“Hollywood always wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.” Bette Davis
I wonder if when Eve ate that ripe juicy apple she thought either a) I wonder how many calories there is in this piece of fruit or b) Would I consider myself an apple, I’m definitely not a pear but an apple? And if anyone ought to be body conscious it’s her given that she walked around naked all the time – no hiding behind sweats and baggy t-shirts. But then if she did decide she was an apple, what would she have thought? Was that body shape, fuller around the middle, the ideal then? But if she did give it some thought, and did have a body ideal, how would it compare to what we value today? And by we, I mean the West in general, and the media in specific.
Because the truth is, as recent reports have highlighted, the concept of the perfect body is ever changing. Flick through the pages of an art history book and you will see that the beauty ideal has gone from the voluptuous rubenesque body of the 16th century to the Amazonian of the late 20th century. And within the last century the perfect look shifted almost every decade, with the hips in one minute and then given the boot the next. And the awful truth is that no matter what silhouette is ‘in’ all of us can’t suddenly have the stat’s to fit said shape. Granted here is where the correct undergarments provide the padding or shaping needed to create the illusion of say, the hour glass figure, but at the end of the day it is about being happy with what you’ve got. To attempt to please or attain some sort of body ideal is just sheer madness, nonsense even, as so often the images shown to us are skewered or altered.
Take Marilyn. Her body is touted as the ideal, the ultimate hour glass. You hear misguided folks say she was large by today’s standards, that she was a size 12-14. Well you know that white dress she is so very famous for, the one she lost a hubbie over? Well when it was auctioned recently it was put on an American size 2 mannequin and yet the mannequin too big. Yes the size 2 mannequin was too big. She had a 22 inch waist which is 12 inches smaller than the average US woman’s today. However despite her tiny middle she had a big bust, 35 inches to be exact, a bra size 36D. And her hips were 35 inches, hence the natural, no corset needed, hourglass shape. But Marilyn’s body is rather unique and unusual so to hold her up as an example is both silly and pointless. Yet rarely is she portrayed as she was, instead the truth is distorted to make people feel dissatisfied with themselves, setting unrealistic standards for some desired, yet rather uncommon, shape.
When the Knoll brothers designed Photoshop, they believed that the public would not be deceived by the altered images; that we would see them for what they are, altered images. To edit something is to expunge, to eliminate usually that which is not wanted.Unfortunately the Knoll brothers’ trust in us was misplaced. Magazines and the like bombard us with pictures of yet more unattainable bodies as editors nip,tuck and splice to produce; and thereby promote, ideals that are fundamentally unrealistic. And we believe these altered images. And worse than that we judge ourselves against them, try to reproduce them, despite the adjustments, the distortions.
I think we all need gentle reminders, that like Ms Davis, we need to fight such propaganda and remember to see such notions for what they are – totally unrealistic. That since the concept of beauty, and what is beautiful, is ever changing, we should instead focus on the one thing that is, or should be constant – happiness with your own body. That is the only thing that is real.