SEXUALITIES

Christ Almighty, this is pissing me off!

Right, I first saw this horrendous photo-comparison/headline a week ago on www.jezebel.com and was astonished that they were buying the media tag-lines hook, line, and sinker. No commentary, no alternative material…

‘Seriously, What Happened to Ali Lohan’s Face?’ is the best Jezebel could come up with. They report that the ‘rumor’ surrounding this disturbing transformation centers on Lohan having had plastic surgery… at the tender age of 17. They, of course, take issue with the logistics of this claim as Dina Lohan–Kate Gosslin’s fiercest competition for most abhorrent celebrity mom–would have had to legally consent to these procedures. Fine, that is a pretty gruesome thought, I’ll grant you, but come on! Has everyone gone just a little bit stupid?!? Here’s another shot of Ali, head-to-toe:

All of the ridiculous babble going around this photo (the one on the right is the most recent) is disturbing to say the very least. Those cheekbones, they gasp! That slender nose! That isn’t surgery, you media-drones! That’s an eating disorder.

Let me just back up one second and say that I’m almost sorry I’m writing this post. It will inevitably seem hypocritical, although I hope I can defend myself in some small way by making a valid point about all of this before I’m through. I hate this kind of voyeurism. H-A-T-E. We have become absolutely obsessed with celebrity bodies. Just before flipping my lid and penning this post, I had the gross misfortune of browsing through over 100 celebrity-body, before-and-after photos. Over ONE HUNDRED! That is fucked up. Just a pile of photos you can look through at your leisure which display & scrutinize every pound/inch these celebrities have put on, taken off, and in many cases, put on, taken off, put on, taken off, and put on. And you know what? It’s none of our damned business! How humiliating and inhumane! To be watched and photographed to such a degree that the public believes it has a RIGHT to judge your anatomy across time and space. No, seriously, think this over. How would you feel if you had to post a photo of your body at the tender age of 16, another one somewhere in your early twenties, again near 30, and then subsequently every six months after that, because we all know you’re going down hill at that stage. Oh! And guess what else? The whole fucking world gets to watch this happen, and they all have opinions about how you’re doing it wrong. Yep, that’s right, you’re doing your body wrong; no matter how thin, smooth, fat, hairless, blonde, tall you think you’re being, someone thinks you look like shit and they’re not afraid to say it. That kind of exposure and psychological vulnerability is fucking criminal and yet, we engage in it every day and we condone it every time we talk about how thin Kate Middleton’s arms appear. I do this, I am so guilty, and it’s awful but believe me I’m trying to so hard to theoretically beat this habit out of myself. I absolutely believe we should keep talking–keep SHOUTING–about the violent ways in which we display and value bodies, but I do NOT believe it’s right to continue to place single bodies, human persons, under the microscope of ‘culture’ for scrutiny. So, like I said, I’m sorry because I don’t like that I’m contributing to a fucking mess which has already done marked damage, but this isn’t really about Ali Lohan, it’s about ‘us’.

In the reader comments below the Jezebel article featuring Lohan, I spied one sane voice delicately suggesting that Lohan looked like the victim of an eating disorder. On the page which compiled the ‘hey, look at the celebrity freak show!’ photos, the commentary about Ali actually said something along the lines of, ‘Her shocking new appearance includes prominent cheekbones, a much more slender nose, and curiously, very bushy eyebrows’. You’re fucking kidding me with this, right? When your body is EATING itself, all of the fat stores you have are expended… that includes the miniscule amounts of fat you have in your face. Your body goes, ‘Holy shit! We’re going down. Red-light systems are on. Break out emergency resources. I repeat, we are going down!’ And yeah, that kind of insane weight loss, even across one’s face, is going to exaggerate certain features which we ‘normal’ people take for granted; like eyebrows, and cheekbones for instance. How is it that all of these horrendous discussions about plastic surgery are still taking place?? Do I want us to turn on the Gotham light which summons Dr. Drew, and poke at Ali Lohan through the bars of her cage some more with our body-hater sticks, whilst she is pathologized on national TV? Fuck no! This girl needs to be taken away from Psycho Island–starring Lindsay, Dina and Michael–and given a lot of love, therapy, and support in an invisible place where no cameras can find her. What I’m saying, though, is that some attention needs to be paid to all the ‘excuses’ we are willing to give in order to avoid owning up to the poisonous discourses surrounding bodies.

Caitlin Moran wrote an obituary of sorts when Amy Winehouse died, and although she acknowledged what everyone else knew–‘They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no!’–Moran also emphasized an element of Amy’s ill health which no other media sources seemed willing to address. Amy Winehouse never ate. Sure, she drank like a fish, and at one point, probably closely resembled an aardvark with her drug use, but who ever gave two hoots about her eating disorder? Moran points out that someone whose defenses have been completely obliterated by a lack of nourishment and an over-disciplined physical regime, who ALSO partakes in dangerous amounts of substance, has got their name down to die. There was no questioning Amy’s fate. Did you hear that discussed anywhere else? Maybe one place, right, but was the overall media message that Amy Winehouse had essentially been killing herself for years with eating disorders, and the alcohol & drugs just finished her off? No? Me either.

Sure, there is a popular consciousness of eating disorders; they exist, and we know they are bad *waggle index finger here*. But when it comes to celebrity bodies, eating disorders are just another snapshot in the before-and-after lineup. Popular culture values thin bodies, model bodies, bodies that fit into catwalk sizes; these are the bodies which make up our ‘ideal’, our standard of (almost entirely female*) beauty. We produce and maintain this discourse through money, fame, admiration, circulation, and also by criticism, worst-dressed columns, beach holiday photos. Just as much as this ‘thin is sexy’ mandate is reinforced by photos of barely-there women, so too is it maintained by photos of stars splashing in the surf with their kids, where their mommy pooches are hanging down, and everyone then points in disbelief that she has gained so much weight since her last role. ‘This is what a famous, celebrity body is NOT’ shows us loads about what a celebrity body IS.

The big, bastard problem here is our refusal to let go of The Body; our persistent belief that there is The Mind, and The Body and that The Body should look and behave a very particular way. Instead of learning from our Dr. Seuss books and truly embracing that some bellies have stars, whilst others are plain, we have put on our Lady Gaga shades so encrusted with capital that we can’t possibly see the ‘real world’ floating just past the tip of our surgically corrected noses. Bodies come in all shapes, colors, sizes and abilities! Right?!?! You know this don’t you?? Look at the human being sitting next to you… oh hell! Look at the pug sitting next to you, I don’t care! Do they look IDENTICAL to you? Of course not, you’re shouting at me, don’t be ridiculous! How about a family member? You can borrow your dad’s shirts from the 70’s but are your bodies simply two identical issues from one standard mould? Duh, no! Duh, exactly.

We are not droids, we are human beings who are not only BORN in diverse bodies, but we live out our lives as ever-changing bodies as well. There are beautiful bodies in every walk of life and yet somehow, we persist in valuing most the bodies which fit the ‘ideal’, which represent these delusions of what The Body should be. This isn’t just a problem because beautiful people make all the money, or Hollywood snuffs out creativity, or whatever else people say to justify acting like they hate celebrity culture. This is a problem because our insistence on valuing The Body, and DE-valuing bodies, is literally killing people. Women who are already beautiful starve their bodies, over-work them, cut & sew them in order to have The Body and this process is pure violence. And don’t tell me that they choose this, so really it’s their fault. Listen to what you’re saying: you’re telling me that because of the profession these women (and increasingly, men) have chosen, they deserve to endure bodily violence? They deserve to face ostracism and international criticism because they can’t torture their bodies into The Body? Sorry, but no one deserves that.

Holding a ‘norm’–an illusion–so stubbornly at the core of how we value bodies is lucrative for a lot of assholes, across a lot of powerful industries, so it’s hard to imagine how this will ever end, but it SHOULD end. Contrary to what it might seem, putting celebrity bodies on a pedestal (which, when the lights go down, turns into a chopping block), is everybody’s problem… a problem for every body. As long as we point in awe to The Body, the mythical beautiful body which everyone should want to live, we are turning our backs on all real bodies and then they matter less, they become less valuable. That’s some straight up bullshit.

*This is a largely a women’s problem, BUT this is certainly starting to change as various disgusting photos and headlines appear featuring male actors who are also fighting the loosing battle to be the perfect skinny-Minnie. I also recognize that a lot of male celebrities have a damaging ‘norm’ of masculinity to embody which requires unhealthy body manipulation.

11 Comments

  • random guy
    September 22, 2011 - 18:30 | Permalink

    First off, this is very well-written and insightful. With that said, my question is not meant to irritate, but I want to pose it nonetheless. It seems you have used the Ali Lohan situation to transition into the general statement that unrealistic standards have been put on celebrities. Granted, Ali is considered a child and therefore may have been “forced” (for lack of a better word) into whatever status she has by her parents (sister?), but aside from her, don’t celebrities choose their profession? Its like walking up to a guy and saying “Ok, you can be a truck driver and make $50k a year for the rest of your life, or you can walk through that mine field over there every day and make $2 millon.” If the guy chooses to be a professional mine field walker, doesn’t he realize he has a good chance of getting his leg blown off? Aren’t celebrities not aware of the standards they are subjecting themselves too? Can’t they just go drive a truck and earn an honest day’s pay?

    • Sam
      September 22, 2011 - 19:31 | Permalink

      I definitely think that’s a reasonable objection/question, and one which I tried to address towards the end of the post: ‘And don’t tell me that they choose this, so really it’s their fault. Listen to what you’re saying: you’re telling me that because of the profession these women (and increasingly, men) have chosen, they deserve to endure bodily violence? They deserve to face ostracism and international criticism because they can’t torture their bodies into The Body? Sorry, but no one deserves that’. I think ultimately, what I take issue with is the implication that choice somehow becomes a license for abuse; that if someone is privileged enough to make a choice about their lives, then they are subject to violence. I absolutely cannot see why that should have to be the case. Also, I’m not sure I would really discuss choice, or agency when it comes to professions like mine-detection which is so often a function of the military. At least in my country (in the US), an overwhelming number of service-men and women are enlisted because of a lack of opportunities, economic advantage, education or legal options; so in some sense, they end up ‘punished’ (with exploded limbs, for instance) from their LACK of choice. Again, my bottom line is questioning the ethics–or lack thereof–of holding choice/agency mutually exclusive to livable embodiment.

  • December 6, 2011 - 07:23 | Permalink

    Swell read, you guys got an RSS feed I can subscribe to so I can drop in only when something like clonazepam attracts me?

  • December 6, 2011 - 08:04 | Permalink

    Amazing comments, I’m loving the picture at the top, gives it a lovely alprazolam feel to the website!

    • December 6, 2011 - 08:53 | Permalink

      Thank you very much.
      As for rhe drawing you can find more of the sort on the website parent to this blog http://www.wegeekedthis.com

      Keep checking for new posts or follow us on Facebook and twitter,
      Sofia

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  • January 1, 2012 - 18:36 | Permalink

    Sup. Just simply needed to leave a quick commentary and question where you grabbed your blogging site graphics I might be starting off own blog page and tremendously like your theme.

    • January 1, 2012 - 21:03 | Permalink

      Hi,
      Thanks for your comment. Well the theme I used is Twenty Eleven 1.2 by the WordPress team 🙂
      The picture was illustrated by myself. If by any chance you like it do check out the parent website of the blog http://www.wegeekedthis.com

      Thanks and all the best,
      Sofia

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