"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Beyoncé’s Bootyliciousness–No To Photoshop

We all read People magazine and watch E! but do not admit it in polite company. One of the things I like best about getting a haircut is the time I have to read the back issues of celebrity magazines. My hair salon is really a beauty parlor, so I have my pick of women’s magazines and pop culture features.  In the same way, the only good thing about pounding out miles on the treadmill at the gym is a chance to watch beautiful people on the monitors.  Although the clientele at my health club is distinctly an MSNBC crowd, some cultural outlier has always changed the channel to Hollywood TV.

Yesterday while at the gym I caught a snippet about Beyoncé who has refused to let her publicity pix be Photoshopped.  She wanted the public to see her as she really is, not some publicist’s version of her full-bodied, heavy-booty self, pictured below.

Beyonce for H&M

Many women applauded Beyoncé's move.  It is about time, they said, that the continued manipulation of the female form stop.  Such alteration is another example of male fetishism and objectification of women.  Far too much attention, these viragos cry, has been paid to women’s bodies and not their minds; and airbrushing, Photoshopping, and other digital ‘distortions’ simply cater to men’s adolescent fantasies.

However, Hollywood is nothing if not fantasyland; and PR is nothing if not a slave to big data.  Take leading men, for example.  A lot of them, like Tom Cruise are shrimps, but you would never know it to watch them on screen.  Casting directors are careful to choose women who are shorter than Cruise and men who are the same height to play opposite him.  The only cretin who can be himself is Danny Devito, who at 4’9” is shorter than just about everybody; but for the rest, height rules. While not exactly Photoshopping, creating the illusion of height is the same as creating the illusion of a slimmer, less booty-laden Beyoncé.

In the classic days of Hollywood, aging film divas for whom cosmetics no longer did any good were afforded the respect of fuzzy close-ups, good-side angles, and dreamy, smoky sequences.  A well-known TV journalist of a certain age regularly works out at my gym.  She looks ‘natural’ and is very much her real self while on the machines – a 70ish woman in good shape with bad skin.  On TV she – like Barbara Walters – looks stunningly attractive.

PR firms like the one handling Beyoncé, are like everyone else mining big data for clues on how to pitch a client.  H&M has access to the billions of bits of information generated on Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and a thousand other sources; and they can build a profile of the ideal Beyoncé. They want to establish her firmly as a cross-racial star.  They already know that black men wish her booty was even bigger while white men wish it didn’t stick out so much; but with a little more information from both sides of the color divide they can craft the perfect booty common denominator.

Actually, all this brouhaha caused by Beyoncé is nothing more than a canny publicity stunt.  She is getting even more press than before, and the Internet is now overloaded with her pictures.  Men who had paid only scant attention to this sexy and alluring woman, are now fans.  Maybe she did want to shout out to all her hefty sisters, black and white, who are uncomfortable with their excess baggage.  Lord knows there have been reams of articles written about women’s paranoid concern with body image. Maybe it was an affirmation of her blackness and her high-shelf booty beauty; but more than likely it was a PR backroom bottom-line decision which was the right one for all reasons.  First, the PR firm and the star can profit from all the additional publicity and exposure.  Second, Beyoncé can win votes with her feminist supporters while keeping her core wannabees. Third, once the flap dies down, she can be Photo-shopped to death and nobody will know the difference or even care.

All of which brings up an even more important point.  Americans don’t really care about reality.  We are so used to a pop culture which exaggerates, modifies, and enhances everything that fantasy, created images have become real.  Tom Cruise is tall.  The TV personality is beautiful. Hollywood icons have no sags, bulges, or pockets.  Everyone is coiffed, hot-combed, meticulously made-up and produced to glow. Sure, we get a few paparazzi glimpses at Mademoiselle X shopping at Kroger’s, all grunge and flip-floppy; and Monsieur Y looking grizzled and most un-Hollywood; but our capacity to airbrush these images out of our memories is endless.  These ordinary-looking, frumpy, and short people will always be gorgeous, elegant, and tall.

American society is all about digital imagery and virtuality. Most action movies these days are nothing of the kind.  The stars are hooked up to digital sensors and their avatars appear on screen as creatures, he-men, or robots.  The wild ride of Gene Hackman under the El in The French Connection – a real, dangerous chase in New York City staged by William Friedkin – is nothing, say younger viewers, compared to the Bourne movies which has some of the most nail-biting sequences in film – all engineered.  The technology is getting so good that is becoming impossible to tell what is real and what isn’t.  And we don’t care.

So I salute Beyoncé.  Not only is she a gorgeous woman and a super performer, but a canny businesswoman. Once again, it is only the irredeemable ‘progressives’ always in search of a more perfect, natural, and honest world, who are shouting from the rooftops…while Beyoncé goes to the bank. 

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