Belfast Telegraph

Why women have finally realised that plastic isn’t really so fantastic

By Gail Walker

They’re just a few straws in the cultural wind, but we could be witnessing the end of the Sex Doll Barbie look.

Leave it to Hollywood — always with its finger on the public’s pulse and on their wallets and purses — to begin tolling the death knell.

The producers of Pirates of the Caribbean, the most lucrative franchise and most potent trend-setter of the Noughties, have bluntly told actresses seeking roles in the fourth film in the series: “Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants.”

And this, mark you, for a film where you’d think lusty serving wenches with overflowing tops would be de riguer.

But, no, the producers have concluded that implants are a turn off.

In this, though, they are only picking up on a more generalised social shift which has restored the implant culture to the nasty, cheap, disfiguring and risible last shakings of the bag it started out as all those years ago.

Remember how we sniggered at trout-pouts? How we clutched our cheeks with horror at some of the ghastly transformations which seemed to turn formerly attractive actresses into grim-faced actors?

How we clung on like mountaineers to the ballooning boobs of Katie Price, as they almost inflated and deflated at will? Well, we haven’t been laughing for a while now.

And now the demand for boob jobs in the US is down for the first time ever, hideous nip/tuck reality shows like The Swan and Extreme Makeover (which for all their touchy feeliness emphasise that true happiness comes from the end of a surgeon’s scalpel) have bitten the dust. Open up a paper and you’ll find celebs bemoaning their decision to become ludicrously top heavy.

Women being pressurised to conform to (essentially) male ideas of beauty and sexiness is not exactly news but at least other eras had class and style: Rita Hayworth with her gloves in Gilda, Marilyn (who’d be considered a bit of a heifer today), Lauren Bacall, the sophisticated Audrey Hepburn, the compact and racy Jane Fonda in the 1970s

And then there were actresses without the need for physical pneumatics at all — Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Joan Crawford, Shirley MacLaine, Miss Barbara Stanwyck, even Veronica Lake whose big attraction was her trademark peek-a-boo hairstyle ... A variety of ways for women to be beautiful and sexy; a variety of role models, fashions, shapes, sizes, attitudes and lifestyles.

But not our decade, not our era.

No, now women have been reduced to a caricature of a caricature.

Indeed, the ‘look’ of our generation could have come straight from the scribbles of an adolescent schoolboy’s jotter — a matchstick figure with ridiculously large breasts.

Which don’t move.

Crude, vulgar and self-defeating.

The shocking thing is we considered this somehow ‘empowering’. Empowering, that is, in the sense of our ‘right’ to look like an empty-headed dolt who bases their look on the type of stuff you’d buy in certain shops in Belfast’s Gresham Street.

It’s only in the last 10 years or so that cosmetic surgery stopped being viewed as kind of freaky and sad, the dark secret of celebrities on the slide and wannabes on the glide. They certainly didn’t advertise it.

Now, the classified section of women’s mags are stuffed with ads for ‘enhancements’, ‘techniques’, ‘treatments’ (note the absence of the word ‘surgery’) — plus finance agreements.

It’s a brutal message to teenage girls about what counts for ‘self-worth’. Forget about three As in your A levels, it’s the double D in your bra cup that really counts.

A friend who recently had a few days off chanced upon on an old episode of Starsky & Hutch on some satellite channel.

For some reason the intrepid duo were undercover in a 1970s disco.

“It was a bit of a shock,” she said. “The strange thing was how willowy and flat-chested all the women looked. It was all halternecks and no bras. And you know what? They looked smart and kind of independent. Sassy. Natural. Not a G-plus cup among them.”

That’s how far we’ve sunk, girls. We’re doing worse than a dancin’ lay-a-dee in lycra hotpants, rollerskating her way through the Hustle while harbouring a yen for Paul Michael Glaser.

And just how low is that?

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