Monday, February 7, 2011

One of the things that I have talked a LOT about in the past on my blog are the mixed messages that we often see in the media. And I have to tell you.. I had an interesting reaction to something I saw a few days ago. It was an article about Jane Fonda's recent Redbook Magazine cover. She opted to bare her 72-year old face without the use of photoshop for all to see. Great, right? Well.. I had a positive reaction, followed by a pretty strong negative reaction. And after thinking about my reactions, I had some thoughts I wanted to share (this is a long one for me- hope you can make it through!!).
I am all for actresses, models, women putting real non-photoshopped images of themselves out there for the world to see--they do in fact have wrinkles, blemishes, imperfections just like the rest of us. Why pretend it is any other way? That is why when I saw that Jane Fonda was posing for Redbook Magazine and not having the images photoshopped, I thought this was an encouraging move. This is something actresses and other famous women have begun to do... from Jessica Simpson, to Kim Kardashian, to Jamie Lee Curtis. I love that these women are courageous and bold enough to put themselves out there in a way that many don't. Fonda is quoted as saying, 

I feel sorry for these young actresses coming up. If they have a dimple on their buttock, there’s a close-up of it in some gossip magazine. So there’s a cult of perfection. Consequently all the young people who emulate celebrities think they have to look perfect and that’s so destructive.

She's right! There is a cult of perfection and it is SO destructive! In spite of agreeing with her, I had a really critical (bordering on major backlash) reaction when I remembered that Jane Fonda recently had plastic surgery (fall of 2010). It's difficult for me to see how she can make a statement about the cult of perfection while getting plastic surgery because she was tired of the bags under her eyes as a result of aging. It's such a mixed message and seems so blatantly hypocritical! What message is she sending to the 'young people who emulate celebrities'??

In spite of my righteous anger :-), being critical doesn't help solve any problems. It is one thing to think critically, and another to just be critical. I think the more that I experience and live, I am coming to terms with the reality that we are surrounded by mixed messages all. the. time. And that is why healthy living, healthy self esteem, beauty ideals, etc.. are so hard to create and navigate. When 'role models' on magazine covers, who are bragging about going without photoshop, have also had plastic surgery and serious cosmetic enhancement, what are we supposed to do with that?? 

It's a confusing world we live in. While it is great that Fonda believes this cult of perfection is destructive (since it is), she reinforces this 'cult' by getting plastic surgery to counteract aging. One thing I started to think about is that maybe we (me included--clearly!!) need to respond with compassion. Why compassion? Compassion doesn't mean we ignore hypocrisy, but perhaps with a little compassion, we come to acknowledge the extent of the pressures that Fonda, and other actresses have succumbed to in all of this confusion. If what we 'normal' women experience isn't tough enough some days, imagine what it must be like to live in Hollywood with the pressures of the media, paparazzi, critics, etc. While these women often serve to reinforce and perpetuate unhealthy ideals, they are stuck themselves in this prison by trying to live up to other celebrity women and the media that they themselves are creating. I can't help but feel like this is such a vicious cycle that all points to the need for us to massively rehaul and redefine 'beauty' --and all that entails. I mentioned Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson earlier, women who have both tried to maintain healthy images, but who have been major offenders (diet pills, fad diets, etc). While I am not condoning hypocrisy, I know that it's easier to sit here and point the finger rather than to consider why we all do the things that we do. Perhaps a little compassion might help us to more carefully consider our own actions so as not to act in ways that are hypocritical and damaging to ourselves and others. And maybe, we recognize that rehauling and redefining beauty is a gradual process, one filled with steps forward and sometimes backwards, and that by extending grace to ourselves, we also must extend grace to others, especially those who are dealing with enormous pressure who sometimes make bad judgment calls. We all deserve chances to change. Insight is necessary if change is going to be made, so it is okay to think critically, observe and notice these inconsistencies. Committing to a compassionate approach though may be something to try...

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