Apparently in the last days of the twentieth century it isn't enough to garner gushing film reviews
I'm probably not
the only person tired of Annie Leibotwitz's signature photo stamp. Now, don't get me wrong. I like breasts, too. But Emma Thompson's surprising display in the February issue of Vanity Fair bugs me. The silly, breast-exposing photos have nothing to do with what the British actress says in the accompanying story. "I think of myself as sexual in a human way, but not as some kind of bombshell...I tend to represent ordinary women...I'm sexual in the same way Tony Hopkins is, we can create an erotic charge rather quickly. It's so much more erotic...that, hidden, unspoken, unshown sex, than the full thing," says the latest darling of the international film machine.
Sensible words, yes. But the photos tell a different story. Though the star of Sense and Sensibility doesn't bare all, the pictures depict the same senseless combo of breast revealing poses and unbuttoned tasteless garb that Leibowitz has perfected. Apparently in the last days of the twentieth century it isn't enough to garner gushing film reviews. True success means revealing the right stuff between the covers of Vanity Fair.
No sooner did I discuss this latest breast exposure with a friend -- who happened to mention Holly Hunter's breast-stunning appearance on the recent Golden Globe Awards show -- that I picked up the latest issue of the New Yorker. I wasn't too surprised to find another Leibowitz spread. This time we view Las Vegas showgirls. Guess what nets these gals a few extra dollars and the "showgirl" rank? Showgirls perform topless; dancers keep their tops covered. Even more titillating, at least one of the New Yorker "showgirls" is a middle-aged woman in her 40s.
Still, what we see is a rather grim series of fat-free women who don their dazzling, feathery costumes to pose Leibowitz-style. Like the earlier Leibowitz's snapshots of a pregnant Demi Moore, these pictures have the appearance of defying convention but give the public the same old thing. Bare breasts. Long legs. They might as well be calendar girls.
At least the motive is clear in the New Yorker stills. Unknowns now, these women will presumably remain uncelebrated. But sitting for one of the most famous photographers in the world buys them their 15 minutes of fame. Probably a small price to pay.
We're becoming a nation of Peeping Toms
Moore the payoff was even bigger. Her naked pregnancy shots boosted her renown into the galactic range. For an actress whose talent is at best limited and at worst invisible, those very noticeable postures gave Moore an appearance of complexity that she doesn't posses. Even more troubling, feminists who should have known better extolled the pregnant pictures, rather than exposing them for the publicity stunts they were. Sexy though we may be when pregnant, that's not what the pictures of Moore revealed.
There is an important difference between publicity stunts and breaking new ground; between opposing censorship and offering thoughtful criticism; between art and using a woman's body to trade on tired stereotypes.You might call Leibowitz a photo-magician, but what she's practicing is black magic. We think we're seeing something new, but what we're becoming is a nation of Peeping Toms.
Before you size up a woman's worth and power, Leibowitz appears to be saying, you gotta' check out her breasts.
All my stomping around got me thinking about Hillary Clinton again. Here's an idea. Perhaps she could solve her public relations problems by posing for Leibowitz. It wasn't enough to promote universal health coverage. A woman who changes her hairstyle more than once a decade can't be trusted. And, no matter how good-intentioned Hillary is, a woman of real power is an object of hate in the U.S.
Gee, if Hillary would just stop acting so political and start acting like most famous women, the public might be a little nicer to her. All she has to do is unfasten a button or two, hike up her skirt, bend forward a little bit, droop her eyelids, and listen for the snap of Leibowitz's shutter.
So she can't sell the nation on health care, but maybe Hillary could sell Al D'Amato a nice new pair of jeans.
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