Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Why normal girls hurt when celebs are criticised Unfair

Gemma Arterton at the Baftas
Gemma Arterton at the Baftas

I'm not an expert in environmental or neuro science, which may come as a surprise to some readers, but I do know that in the UK, national holidays and happy festivities must be followed by periods of morale-testing depression.

It's what made this country great – the stiff upper lip formed over centuries as a response to the certainty of rain and an office feud the Tuesday after a bank holiday Monday. And at no time is this law more strongly felt than in the two grey, grim, dark months after Christmas.

It is undoubtedly due to this annual imposition of suffering that British showbiz award ceremonies are increasingly scheduled in January and early February. Parties like the National Television Awards, the Elle Style Awards, and last weekend's Baftas arrive with rude post-Christmas haste, dazzling smorgasbords of lights, glitter, beauty and back-slapping cheer twinkling against the bleak British winter like sequins dropped into slurry. How it raises our spirits to find our grisly meat and two veg evening suddenly bombarded with colour, glamour and a spirit of celebration and revelry. How joyful to be informed by a light-voiced BBC continuity announcer that sad-faced Matthew McFadyen's weekly discovery of a blood-soaked body in Ripper Street has been temporarily displaced by an event at which George Clooney will be puttin' on the Ritz.

Yes, I know I sound like I'm dripping with sarcasm, but that's just my voice. It comes with the Glaswegian blood in my ancestry and can't be helped. The truth is, I do welcome these little pockets of pop-cultural glitz and goodwill at a time of poverty and polar temperatures. It's just a shame that, in the time-honoured British tradition, the good vibrations of the BAFTAs must be followed by a very bad vibe media-shaming of the celebrity women whose outfits have been pronounced a mistake and thus punishable by press humiliation.

This process is often an eye-opener for those of us who aren't au fait with the current consensus in fashion journalism. I was knocked out by the vision of Gemma Arterton, voluptuous, confident, frankly edible in her stripey Celia Kritharioti hourglass dress, but am informed that it 'failed to win over crowds'. I was also tricked by Andrea Riseborough displaying what I thought was stand-out chutzpah in her parrot-bright Vivienne Westwood frock. Actually, her dress was shiny and plasticky and did not meet the required standard for the red carpet. Riseborough was mesmerising – intelligent and intense – in award-winning turns in The Devil's Whore and Shadow Dancer, which is why she was nominated for a Bafta Rising Star award, but apparently that's no excuse for canary yellow.

Nicely timed to fit alongside this slating of deficient women is this week's Now magazine's 'Doesn't She Look Fat/Spotty/Awkward' photo gallery, in which we are gleefully invited to graze over pictures of Kelly Brook's slightly flabby stomach, Tulisa's double chin, and Miley Cyrus mild acne. This practice of poking sticks at images of female fallibility 'makes normal girls feel better,' these magazines always tell us.

It doesn't of course. It makes normal girls feel that their own, usually far greater imperfections are marks of shame, fodder for other people's contempt. If Miley Cyrus's three spots are worth a media mauling, what does that tell the girl struggling with insistent teenage acne all over her face, chest and back? That she, like the girl who chooses the wrong dress for her prom, better sort herself out or prepare to be belittled before she even gets to be big.

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