Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Beauty In The Eye of the [B]older 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Great post on feministe today on the "jolie laide" and sociopolitical differences between American and worldwide standards of feminine beauty:
American beauty is notable in its sense of achievement — beauty can be made through symmetry, through use of particular products, through highly feminine performance, through fitting onself into what the author calls a "pretty-pretty" mold ("think Texas, symmetrical features, blue eyes, small noses, pretty-pretty"). Think Kate Bosworth, Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Simpson — pretty-pretty.

Europeans, [author Daphne Merkin] argues, embrace the beauty difference more openly than we do — they are better able to see the beauty in women like Sofia Coppola, Alex Wek, Juliette Lewis. Androgynous beauty is less threatening; perfection, symmetry and achievement are less of a focal point.
Middle class respectability in America is an achievment presented as a universal goal which can be purchased and performed — the American dream. Why should beauty be any different? A simple, narrow ideal presents an endpoint to strive for in a way that diverse beauty standards don’t. When crooked noses and crow’s feet and thick thighs fit into a conception of beauty, what is there left to work for? What is there to buy?

Obviously it’s more complicated than that, and this isn't meant as an America-is-totally-inferior argument. We may even be catching on — the fabulous (and no longer 20) Catherine Denueve is the new face of MAC cosmetics, and she tells the Times, "A mature woman in Europe is considered sexually powerful."

Perhaps there’s hope for us yet.
More: "The Unfairest of Them All," by Daphne Merkin in the New York Times. By the by, I think it's wonderful that we have over-60 female sex symbols - like Catherine Deneuve, who according to her IMDb bio, turns 62 this Saturday - and let's not forget Sophia Loren, who is still going strong at over 70. [Okay, Lady Lena Horne's been around even longer than that, but I won't resort to the obligatory 'black don't crack' crack ;) ]

It's not just a 'guy thing' (like Robert Redford and Sean Connery) any more. While they're not exactly good examples of the masculine version of jolie laide, other mature stalwarts like Sir Ian McKellen or Harvey Keitel would fit the bill. Tharts?