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Category: Plastic Surgery

The Reality of Cosmetic Surgery

I am passionate about bringing the body image crisis in our girls to public attention, so I’m happy to say it’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, media-wise. I was on Channel 7’s The Morning Show, along with the CEO of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, to talk about the effect that reality TV shows are having on body image and whether they’re encouraging more people to have cosmetic surgery. Some really important points were raised about girls’ body image, so it’s worth taking a look and forwarding on to others, to spread the word about why we need to empower girls. (Click on the image below to view. The interview starts after a short advertisement.)

The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover, Australia’s Next Top Model, Australian Idol, Big Brother—the list goes on and on of reality TV shows that all offer the promise of turning ordinary people into gorgeous celebrities. A big part of the story they tell is that appearance is more important than just about anything else, and that if we do something extreme to change the way we look so we fit into a narrow ideal of beauty, we will be happy and loved, and we will be famous. In the reality TV generation, instant fame has become the ultimate sign of success. What a limiting message for girls. What a dangerous message for girls.

As I said on The Morning Show:

While we might not be seeing an actual increase in cosmetic procedures, we’re certainly seeing an increase in angst over body. And lots of young girls believe the hype that if they have that new body or that new smile or those new breasts, life will be a lot better—and of course things aren’t that simple.

I thought it was really interesting that the head of the College of Cosmetic Surgery made a distinction between cosmetic procedures and reconstructive plastic surgery after accidents and burns. I think that procedures for purely cosmetic reasons are simply a no-go zone for girls, but I would also caution parents about rushing to get reconstructive surgery for their daughters. When I was two years old, I was badly burnt. I received third-degree burns all down my right arm and neck. As a teen, I hid my scars. I wore skivvies underneath my summer uniform, wore jumpers all year round. I avoided pools and beaches. My arm no longer seemed small; it seemed enormous. A huge, horrible, disfigured limb I would be forced to drag through what had been my oh-so-promising life. (Yes, teenage girls are good at drama.)

It was only in my adult years, as a teacher, that I finally explored ways in which I might come to terms with my burns. If I could not accept myself, how could I possibly ask my students to accept themselves?

I searched for soothing words, and found them in the writing of women such as Naomi Wolf, who wrote in The Beauty Myth:

We don’t need to change our bodies, we need to change the rules.

In women such as Sofia Loren:

Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.

And in the words of the young women I now taught:

I love how you wear your scars, Miss, you don’t let them wear you.

Words healed me. I did not have plastic surgery, and now as an adult I am not concerned about my scars at all. They make me feel strong and unique; they show the world I am a woman with a history of bravery. The power of words to heal is something we should all take to heart and remember in our relationships with the girls in our lives. Cosmetic and plastic surgery may appear to promise happiness and success, like we see on reality TV, but it can really only alter our bodies. It’s the words we use to talk about ourselves and one another that have the power to truly heal our souls, and to change lives.

This post is partly based on “The Battle Within”, in my book The Butterfly Effect  (Random House Australia).

Step in the right direction or PR exercise?

I was recently invited onto Channel 7’s The Morning Show to discuss an “Extreme Makeover” story in Girlfriend magazine’s June 2009 issue. Using before and after shots of a teen girl, they show readers just how much work goes into producing the perfect images on magazine covers: the hours of hair and makeup, clever lighting and photography, and fashion styling – not to mention all the digital manipulation necessary to make beautiful girls impossibly flawless, with no blemishes or cellulite, and with perfectly white teeth and eyes. According to the magazine’s editor, Sarah Cornish, Girlfriend’s aim was to dispel the myth that readers too should – or could – look like the beauty icons they see in the media. Click on the screen image below to watch the interview I did alongside Sarah Cornish, or use the following URL: http://au.tv.yahoo.com/the-morning-show/video/-/watch/13306869/


I applaud the magazine’s sentiment, and the June 2009 issue of Girlfriend magazine does include some good articles. There is a “Love Your Body” section and a sealed “Good Advice” section that presents the advice of psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, author of books on parenting teen girls, and Dr Sally Cockburn, aka radio’s Dr Feelgood, an expert on women’s health. But this valuable and positive information is offset by a range of advertisements and advertorials that offer conflicting, toxic messages. How about this full-page advertisement on the inside back cover?


The model looks like she has stepped straight from a shoot for the men’s magazine Ralph: stilettos, skimpy bikini, large breasts. She is faceless. It is all about her body. The ad is for hair-removal products “specially for active and youthful skin”.

After we finished filming the segment at the Channel 7 studios, I raised my concerns with editor Sarah Cornish, and she agreed that the ad was not consistent with the values the magazine claims to espouse. She also assured me this particular ad would not get run again.

Sarah, and indeed all magazine editors, are in highly influential positions and have the power to communicate helpful messages to teen girls about body image. The need to do so has never been more urgent. Girlfriend magazine itself acknowledges in another article, “Drastic Plastic,” that 26% of their readers admit they have contemplated cosmetic surgery as a solution to their angst about their bodies.

I appreciate that editors may not be able to completely revolutionise their magazines overnight, and I suspect that in our tough economic climate they may even become less selective about the advertising they accept – but if they are serious about their commitment to young women, they simply must be more vigilant. During our brief meeting, Sarah struck me as genuine and open to an ongoing dialogue about how she can improve the messages she presents to girls. Watch this space.

Beauty Myths

Recently I spent the most wonderful fortnight working with teen girls across New Zealand. On the way home, I stopped to purchase some duty free and stumbled upon the most bizarre beauty product: a NZ face cream that boasts sheep’s placenta as an ingredient.

I have now discovered that using placenta in facial products and treatments – and not just sheep’s but human placenta, too – is apparently the “latest in ultimate organic beauty.” A quick Google search revealed sites for placenta capsules to take and for recipes, including placenta lasagna and spaghetti bolognese.

Seriously, who would want to rub sheep’s placenta on their face? Or sit down to a bowl of afterbirth?

Outrageous and bizarre treatments promising a new and improved you have been around forever. La Prairie Pure Gold facial cream features “finely ground 24-carat gold”. Why gold? At $930 a jar, this seems insanely decadent.

And if the ingredients are not bizarre enough, how strange are some of the claims cosmetic companies make?

I nearly rolled off my lounge in fits of laughter yesterday at an infomercial on The Morning Show. The guest was promoting Victoria Principal’s cosmetic range. She began by saying how amazing this actress looks, and how it is a credit to her brand as “she has never had any surgery to enhance her look”. Really? Victoria Principal was married to one of Hollywood’s most famous plastic surgeons, Dr Harry Glassman.

Although she frequently denies having had any work done (Well, she would wouldn’t she? She has creams to sell!), this is not the natural face of a 60-year-old woman. I’m sorry, but even if she was secretly devouring tonnes of sheep’s placenta and rubbing bars of gold bullion on her face, wouldn’t her face still show some signs of . . . life?

Teen girls are not yet being sold the promise of wrinkle-free complexions (although using botox on young skin as a “preventative” now happens). They are instead promised instant confidence . . . in a jar.

Want to feel empowered? Try Napoleon’s “Goddess” lip gloss. It’s “the ultimate Girl Power, in a gloss”.

Want to be desirable? Try the Playboy cosmetic range. Packaged in bright pink and smelling sugary sweet, it is obviously aimed at teen girls. The range includes “Heff’s favourite lip gloss”, “Mile High Mascara” and “Tie me to the bedpost” blush.

Don’t get me wrong, I wear cosmetics and enjoy beauty treatments – but I find many of the claims simply insulting to my intelligence. Blogger Jill Filipovic echoed my feelings in a recent post quoted by Jessica Valenti in her book Full Frontal Feminism:

I like my mascara, and I’m not going to waste time feeling bad about it, but I am also not going to convince myself that long eyelashes are totally empowering and other women would be so much happier and more empowered if only they could have a makeover.

Right on, sister.

What are the most outrageous claims you have heard the beauty industry make?

PS In her comment, Melinda provided a link to a YouTube clip that I loved so much I have now embedded it here, too:

Buying love?

The article below first appeared in the UK Daily Mirror in September of this year. It raises so many issues relating to teen girl friendships, self esteem, body image and parenting that I have decided to copy it in its entirity here.

Below the article are questions worth considering. Teachers: this would make an excellent stimulus for a discussion in class. Should any of my educator readers use this, I would encourage you to submit some of your students’ responses here as comments.

I bought my daughter a EUR21,000 body to beat the bullies; Lesley Bennett’s teenage daughter Becky was desperate to change her looks after years of bullying and Lesley didn’t hesitate to spend her life
savings putting her under the knife. 
Helen O’Brien, The Daily Mirror, September 30th 2008.  

Gazing at her dazzling smile and admiring her new-found confidence, Lesley Bennett has no regrets about spending her life savings on her daughter Becky’s looks.

Despite having an enviable figure and an attractive face Becky’s self-esteem was shattered by years of bullying at school.

But still many parents would have tried counselling before spending EUR21,000 to give their daughter a new body.

“I’ve no doubt I did the right thing. I’d do it again without a second thought because Becky is happy now,” says Lesley, 51.

Only child Becky had always been bright, popular and bubbly. But when she started a new school at 14, Lesley noticed a change. “My enthusiastic daughter was gone. She used to love singing and going with friends to after-school clubs. Now she wouldn’t do anything.”

Every morning when Lesley dropped off Becky at school she watched her daughter trudge alone and miserable through the gates. Teachers assured her it was just a teenage thing.

But things got worse. And excuses to skip school started. “She moaned about a bad stomach ache or a migraine. I knew something was wrong.”

Eventually, Becky came home from school and broke down. “The bullying was relentless,” Becky, now 22, explains. “It didn’t matter where I was, the bullies always found me.

“I spent every break locked in the toilets, hiding from the names – ‘ugly’, ‘disgusting’, and ‘pale skeleton’. I was an easy target because I was the ‘new girl’. I don’t know why they took a dislike to me, I did nothing to provoke them.

“The bullying was never physical but they threatened to cut off my hair. It was really stressful and because I’d started at a new school I had no friends. I felt completely alone and I had a real fear of going to school.”

When she started wearing make-up, hoping that if she looked pretty her tormentors might leave her alone, the bullies called her a slag.

Lesley says: “I felt so guilty. Why didn’t I see something earlier? I felt I’d failed her. I felt angry that these kids were ruining my daughter’s life. Why Becky? She was gorgeous.” After two years of constant name-calling Becky left school with five GCSEs vowing never to return to education.

“If I’d known about the bullying earlier I would’ve considered home tuition. The bullying ruined everything,” Lesley adds.

Eventually, Becky summoned the courage to study graphic design but when some of the school bullies turned up at the college she immediately left.

A shadow of her former self, Becky began to suffer panic attacks and increasingly couldn’t leave the house.

“The bullies had left her terrified and vulnerable,” says Lesley. Just the thought of going out filled her with fear.

“She used to love shopping, now she didn’t leave her room. I didn’t know what to do.”

Lesley tried persuading Becky to see a doctor but she adamantly refused. Lesley adds: “I didn’t want to turn into a bully myself and force her, so I just tried to be supportive.”

For Becky’s 18th birthday she didn’t have a party or go out clubbing like most girls her age. She sat at home with Lesley, dad David and her grandmother, and celebrated with a slice of pink cake.

Lesley says: “We tried to make her birthday as special as possible but there was a sense of sadness that she wasn’t out with friends.”

The next day Becky sat her parents down and told them the extent of her depression.

“I told them how much I hated myself, ” Becky says. “I told them I wanted to change and I knew how. I wanted cosmetic surgery and I begged them to help me financially.”

Becky showed her parents pages of research she’d been doing on cosmetic surgery and told them how desperate she was to change her body.

Lesley says: “She’d clearly spent years collating all this stuff. And then I looked at Becky and I could tell she was close to a breakdown.

“I reassured her that she was beautiful as she was but she was convinced the only way she would ever be happy was with surgery.”

With the teeth, the boob job, the liposuction, the fake nails, hair styling and tanning, Becky’s wish list added up to EUR21,000.

“It was our life savings. But I couldn’t think of a better use. Getting the real Becky back was priceless,” Lesley adds.

As soon as Lesley and David agreed, Becky booked to get her teeth whitened and straightened. A year later, when she was 19, she had her breasts enlarged from a 32A to a 32C. And the following year, when she was 20, she had liposuction on her inner thighs.

“I was terrified when she was wheeled into surgery but I shouldn’t have worried. The results spoke for themselves.

“Afterwards, she looked – and clearly felt – fantastic. It was as if with each operation Becky’s confidence was being restored,” says Lesley. And to finish the look, Becky booked a fake tan, fingernail extensions, haircut and colour.

Lesley watched the cost mount but had no regrets. “As Becky blossomed into a beautiful, happy young woman, I didn’t begrudge the cost for a single moment.”

Becky, of Penge, South London, says: “The bullies dragged me down so much that I began to believe everything they told me. The surgery was for me to feel like my life was mine again.”

Becky’s panic attacks stopped. And soon she began a new life as a model.

Lesley adds: “Today, Becky’s confident, outgoing and happy. In fact, at the age of 22 she’s got a new life. You wouldn’t recognise her from the girl she was before.”

But Becky has another boob job planned for the beginning of next year, although she insists she’s saving up to pay for this one herself. “Surgery made me feel my life was mine again.”

What they spent

Teeth EUR7,500

Boob job EUR7,000

Liposuction EUR5,000

Fake nails EUR500 (a year)

Hair restyling EUR200

Tanning EUR800 (a year)

Total EUR21,000

Possible questions for discussion

Have you ever witnessed bullying at your school? How did it make you feel viewing this?

Why do you think some girls target other girls for bullying?

Is verbal bullying as serious as physical bullying? Explain your response.

What types of things should schools do in an attempt to eliminate bullying?

What can you do to help eliminate bullying?

How can parents best support their daughters when things are not going well for them at school?

What are your thoughts on Lesley’s decision to pay for the cosmetic surgery Becky wanted?

Do you believe Becky’s new body will ensure she has a new life?

Is there too much pressure placed on young women to conform to an idealized image of beauty? Who do you think places these pressures on girls?

 

Club 21, “girl world” exposed: binge drinking, bullying, low self esteem and distorted body image.

AND the importance of moving beyond finger pointing.

Queensland school girls have formed an exclusive club, known as Club 21, which encourages members to be ranked between 1 and 21 based on their thinness, good looks, binge drinking escapades and popularity with boys. This number is then drawn on their hand for all to see.

The club not only operates at St Patrick’s Mackay, but has gone global via the internet and chat rooms.

This story has caused significant shock in the media. However it is unlikely this type of bullying – of each other and those who didn’t make it into the club – came as a shock to many teen girls. It was likely no surprise to their teachers either, who witness the various manifestations of the “Compare and Despair” game that teen girls are so good at playing, in playgrounds right across Australia. Recent studies show three out of five teen girls report being teased about their appearance at school. Girls in particular judge themselves and each other on how they look and on how popular they are bohabbo143v2.jpgth with other girls, and with boys.

When I was a teen girl at high school much of lunch time was spent rating our peers. It was our own little real life version of the magazines we grew up with that asked us, in virtually every issue, to decide whether particular clothes were in, or whether a celebrity was hot or not. We felt powerful playing these games – we may not have been able to control many elements of our lives, but we tried to control how we looked through diets, and we could definitely control each other through ridicule.

We may not have had a number reflecting these scores branded on our hands, but the scores were branded on our psyches.

The rules in girl rating games, both then and now, are not difficult to follow. Be considered hot by your peers and in particular by boys – and score points. Getting a highly desired boyfriend means an instant advance to the top of the club. I was lucky enough to have landed the school “spunk” at one stage and was elevated from classroom “brainiac” to the girl everyone wanted to know almost over night. He dumped me a year later for a girl considered even hotter – at just 14 she was already a model appearing in women’s magazines and parading in labels sold only to rich thirty-somethings. My dream run at the top of the charts was destroyed.

What makes this latest story of highly organised girl competiveness newsworthy is the use of technology to spread the ranks.

In my early years as a teacher in High Schools, I found it relatively easy to intercept notes critiquing other girls. Technology means these same messages can now can reach thousands of recipients in moments. Harmful messages found on toilet walls could be scrubbed off – it is much more difficult to delete messages once they have gone global.

The potential for misuse of the cyber world is alarming. But we cannot blame the internet alone. It is after all merely a tool, it is all too easy to blame the evils of technology rather than examining why our society has become more and more toxic for our young people.

Just why has girl self hatred gone mainstream and global?

Years of watching reality TV and being invited to rank contestants and evict / put below the yellow line / vote off those not entertaining enough or thin enough or sexy enough to keep us interested have no doubt played a role. And if Paris can get famous for being rich, thin and for sleeping around why can’t they? Elements of the media have been most hypocritical in their reporting of this incident. They have judged these girls harshly when these young women have really only responded to the fodder they have been fed by these same image obsessed magazines; magazines that perpetuate the misconception that success is dependent largely on appearances and sexual desirability.

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This incident is also a sad reflection of a society that makes our girls feel lonely. When they cannot find real connection at school, or at home, they look for it in cyber world and find all their deepest and darkest fears and fantasies fed on sites that promote eating disorders as a lifestyle choice, sites celebrating images of “girls gone wild” trashed and flashing their breasts at parties.

The reality is many women play this same compare and despair game too. Studies have shown that while up to 65per cent of teenage girls think they are less beautiful than the average girl, 84 per cent of women over 40 think they are less beautiful than the average woman. A survey released by the Australian Women’s Weekly just this week found that only one in six women were happy with their weight, one in five had such a poor body image they avoided mirrors and 45 per cent would have cosmetic surgery if they could afford it. Binge drinking appeared to be rife too, with a third of the women surveyed drinking too much and one in five women admitting she had been told she had a drinking problem.

As grown up women we no longer rank ourselves from 1-21 but many of us do get up in the morning and let the number that flashes up on our scales dictate our mood for the day.

Many of us tell our daughters they do not need to change in order to be beautiful while we rush for botox. We tell them inner beauty counts whilst we invest in plastic surgery and devour magazines that tell us that it is really only about air brushed perfection after all.

We may saddened by Club 21, but why are we shocked? Girls cannot be what they cannot see. If even the grown up girls are comparing and despairing, is it any wonder that our daughters do not know what “I am me, I am ok” looks like?

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Let’s not blame the victims here. After all, these are young girls – pushing boundaries, exploring and making mistakes. We shouldn’t fall into the easy trap of simply making these girls out to be uber bitches. Rather, they are a sad reflection of the times. We need to dig a little deeper and address the toxic messages our girls are fed and ensure these are countered with positive body image programs and messages of strength and resilience.

News flash! With the upgrades to Edublog, I can now upload the audio of an interview I did with Prue McSween on this topic. Enjoy!

  Click to listen – Dannielle Miller and Prue McSween on cyber bullying and Club 21, Radio 2UE. mp3

Keeping it real

Yes Keira, your lips are totally real.

Last month, I watched Pride and Prejudice on DVD. I can’t tell you much about it because I was madly distracted by Keira Knightley’s top lip. Huge. Like someone had cut a Floaty in half and glued it to her face. I couldn’t remember noticing that Floaty lip before so I checked with Dr Google and discovered that even though she’d been photographed leaving a plastic surgeon’s office a couple of years ago and despite the fact Stevie Wonder could have spotted the lip inflation and deflation during her career, 23 year old Ms Knightly swears she’s au natural: “I haven’t had my lips done,” she told a reporter. “Can I just say that I haven’t?” Sure Keira, you can say it. But what you say doesn’t reconcile with what we see.

Celebrities are liars.  That’s my bold statement for 08. OK, maybe some celebrities don’t lie. But most do, particularly the ladies. And it’s messing with my head, dammit.

They say “I think botox is creepy, I’d never put a needle in my face.”
They say, “Oh, I hate exercise. I stay fit by breathing deeply.”
They say, “Of course they’re real!”
They say, “Yes I did have a procedure on my nose but only to correct a deviated septum.”
They say, “I’ve never tried drugs, I’m too much of a control freak.”
They say, “The split is totally amicable and we’re still best friends.”
They say, “I’m very low maintenance. A bit of lip gloss and I’m out the door.”
They say “I’m 34”.
They say, “I don’t believe in nannies. I do everything myself.”
They say, “I never really wanted to be famous.” They say, “I was only giving the transsexual prostitute a lift home because it was raining and I’m a Good Samaritan.”
They say “I’m so blessed to have fallen pregnant naturally with twins at 49.”

And why is this a problem for me? Because when I read about celebrities I compare myself. Yes, I know this is pointless and stupid. But hey, I’m a girl and girls compare. It’s our job…”

Mia Freedman wrote a fabulous piece on celebrity liars earlier this month. I have adapted the extract above; it is really worth a look.

And oh yes Mia – I hear you! And yes – although we are smart women, all the lies do feed us as we play the Compare and Despair game. 

Our hunger for all things false seems insatiable- we devour images that are almost all photo shopped and airbrushed. Worse still, we listen entranced to the air brushed words that spill out oh-so-seductively from celebrities mouths.

I thought I would share some very rare recent examples of celebs FINALLY telling it like it really is.

So refreshing. So liberating. So REAL!

“I’ve heard so many actresses say something to the effect that it’s difficult to be beautiful in this business. I am not a violent person but I literally want to strangle them because it’s the most ridiculous thing anyone can say. It’s difficult being overweight in this business, it’s difficult being a minority, it’s difficult having some kind of physical challenge or handicap, but the easiest thing to be is beautiful.”

Actress Eva Mendes, as reported in the Sun Herald, Feb 17th.

“(when I get excited) sometimes a little bit of wee comes out!”   

Ex-model and new mum Chloe Maxwell on channel 7’s It Takes Two.

“I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized. To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all the girls out there that are struggling with their body image. A size 2 is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being a size 0 doesn’t make you beautiful. What I should be doing is celebrating some of the best days of my life and my engagement to the man of my dreams, instead of having to deal with photographers taking invasive pictures from bad angles. To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini – put it on and stay strong.”                               

Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, defending herself after pictures of her in a bikini were published with demeaning headlines such as “We know what you ate this summer, Love – everything!”

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“That’s my natural hair colour…You know, if you don’t consider the character beautiful, that is really me. That poster shows my natural hair colour, and it is me with very little make-up and no prosthetics. That is me.”

Charlize Theron talking to a journalist about the unflattering (by the usual Hollywood standards) images of her used to promote her new film The Valley of Elah.

“The belly is certainly not what it was. The boobs are certainly not what they were. You do think, ‘Oh, God!’ but at the same time, I was playing a mother, and it’s so important to me to have those things look as real as possible. More than ever now, I believe it’s so important to look as real and true to life as possible, because nobody’s perfect. I seem to be on a mission, but I don’t want the next generation, your daughters and mine, growing up thinking that you have to be thin to look beautiful in certain clothes. It’s terrifying right now. It’s out of control. It’s beyond out of control. For a long time being seen as a role model seemed like a huge responsibility, but if I am that to some young women, then that’s great. I’m tremendously flattered to be looked up to in that way, and I feel an enormous responsibility to stay normal and true to myself and not conform and all those things. You know? To be healthy. And normal. And to like to eat cake.”

Kate Winslet discussing her feelings about filming a nude scene in her film Little Children.

May the truth set us free. We have all fallen victim to the beauty myth. We all wee, bloat, flop, bulge and just do the best we can on any given day.

And we all deserve to eat cake …those of us who can still move our lips around a piece anyway.

The Grinches Who Steal Innocence…

I am really pleased the media has supported us in our outrage over the numerous examples of inappropriate products and services being marketed to little girls in the lead up to Christmas.

An interview with me over the inappropriate promotion of brazilian waxing on children’s web site girl.com.au featured recently in the Adelaide Herald Sun:

Herald Sun : Children’s Site Promotes Brazilian Waxing

Melinda Tankard Resit from WFA and I also collaborated on an opinion piece that was published on page 11 of the Sydney Morning Herald on 4/1/08

SMH: The Grinches Who Steal Innocence

Prue Mc Sween on 2UE interviewed me too and showed genuine interest in the agenda. Could it be that society has finally reached tipping point? Worth a listen…you may access below or via my Vodpod.  

Prue Mc Sween and Dannielle Miller – 2UE 4/1/08 

The Invisible Woman – Coming soon to a cinema near you!

Various newspaper articles have reported that the Head of Warner studios, Jeff Robinov, recently declared that; “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead.” It is alleged that his studio believes that female stars cannot guarantee top box office returns. No surprise that Warner Bros is now denying this report. Best this type of talk is kept for behind studio doors. 

The edict was uncovered, however, by journalist Nikki Finke, who posted it on Deadline Hollywood, her website devoted to movies, as distinct from celebrity business, on October 5. Despite Warner Bros denial, she stands firm.

If women cannot guarantee “big bucks”, should we then become invisible? And if women are no longer given lead roles, what implications will this have for the way girls and women are depicted in film? Surely they will be dire!

There’s no question the amount of product for women has diminished. Every year it’s a little less. The major studios only want to do the sure thing. Of course, these are decisions being made by men, who have a certain language for some of their films. The movies aimed at teenage and even grown-up girls are called chick flicks. The majority of the rest, filled with explosions of cars, buildings and bodies, with enough bare female flesh to satisfy the lowest common denominator, are aimed at teenage boys, the ones who reliably go to the cinema on Friday nights. Those films are called dick flicks. Of all the major studios, only one, Sony, is run by a woman Amy Pascal.” ( Say Goodbye to Hollywood Baby, Oct 15, 2007).

One cannot help but wonder if the reason why films starring women leads are not bringing in top dollars is because many are just so damn inane!  It is rare to see strong female leads in film nowadays, unless it happens to be a period piece ( surely this is ironic given women are meant to be more liberated now than ever before – wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect we would have more diverse experiences and more interesting things to say and do NOW?).   

Hylda Queally, an agent at the William Morris Agency who represents Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Hilary Swank, among others, has made comment on the lack of meaty roles for women in film;  “If you don’t want to play the stereotypical wife, girlfriend, lover – a corpse, basically – it’s hard. You see a lot of actresses gravitating to period movies, which are better written and have fully fledged characters.”(As reported by Sharon Waxman, “Fade to Black – Women’s Role in the Movies”, International Tribune, 2001).

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I suspect part of this trend towards patronising “chick flicks” and uninspiring films with female leads that do not fare well at the box office may be due to popular culture’s narrow definition of beauty and intolerance of the ageing process. If films choose to only explore the lives of traditionally beautiful women under 30, they will be less likely to have the scope to explore the more complex lives that other females, including those who are older and have had more rich life experiences to share, might offer.

Frustratingly, the trend towards resorting to radical plastic surgery in order to make older women look more acceptable in film is turning them all into bland, expressionless aliens. Nothing has distracted me more in a film than seeing Jane Fonda’s terrible face lift in the recent film I saw on DVD “Georgia Rule.” As if the sight of the once interesting Jane Fonda looking pained was not bad enough, star Lindsey Lohan looked dangerously thin and was an ugly, cliched version of a Troubled Teen (all sex and attitude). Lohan’s character actually says to a shy young cowboy she has just met, when he tells her he must go as he has to ride his horses, “You won’t have to brush or feed me after riding me.” In fairness to the film, it may have improved but that was 20 minutes in and enough for me. Who writes these lines?!

1217763.jpgIf this is the type of film Hollywood thinks women, and teen girls, will be drawn to – no wonder we are not buying tickets. I don’t blame the actresses but rather the idiots who decided a character who was after all a Grandmother had to be wrinkle free, and that a sad teen had to be, above all else, HOT, HOT, HOT and THIN, THIN, THIN.    

Howard Cohen, the President of independent film company Roadside Attractions, has publicly supported Robinov – to a point – “On a statistical level, he’s right. If you put an equal number of men and women in equivalent movies, the men would carry the day because they’ve been developed as action stars, thrillers, comics. No one develops a James Bond franchise with women. There’s no money put in women stars in other genres, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that they can’t carry a big movie.” 

Although after watching the clip with Sean Connnery and Barbara Walters below – and brace yourself, it is a shocker -one must wonder whether all that testosterone / action is so wonderful. And if the world needs more Bonds like this one! “Dick flicks” may bring in the bucks but just what are they doing to our boys’ brains?!  

 [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/3FgMLROTqJ0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

May I suggest studios don’t give up on the girls, but rather start asking what interesting projects they can develop for their leading ladies that will appeal. 

Poor workmen always blame their tools.    

Plastic Girls

An interesting article on Ninemsn , Quarter of Girls Want Plastic Surgery , provides some interesting statistics on teen girls and their body image.  

A quarter of teenage girls in Australia say they would get plastic surgery if they could, and two per cent have already gone under the knife. Almost 60 per cent wanted to be lighter on the scales, and 45 per cent said they knew someone with an eating disorder. The survey also gives a picture of drug use, showing that three per cent have tried the party drug ice, five per cent had swallowed an ecstasy pill and 13 per cent have smoked marijuana. Only 13 per cent admitted smoking cigarettes. Meanwhile, about half said they drink alcohol, with one in five confessing to having done something they regret while they were drunk. Global issues, like terrorism and the environment, were a concern for 78 per cent of the sample, while 85 per cent worried about achieving at school. Peer pressures were also a reality for many, with 70 per cent of girls confessing they had been bullied. Bronwyn McCahon, editor of Dolly, said while it was an exciting time to be a teen there’s no doubt the challenges facing young girls today are greater than ever.

754301_hips_dont_lie.jpgThere certainly are challenges, and one cannot help but think magazines like Dolly have actually contributed to the pressure to be perfect (see Miranda Divine’s Paradise Glossed, a recent article in the Herald on magazines as girl poisoners).     

Surely we can demand more than this for our girls…    

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