Impossibly Beautiful

Below is a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker, a woman who is effervescent, smart, has had extraordinary professional success, and is legendarily stylish.

image of Sarah Jessica Parker blowing a kiss to fans at a movie premiere in Cannes
Parker arrives for the screening of Wu Xia in Cannes, May 14, 2011. [AP Photo]

Whether she is beautiful has always been a subject of much debate, because she does not conform perfectly to traditional definitions of beauty. It will not be debated in this space, because to debate it is to tacitly concede that there is some objective Beauty Standard, some platonic ideal of feminine beauty, and that conformity to that ideal is an issue of character.

What matters is not whether any of us find Sarah Jessica Parker beautiful; what matters is that, yet again, Marie Claire has found her to be not beautiful enough.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a piece about a Marie Claire cover featuring SJP in which her famously wrinkly hands were Photoshopped to look like babydoll hands stuck on the ends of the arms of a confident 45-year-old woman. Now she is on the cover of their September issue, and they've done the same damn thing to her again.

image of Sarah Jessica Parker on the cover of Marie Claire's September issue, heavily Photoshopped
[Click to embiggen.]

Compare to the image at the top of this post, in which SJP's unretouched hand is visible as she blows a kiss to fans.

That Sarah Jessica Parker has a life rich with family and friends, and is a successful actress on stage and on screens small and large, a savvy businesswoman, and a well-respected arts advocate and philanthropist, isn't enough. She hasn't yet earned the right to be Who She Actually Is on the cover of Marie Claire, because Who She Actually Is isn't good enough if she's got WRINKLED HANDS at age 46.

I have wrinkled hands not terribly unlike SJP's. Marie Claire would evidently like me to be ashamed of them. Fuck that. I love my hands, and I love Sarah Jessica Parker's hands, too.

The real ones.


By way of reminder: Comments that try to suss out what changes, exactly, were made, and even comments noting that, for example, the removal of laugh lines because they are ZOMG wrinkles actually robs a face of its character or humanity, are welcome. Discussions of how "she looks prettier/hotter/better in the candid picture" and associated commentary (which would certainly make me feel like shit if I were the person being discussed) are not. So please comment in keeping with the series' intent, implicit in which is the question: If no one can ever be beautiful enough, then to what end is the pursuit of an elusive perfection?

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