Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cate Blanchett Naked-faced: the Brave Bamboozle.

Well, in light of Demi Moore's Photoshop fiasco, Cate Blanchett swooped right in and in a maverick and iconoclastic gesture, highlighted herself on the cover of "Intelligent Life," the Economist's bi-monthly magazine. The meaning and significance is not for the shallow, of course, and that is the point. Her commentary is silent and weighty because she appears without make-up and without, you guessed it, Photoshop! Is this stupid? Brave? An example of Intelligent Life? Probably yes to all of it.

Stupid? Perhaps she will be cutting herself out of future Helena Rubinstein ads when she reaches Demi Moore's current age of 49. No make-up is not what make-up advertisers and initiators of make-up lines (Tom Ford) elicit as good for business. But on the other hand, Cate Blanchette's import and gravitas as an actress is huge. She is beholden to no one, an Aussie who has made her mark off Broadway in Australian theater and in films. She has mounted productions,  A Streetcar Named Desire at BAM's the Harvey Theater in this country and has appeared in Hedda Gabler Off Broadway. She and her husband are artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company.

Already on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she has won numerous awards for her film roles including an Oscar, two Golden Globes, two BAFTAs and two SAGs. Clearly, she may live up to the title of the Meryl Streep of her generation at 43 years old. And she has a stability born of the Australian theatre where she began her career. So is it any wonder that commercialism, Hollywood and the industrial film production are not something she is in tune with? Clearly, does her solid foundation ground her in a reality more profound than anything Photoshop and all its attendant illusions which fuel the fashion industry, the advertising industry, the entertainment industry and other American enterprises in publishing, offer? Clearly, indeed.

So on the one hand, bravo that Cate Blanchett has appeared without make-up to reveal that it is not necessary for one so highly connected and globally lauded to be made into a faux goddess that in reality is a fading fury of stressed out appearance. On the other hand, this is in character for her. She was never one to tout her beauty which for many is not the typical and usual type sold in America. Granted, she does have qualities that universally are attributes of beauty icons. She is blonde and fair and she is tall and slender. To be slender alone, is a key attribute of the beautiful, the coin of the realm!

Additionally, though the photo is not tweaked, skewed and illusioned, there is another element not discussed: lighting. The photographer and his assistants had to light her properly and lighting makes all the difference in the world. As all good photographers do, he or she most likely ran a series. They didn't just snap one photo in the twinkling of the eye and process it. And from that series, proofs were selected and the best ones were most likely picked, to show the intention of the article which was to twit American celebrity. Perhaps the photographer, et. al ran the images by Blanchett and allowed her to select which one or ones to run, a common occurrence as a courtesy to the star. So, this is not the typical family photo shoot by someone without experience or an eye for light and color. And clearly, the equipment and processing were top of the line which can make a difference. So though there was no obvious enhancement by Photoshop, all of the elements of photography most likely applied. Not wearing make-up, appearing naked, is no big deal.

Now, I dare her to appear on TV without make-up. That is a different kettle of fish. On TV more is less!!! (so I have been told by TV make-up artists).

Folks, the Photoshopped image is going to continue. Why? Because this is the United States. Our culture, borne and baked in the sun of LA and Hollywood, the dream capital of the world as its historical name was supposed to suggest, will require much more than a great Australian actress to appear with a naked face on the cover of a magazine to prompt other celebrities, including Meryl Streep, to follow suit. Only until American celebrities of all ages agree to advocate for the reality of the image and eschew Photoshop, only until they repeatedly go naked-faced for all of us to see, only until they stand up for natural beauty, will this futile and destructive race against aging and self-annihilating embrace of the illusory die a final death. I don't think it will be in my lifetime. But surely it will come.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Demi Moore's Photoshopped Ad: Illusory Image

Demi Moore at an event

Did you ever envy celebrity goddesses, stars and media personalities? Well, maybe you shouldn't. After all, vengeful time grinds them into a pulp of insecurity and appearance terrors. Sure, Suzanne Somers looks great because of all the treatments she is getting. But let's face it. She has to keep them up. So far there is no reversal of the destructive process that we had hoped science could arrest with an easy pill and painless medication to promote health and beauty forever. And for a beauty, aging is worse than death. Just ask Marilyn.

 If only it were only possible to avoid looking old. Well there is Photoshop! For those celebrities in the media, entertainment and fashion industry, it is a fabulous way to skew reality until you can either get lifts, tummy tucks, fat sucks, eye sluices, gain or lose weight, put on pounds of make-up or just stay inside and never be seen by the light of day and papparizzi who are looking to get those compromising and TRUE pictures of the real you. This is your wake up call. Right now, toss any wistful desires to be like a certain "beautiful" goddess you or your boyfriend, husband or male friends have hitched your appearance to. When these lovelies grow old (in their 30s) they will have to confront the abject hell of atrophying ugliness and imperfection which shadows them to exacting an ever rising pain quotient of multiple mutilations: surgeries, acid peals, procedures, needles.

For someone like Demi Moore who has been battling this scene for years, you would think the terrain has become familiar. But her weight loss and the January incident where she used nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to get high and then had severe reactions to its overuse requiring hospitalization, coupled with the stress of the relationship break-up with Ashton Kutcher who was involved in a very public and extremely humiliating cheating affair with a woman in her twenties appear to be the symptoms of Moore's attempt to negotiate her intense celebrity life with Kutcher. The crushing media pressure to look beautiful and be perfect as she ages only adds to creating personal and career stress. As many celebrities do to enhance their diminishing careers or hawk their products (Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Andy McDowell) Moore has taken to appearing in advertisements. And Photoshop which should be an aid is not.

Moore's ads, especially photos for the most recent Helena Rubinstein 2012 campaign  are extreme. The dichotomy between Photoshopped ad and photo taken around the time of her hospitalization is as wide and deep as the distance between here and the moon. Moore is sans tan, wrinkles and acute thinness. And according to other media pundits, her facial features appear to have been tweaked and crimped, though it might be the camera angle. This is not the first time that Moore's image has been subjected to the wonderful, age defying digital program. And as she and other celebrities pile on the years yet advertise, it will not be the last.

Helena Rubinstein ad obviously Photoshopped
The tragedy in all of this is that eventually, the monstrous faux images that the digital universe has accustomed us to, supplant celebrities' reality and human vulnerability. They are stuck with the latter and we are envious of the former. The difference is devastating and increasingly they react to it. For example, have we seen Cher lately? Or is she in one of her hiding modes? Though Whitney Houston was beautiful, Kevin Kostner's remarks at her funeral reference her tremendous insecurity about her appearance; she was near Moore's age.

There is always a point of no return. Regardless of the flurry of surgeries, procedures, enhancers and treatments to align the beast with the beautiful image, age wins. Witness Dame Elizabeth Taylor who eventually used her Photoshopped image to sell her perfume though the photos were from the early 1980s and the reality of her true appearance grew painful to look at as she tried to mirror the beauty of the past. How the stars negotiate the trauma of the dichotomy evidences their strength of character and courage or their devastation and resignation.

The media culture's obsession with appearance and youth has created tremendous hazards for celebrities and young women alike, encouraging them toward eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, obesity). It has misguided our focus emphasizing externals, promoting a shallow understanding of ourselves and how we function in relationships. And it has doubly influenced young men and older men to disregard and keep at low priority a woman's inner beauty at the expense of a woman's status as eye candy or trophy associative. Photoshop may be a technological advancement, but like all advancements, the power of its usefulness is only found in its ability to improve the human experience, and not in its fallout to devastate through exaggerated illusion. If Photoshop promotes enslavement to iconic images that don't exist, then it is promoting addictive waste. The only way such bondage can be broken is through a concerted effort by all celebrities to OUT the process and condemn its injustices.

God forbid that we all should "grow old more gracefully unphotoshopped?"  At the very least, celebrities and media personalities should discuss how the caged lives they lead are beholden to devastating images they can never live up to and not, as some are wont to do, deny that they "have had work" or have been Photoshopped.

None of us is perfect. Holding ourselves and each other up to ridiculous ideals that are media fabrications meant to injure our self-esteem in order to create the need for a company's product is a pathetic, mind bending use of our humanity. Unfortunately, the Rubinstein ad is one more example of this.

A similar article was published on Technorati about Demi Moore and the Photoshopped Helena Rubinstein article.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Now You Know!: Stop Kony! Good Does Triumph Over Evil With Your Action

I am first and foremost a teacher. I think I must have started before the age of four when my mind perceived people's sensitivities and emotions and I taught them to myself and remembered that the information could be used later on. Perhaps it is instinctual but it was for survival purposes. So you may think that kids don't "know" much, but when they are born, it is full throttle with survivalist synapses in tact. It is only with language and folkways and norms that adults force children to learn, that many of these instincts and intuitions become pushed into the realm of the sixth sense, when in fact, I do believe they are the paramount sense.

Well, if you are a child, and it's either kill or be killed, your sixth sense becomes completely operative and all your other senses focus on the main one of surviving. If you have been abducted against your will and the only thing you know is breathing, under force and duress, you can and will do anything to breathe and eat and drink so you can get to the next day, when maybe you can escape, maybe you will be delivered, maybe your abductors and murderers who want your blood and let you know each day that you are expendable and have to kill or be killed, maybe they will die. Maybe you will have the courage to put the bullet through Kony's brain and end it as others rise up with you. But always, always, you must survive. That sixth sense is telling you maybe, just maybe you can make it though you despair and wish you were dead every day of your young life.

And so it is for the children of Kony, the ones who were invisible now SEEN by a video that has gone viral. And so as those children have cried out in their hearts for deliverance, and so as their sixth sense, their intuition has told them they will make it to the next day and they will be delivered, so they will. And you, reader and watcher, will help them. First, understand that evil exists. Evil attempts to destroy hope. Evil first starts with destroying the intuition we were born with. But also know that good triumphs over evil. Good will triumph as you watch, see and remember. You will act. Sign a petition, put up a poster, give money. But you will act because good is stronger than evil, and the only way that evil can triumph is that good people do nothing. That is why this video was made. So that you can act to STOP KONY. Act to stop evil. Act to return these children to themselves. Their six sense has foretold it and you are their answer.

Read another view to see why giving money may not be the best action.