Beauty blogger Em Ford has created one of the most effective videos on the horrors of body policing and noxious beauty standards that I've ever seen. Ford's short video amply demonstrates: 1) the power of make-up to shape others' opinions of you, and your own self esteem; 2) the overwhelming devastation possible through nonsensically pejorative online comments; 3) the inability to ever "win" in terms of female self-presentation. This is not just a great video, but a necessary one too. Bonus: read insightful discussion of the video over on Metafilter - see in particular the heart-rending first-person testimonials from people who have acne and have faced a variety of public censure because of their skin.
Ok, so this is perhaps more "For Your Listening Pleasure" than "For Your Viewing Pleasure", but still. This track, "Being Pretty Ain't Pretty", is from female country group Pistol Annies' 2013 album, Annie Up. It's never been released as a single, hence there's no official music video floating around. No matter, as the video below showcases the most important thing about the song for me, the powerfully simple lyrics which spell out the endless, expensive and tiresome work of performing femininity. To quote the chorus: "Being pretty ain't pretty, it takes all day long / You spend all your money just to wipe it all off / You spray on your perfume, you spray on your tan / Get up in the morning, do it over again / Being pretty ain't pretty at all". I particularly appreciate how the video projects the lyrics over a still of the Annie Up front cover, which shows the three Annies working their best sultry sexy womanhood - teased-out hair and smokey come-to-bed eyes and all. The disjuncture between the "final product" of their presentation on the cover and the song lyrics (and almost mournful minor key) really pushes home the point, I think. Yes, the Annies can and do look like that - but it ain't easy work, and it certainly comes at a (psychological and literal) cost. It feels like a good counter-point to the last FYVP, which centred on the empowering nature of make-up as a means to control self-representation and identity in the world. Again, I confess my love of make-up and the spectacle of feminine image management, but when such self-presentation is required (socially or otherwise) it is a destructive drain on resources of all kinds.
The BFI is, indubitably, a national treasure. In almost all their offerings, they display a commitment to education and accessibility - allowing people with varying levels of interest to just watch the damn film and walk away, or to delve ever deeper into meaning, history, and cultural significance. Shout-out to the BFI player, which is a magnificent resource, offering a beautifully curated selection of cinema on-demand. Anyway, my little love affair with the BFI was heightened this week with their video showcasing the make-up of Marilyn Monroe. It's not quite a how-to tutorial, and not quite a piece of cinematic-historical analysis. It demonstrates the ways in which Monroe consciously cultivated and controlled her look in order to manipulate her persona in the world. As the narrator points out: "Contrary to popular belief, Marilyn wasn't a passive product of the Hollywood system. She was instrumental in the construction of her own myth." Make-up is not always - or not solely - a tool of the patriarchy to objectify women. Sometimes, it is a powerful and political means of curating one's own projection into the world. I say this as a committed feminist who adores "putting my face on" to ready myself for the world, constructing my own myth one swipe of lipstick at a time.