“You wouldn’t be a bad looking dame if it wasn’t for your face.” Jean Harlow
Jean Harlow. I think many of us know of her as the original blonde bombshell, the blonde before the other famous blonde. In fact the other blonde supposedly even went blonde because she admired and looked up to Harlow so much. Very different women, with very different personalities, Harlow and Monroe are now forever linked because of their mutual fondness for bleach. And the fact that once they both became blonde they became the stuff of dreams and fantasies of men ,and women, all over America and beyond. Harlow herself acknowledged that had it not been for her platinum hair she would never have made it in Hollywood,. And made it she did. She made over 36 movies and audiences loved her. She was the number one star of her time , and some say saved MGM from collapse during the Depression,and had it not been for her untimely death at the young age of 26 who knows what might have become of her.
Now she also admitted that her acting skills were, well, limited. That it was more what she presented on film rather than how she presented was what made her movies so popular, well with audiences anyway. Onscreen she was a brazen, feisty, hard-done-by female from the wrong side of the tracks who stood up for herself, could take care of herself and could defend herself. She could also laugh at herself and see the past the ridiculousness of Hollywood itself. In Bombshell, a parody based loosely on her own life and her very controlling pushy mother, she dismisses the praise that she is a sex symbol by saying she’s more “like a glorified chump.” She knew what the story was, her part in it, and I don’t think she took it too seriously.
And that is what I like about her. I like that she passed the above remark, a remark you would expect to hear from a male character because women character’s rarely got to be sarcastic or smart. In another film,when she hits slapped across the face she instantly reacts with a closed fist punch to the poor unfortunate’s face. Her character is brutal and ruthless in her dealings with both men and women and is most certainly never a victim. In many ways she’s in the same veins as another blonde who is currently ripping up female stereotypes on the big screen. In Gone Girl Amy, played by Rosamund Pike, gets to do and say stuff not normally associated with female characters. Now there may be areas of concern or dispute re Amy and her mental stability but whatever else I think Rosamund would say she was a having a blast kicking so many sexist paradigms to the kerb. It is along the same lines as taking that derogatory term that is aimed at belittling you and using it to empower yourself. Yes I can be a bitch but so what? I am many other labels, but I’d rather be a bitch than a doormat any day.
I may not ever say the above to someone directly, although there are quite a few folks I could say it about,,,to someone else, and neither have I ever hit anyone. But there have been times when I wish I had been more assertive with another woman, especially in the workplace, where egos and megalomaniacs abound. She also knew, from bitter experience I imagine ,that “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.” A lesson we have all learned the hard way, I know I have. Although it’s more than just dogs than can give you fleas! She really was one smart young lady who despite have her life cut short taught us much about being a woman., whether you a sex symbol or not.