Consider the Source


In all the stage, telly & film versions of Shakespeare’s play Richard III I’ve seen, he wears a gaudy, gold piece of bling: a heavy chain necklace with a wild boar pendant. Now, why is that? “Cuz that was his heraldic emblem, innit?” How come? “Cuz he was a hunchback, all bent over like a wild boar, innit?” How do we know that? “Cuz that’s how Shakespeare had Richard describe himself, right at the opening of the play, innit?” But Shakespeare wrote the play more than 100 years after Richard’s death. How did he know what Richard really looked like? “Cuz, clever clogs, a Yorkshire school master, name of John Burton, wrote in 1491 (within living memory of Richard) that he was ‘an hypocrite, a crouchback, and buried in a dike like a dog.’ Innit?”

Well, it’s clear that Burton was no fan of the last Plantagenet king (nor was Shakespeare, who was kissing up to his own monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, of the rival gang, the House of Tudor). But his research was a bit dodgy. “Crouchback” was a family name in the House of Plantagenet [not a diss or a diagnosis], referring to the family’s right to wear an embroidered cross on the back of their formal wear, cuz their ancestor, Henry Plantagenet, fought in [and funded] the Crusades. Ya see how these urban legends get started?

Do you believe everything you read [or hear] in the media about Hollywood’s “royalty”? How can you, when every week two adjacent tabloids at the grocery check-out are contradicting each other? Do you believe in the genuineness of paparazzi photos, or have you twigged to the magic of PhotoShop, by now?

If you are female, do you believe that Barbie’s proportions represent the Platonic Form of Absolute Feminine Beauty? If so, you have something in common with the not-so-ancient Chinese, who bound infant girls’ feet, to keep them from growing [also, alas, keeping them from supporting the weight of the unfortunate girl, when the rest of her body grew up, so that she had to be carried around, like…um…Barbie].

See where I’m going with this? Be very careful in your choice of Body Image role models, for yourself or for those in your care. Ask yourself, who gets to decide what size [of foot, or body] is The Right Size? If you know someone who looks like a runway model, regard them with pity, not envy; for such cadaverous thinness [usually] comes at the cost of long-term health. A male cousin of mine [who studied at a famous UK ballet school in the 70s and danced professionally], gave us a glimpse into the grim reality behind those fairy-princess-looking girls. That ethereal look was [most often] achieved through the imposition [before the legal age of consent] of a forced choice: the humiliation of constant criticism for weight gain [soon followed by fear of dismissal from the school or professional dance company], or the pain & suffering of a life-long battle with Eating Disorder.

Last year, after the death of 3 South American models in their quest to compete with their European “colleagues” for angularity, there went out an international hue & cry, to insist that runway models must have a doctor’s certificate of “healthy Body Mass Index” before they could work in the fashion industry. Didn’t happen. Fashion designers refused to provide attire sized to fit the “certified healthy” models. Think about the priorities of such people, and those in the media who allow them to dictate what will be The Look for this Fall. Before you buy into their hype, that their Look is the Only Acceptable Look for this season [“Wear It or Be Square”], consider the source.

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Filed under attribution theory, body image, semiotics, sharks and jets

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