sweetheart' on screen; an image further enhanced by her most often chosen roles as innocent children, playing feisty, little girls and teenage spitfires. 

The fact that Mary herself was well into her 30s by 1928 and greatly affected by her mother's death that same year didn't seem to matter to her audience. They still wanted the 'little girl'-image in their star that they were so used to see and admire throughout decades; not this new, sleek, elegant woman of the 1920s. Mary's ringlets had become the very symbol of female virtue and innocence, and the transformation - this symbolic loss of virtue in the public eye - was a shock. 

One would say this notion was tightly connected to the society and standards at the time where women - young girls in particular - should walk the virtuous road until marriage (their sole purpose in life) and never step out of line before, during or afterwards. Even in the roaring '20s when women's roles had become somewhat more outgoing, this notion still wasn't dead.
And one would think we've come a long way since then, but interestingly, we have, in fact, seen the issue arise many times well into the 21st century.

The most similar and best known example was when another 'America's Sweetheart', Miley Cyrus, in 2012 opted for a fresh, blond pixie-cut instead of her long, dark tresses - which for a long time had been linked with her just as well-known and beloved, Disney-construed, feisty screen-persona, Hannah Montana. Along with a new dress-code and attitude, Miley was transformed, image-wise (and thus, inherently, identity-wise), but most importantly: No longer controlled by the Disney corporation. The break-away fueled an image-change which ran much deeper than just the hair. 

Such life-changing episodes, just as Mary losing her mother, are often only the enablers for a natural, yet somehow always controversial process that is inevitable and sometimes just temporarily stalled: the transformation from girl to woman, from child to adult; the coming-of-age that everyone goes through at some point in their lives in various shades and sizes. Or simply the progression of identity and self-growth. It shouldn't come as such a shock, really, as it is common knowledge for even the simplest of minds, but what may make all the difference is that for Mary and Miley it happened while the whole world was watching. While we may have endured a couple of bullies at school, they endure the bullies of the entire world - probably for as long as they'll live - which is the curse of all celebrities! The definition of 'slut-shaming' reached a new high with Miley, and not even Britney Spears' infamous head shave in 2007 or Natalie Portman's role-required shave in 2006 (to just name a few) sparked quite the same amount of discussion about not just how women - especially female celebrities - are perceived in media, but how women still serve as the moralizing punching-bag in society and its measures of beauty and behavior.

A string of 'less' outrageous cases such as Felicity-star Keri Russell cutting her curly looks, Emma Watson's pixie-cut after ending the Harry Potter-film series or Jennifer Lawrence's sudden haircut at the peak of her career all sparked the question "Why?" in the media as well. Which again cemented the idea that stepping out of heteronormativity, even in the slightest (aka getting a haircut), makes society question the reason behind it as being 'abnormal' as well, such as 'coming out' or being mentally unstable etc., despite it often only is people innocently experimenting with their looks (as we all do); the least harmful deed of all, surely!

This notion is more than just the media overreacting as usual, and although it fuels the standards of heteronormativity, it works both ways. Like when the girls on America's Next Top Model cry their eyes out for hours whenever they are told of their 'complete' make-over - which often isn't more than getting a new hair-cut - one wonders why they are so attached to something that definitely will grow out again? Is it because they are young and coming-of-age and simply more sensitive about their own image and personal changes in general? Or does the show manipulate and edit in its material so that is what we see: Young women being hysterical every season so that we are made to think girls in general are behaving silly, when, in fact, they are made to do things in a very young age that one could question both the fashion and the television industry and its overly harsh attitude for?
Perhaps a combination of both where the show exploits the young girls' youth, hormones and inexperience, puts them in situations bound to create the wanted scenarios and affirm traditional views - all in order to create entertainment. It is shameless really, but unfortunately it sells and the contestants only get younger and younger for every season. Hell, we even have those perverse beauty pageants for small children! People are greatly entertained by Toddlers & Tiaras because they find it so absurd, but seemingly no one wants to do anything about this outrageous phenomenon...!!? Now that makes for a relevant and important "Why?"!

And why is it that only women are still caught in this hairy mess? (And yes, that pun was intended). Perhaps because the issue of hair is tightly connected to the idea of femininity. After all, men growing long hair as being something controversial basically became extinct after The Beatles and the hippie-generation happened. Today 'man buns' couldn't be more hip, being a skinhead no longer carries the ideological associations it once did and having bald spots is no more outrageous than having a zit, at most only serves as a pitiful vanity complex. Men don't seem to get any hate when it comes to their hair; they can experiment all they like for that matter - just look at David Beckham(!) - but for women the long tresses still serve as a symbolic phenomenon that shouldn't be tangled with for some reason.
Only the military cut serves as a symbolic loss of innocence among young men when they join the army - but that is in such a specific context that it's assumed only natural they should go through such a 'ritual' to become 'real men'. Of course, that notion itself makes for a lot of critique but it is pointing towards the system rather than the men. Here the men are the victims of such an action. I'm not saying women should be victimized, but they aren't necessarily forgiven either for cutting their hair - no matter the context. Perhaps it's a distorted comparison but the obvious distinction between the sexes in these matters strikes me as peculiar, nonetheless.

Apparently, virtue, in its essence, is still something going strong, despite its archaic use and the fact that the conditions since its origin have changed. But what is virtue? Well, it is basically asking for perfection; being able to live up to every damn stigmatic and dogmatic norm, tradition and expectation that come in your way all the time. Virtue may allude all good intention; a guideline made up long ago for young people to follow, containing many of the Christian values of inner strengths that we indeed treasure, such as love for your kin, kindness, humanity, tolerance, unselfishness etc.. But in the end, the virtue-package also picks up everything else from the outside world throughout time such as expectations of various, rigid kinds that keep the youngsters in a fearful leash - and it is made into this perfect ideal no one can live up to, yet so desperately, fruitlessly, unnecessarily tries. It isn't fair and never should be expected of anyone!
The word itself comes frighteningly close to the word virgin in my mind - along with all the frighteningly 'oh-so-good' associative words of moral excellence and an ascetic and abstinent life those two words conjure in your head. Bleh! NO ONE is or can be entirely virtuous, and it's highly hypocritical when we think we can judge other people on whether they are or aren't virtuous! And we always hit a new low, when we base these judgments solely on the imagery that the media sells us. (Sorry for my ranting; my temper just gets the better of me sometimes).

The whole Miley-incident has pointed out some critical facts in our time and age that mirror a frightfully rigid notion we all thought dead a long time ago. Hopefully, the discussion about women's roles in society will continue and be able to change something about this aspect - but enough with the female, virtuous hair already! After all, why do hairdressers even exist, you think!? The fact that we can STILL - after so much time and change - be outrageous about something so small as women cutting their hair short is beyond me. Apparently, some symbols die harder than I thought.

"Where the Boys Are" (1960)

Where the Boys Are (1960) 1/2 by heapsoflovehide

Where the Boys Are (1960) 2/2 by heapsoflovehide


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