Impossibly Beautiful

[Part Thirteen in an Ongoing Series: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve.]

Hi Shakers! This here's Lizzie, also known as the Lizard Queen. Kate Harding said this the other day: "Liss was kind enough to allow me to step in and contribute to her Impossibly Beautiful series after I wrote to her ranting about this cover shot of Reese Witherspoon I found on Go Fug Yourself. (Yes, I had a terribly productive afternoon.)" Change "Reese Witherspoon" to "Rachel Bilson" and "afternoon" to... well, maybe we'd better just let that one alone... and you'll have the explanation as to how I ended up here. Ginormous thanks to Liss for giving me this opportunity!

If there's a message we can take away from the Impossibly Beautiful series, it's that for a woman to appear on a magazine cover (and thus be considered beautiful), she must appear to have absolutely no wrinkles, nor any fat between her skin and her bones. (The jury is still out on muscle, though overall I'd say that, if a choice has to be made between the two, skinny is preferable over toned.) Her breasts must be appear full and round. Never mind that many of the women being photographed for these magazines have made a name for themselves by having curves. Never mind that in some cases the reason they're being featured on the cover of a particular magazine is that they've been on this planet for more than eighteen years. The image -- I can't even quite bring myself to say "woman" in this context -- on the cover of the magazine can never be too thin; her skin cannot be too much like porcelain; her breasts cannot be too perfect.

I confess, however, that in spite of my awareness of this trend, these covers never cease to surprise me. The latest version is Rachel Bilson, who's best known for her role on The O.C.. Here she is at an event last month (via Go Fug Yourself):

Red Carpet Rachel

She's thin and young, and while she hasn't got the ample breasts you often see on magazine covers, I still wouldn't have thought she would need much airbrushing.

But, of course, here she is on the cover of GQ (similarly via Go Fug Yourself):

Rachel on GQ

Heather of GFY had this to say: "I'm not sure why this photo of a lovely, genetically tiny person still called for so much airbrushing that Rachel has turned into a crazy pageant-zombie bobblehead with one leg that looks weirdly small compared to the other."

I think I might have the answer. Maybe the trend of women looking like lifeless clones on magazine covers relates to that oft-cited concern about people becoming isolated from each other and from reality in the electronic age. Many of us who have an all-but-symbiotic relationship with our computers (I feed mine cookie crumbs!) have managed to find community online. On the other hand, I'm becoming convinced that people who produce magazine covers must really be experiencing that isolation. They don't know what a beautiful woman looks like; they only know what magazine covers look like. So, then, when presented with a picture of a beautiful woman, they have no choice but to turn her into a magazine cover.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus