Beauty: A weapon to be used for power and protection

‘Your beauty is all that can save you […] your power and protection.’ – Apparently this is a quote from the slathered-in-media-attention film ‘Snow White and the Huntsmen’. I haven’t seen this film. I do not intend to ever see this film, on the basis that despite repeatedly being cast in roles that require a shred of talent, Kristen Stewart is as lacking in acting ability as a spoon. And has the charisma to match. That’s all I’ll say on that matter, I simply felt I should probably reference the quote. I believe that is the done thing.

Beauty: A weapon to be used for power and protection.

This is the message Hollywood advocates. It’s quite worrying actually, when you really think about it (or even if you don’t, the sentiment is still instantly clear), that this is the message put across to the younger generation of movie-goers. This idea that being beautiful is an important factor in the protection of women, is in fact the most vital factor. If that is true, it would also stand to reason that beauty results in power. Another terrifying thought. In a generation where young girls are possibly aware of the ongoing battle with gender discrimination and the public war on sexism, but are almost definitely aware of the availability of plastic surgery and body reconstruction, of the “coveted” size zero, alongside crash-dieting fads, and fashion snobbery. It is terrifying that they should be offered the suggestion that beauty and image is the way to not only protect yourself, but that it is the only way to gain respect and in turn power.

I am not the kind of girl who disregards makeup. In fact, I love it with every fibre of my being. When applied correctly, experimented with, and used to create, it is art. I often apply stage makeup for performers, more often than not this is used to create character, or accentuate features that will enhance a performance (and allow the audience to see performers’ faces). I view the use of makeup to be as creative and versatile as a painter is with a brush, or a chef is in the kitchen. For me, it is as much a hobby as it is a skill. I am the kind of girl who worries when seeing women hide behind makeup. A trait, I will admit, I am guilty of committing. I will also admit to wearing makeup virtually every day. A fact that sickens me to the core to say out loud. A fact that is, in part, due to a childhood of reading magazines, watching beauty adverts, and feeling that pang of inadequacy every time I gazed at my reflection and didn’t look the same as the models, as the celebrities, I fawned over. I quickly got over the celebrity phase. Having met many a “celeb” that was so incredibly human and down to earth in the flesh (sporting skin blemishes, frizzing hair, and terrible nail-biting, cigarette-smoking habits), it was clear the (let’s face it, airbrushed and manipulated) images I found myself conditioned to accept as real, were in fact anything but. I didn’t get over the inadequacy. I still struggle with it. But I am less reluctant to accept that I am a person, in my own right. And on good days I manage to leave the house without the daily face paint. This is something I’m having to deal with. It’s something that affects too many people. It is worrying.

It’s worrying because it suggests we are scared of ourselves. We are unable to admit that we look the way we do. Unable to accept the way we are. It is incredibly sad, and brutal. I’m a firm believer that we cannot rely too firmly on our reflection. Mine ensured that I spent over a decade terrified to be myself. To dress the way I desired, to wear my hair and makeup any differently to those I classed as friends, to smile at myself and be happy with the face that returned my gaze. Our reflection is never an honest representation. We are never allowed to see ourselves as others do, a both terrifying and humbling thought. You will never view your face in the way it is meant to be seen, it is often the reason behind a hatred of photographs of the self. You do not recognise you, because you do not see you. Therefore, it would stand to reason that you cannot trust your reflection. I don’t say this to scare you, but simply to suggest that you shouldn’t rely entirely on your reflection to feel good about yourself. Just look at Snow White’s (Step)Mother.* There is a level of trust required in accepting that you are not unattractive. That you are in fact as beautiful as the next person.

Beauty is natural. It is a scary thought that it can be faked and warped through the use of products and paints. Beauty is not protection. It only saves people in fairytales (also on my list of terrible role models). It cannot compensate for character or equality. Beauty is not power. It doesn’t advocate mutual respect. And it isn’t something you can, or should, hide behind. The idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is quite possibly the cheesiest and most offensive suggestion I’ve heard. The suggestion that ‘everyone is beautiful, really’ is condescending, and bitchy. Like a teacher telling you that those girls are really just jealous. That is unlikely to be true. There are varying ideas of beauty, sure. The elderly find the youthful beautiful. The youthful find the infants beautiful. High cheekbones. No cheekbones. Full lips. Petite lips. Skinny hips. Curvy hips. Each of these are beautiful. The conventions of beauty differ, radically, between cultures. Between historical eras. Bloody hell, between people. That makes it subjective. It makes everything exist within a realm of beauty. It does not make it exist within the fucking eye of the fucking beholder. Be honest. Be truthful. Accept that not every single person is attracted to every single other person. It is what makes us unique and individual and fucking human.

This hasn’t been my most coherently formed argument. It doesn’t necessarily offer any insightful methods to break this conditioning to conform to someone else’s presentation of beauty. And it hasn’t even slightly touched upon my views on airbrushing, the portrayal of beauty in the media, and endorsements by influential figures. But it has given my brain a chance to approach the scary, scary world of “beauty”. And that’s all I needed to do. Today at least.

*I include “Step” in brackets because history offers differing opinions on the relationship between the pair. It is however an insightful tale into how the desire for beauty (and the belief that it equals power) can be destructive. It also offers a fair reason to not trust your reflection. nb. The (Step)Mother is traditionally depicted as evil. Tainted by vanity, jealousy, and a hunger for complete power.

Just another me-against-the-world kind of Monday

Today has been one of those days where everything points to one very clear, very vivid, very ridiculous thought: It’d probably be much easier if I were someone else. Someone taller. Someone more popular. Someone with money. Someone in a better situation than I find myself. Someone in a worse situation than I find myself. Someone who just doesn’t give a shit. Someone who cares enough to do something about it. Someone, in other words, who isn’t me.

As I suggested, a ridiculous notion. But a very apparent, very real concern for a lot of people. A lot of the time. The arts industry is one that is constantly surrounded by horror stories of clashing egos, crushed souls, and bitch after demonic bitch of power-hungry “creative types” (I’m allowed to say that, I am frequently placed in the demonic psycho bitch category myself). There are forever stories being churned out about a small-town boy or girl that managed to defy the odds and make it in the larger world, but there are rarely stories pointing out the other tens of thousands of equally driven, equally ambitious, and equally talented individuals that are just looking to make their own successes. And who will, no doubt, be unlikely to make it out of that small town.

That sounds harsh. It sounds rude, and judgmental, and unsupported, and, I suppose you’d be right in suggesting, bitter. But I am one of those tens of thousands. I am one in a very large pool of twenty-somethings trying to claw their way into the terrifying depths of the industry known as The Arts. And not just any art, but Theatre. One so elite and prestigious and god-damn-difficult-to-break, that it’s (let’s be honest) the cause of many an anxiety attack, heavy medication prescription, and psychotic breakdown for many a person over many a year. Equally, one so promising, so full of opportunity, and, on occasion, such an incredible showcase for talent and passion and mind-blowing creativity.

It wasn’t my intent to attack the theatre. Without it I have absolutely no idea where the craziness on the other side of my skull would find it’s refuge. I simply wonder how it can be such an unrivaled location for creative brain explosions, whilst achieving a stifling and unwilling environment for non-veterans, non-names, non-financially-supported-individuals.

I am bitter, I’ll admit. I am also determined, ambitious, passionate, and (most of the time) driven. Today has simply been one of those days where my brain suggests that it could possibly all be simpler if I were someone else. However, as my clock states, it’s no longer today. Now it’s tomorrow. And tomorrow is a sort-your-shit-out kind of day. One that doesn’t accept resentment, self-deprecation, or any other form that fear decides to take. Tomorrow is a dragon slaying kind of day. And dragons shall indeed be slayed.

The “fifteen minutes” obsession

We are currently living in a world that is entirely obsessed and dominated by celebrity culture. There is, for some god-known reason, a shared belief that everything will be okay if we can just get that fifteen minutes in the limelight. That will obviously fix all of our problems in life, love, money, health, etc etc. (And if we can’t be famous just yet, then we crave every inner detail about celebrities’ lives. As if we can somehow live that celebrity lifestyle through them.)

‘Celebrity’ has, it would appear, become less of an elitist word than in previous years. There is a trend, through the use of social media sites, for celebrities to present themselves just as normal, everyday people. Fair enough. They are just another human being, the same as you or I. However, unfortunately, that de-glitzes ‘Celebrity’. It takes away the mystique. In the past celebrities have had to work (hard) in order to get to their level of success. They’ve had to actually have some form of talent, and they’ve struggled to achieve fame and success. Many “celebrities” of the past didn’t even want the fame (or even in some cases the fortune), they simply wanted to do what they loved and were good at. In today’s culture it is the fame that people crave. In today’s culture fame is marketed and advertised. It is presented as something attainable. It is too easy.

Reality television offers the chance to be broadcast to the country. To be given fifteen minutes in the spotlight for the small fee of your dignity. As long as you don’t object to being publicly humiliated you can be famous too. It’s disgusting. We are constantly being presented with face after face after face of people who are famous for simply being famous. They have no desirable skill or talent. In fact, the majority of them appear to only be good at being orange. Or at having an incredibly irritating speaking voice. They can’t sing, act, play an instrument, dance, cook, sew, make a house, write a book, etc etc. And yet they are apparently our current role-models. It could be laughable if it wasn’t so terrifying.

We now have an entire generation of people who’s sole ambition in life is to be famous. To be famous for being famous. No ambition to be successful, or inspiring. Just to have fame and fortune. There are teenagers who, when in discussion with careers advisors, simply state that they’re going to be famous. Or rich. Or famous and rich. And when asked how they think they’ll manage that, their response is an off-hand shrug and: “Oh I just will be.” There is no sense of realism. No idea of talent or hard-work or skill. They simply believe that someone will hand fame to them on a plate. And the sad thing is, that for a lot of people that’s exactly what appears to be happening.

Yesterday I watched the X Factor.

I am not proud of that fact. Nor was I a part of the decision making that went on to determine what we should watch. Therefore, I was not responsible for my watching of the X Factor. I cannot be blamed.

I am however, in one way, quite pleased that I did see it. After an hour of padded story lines, humiliating families, bitchy judges, and sobbing individuals, I was able to walk away having confirmed what I’ve always known without even watching the program. And that is that it’s a load of bollocks. A commercialized, legalized form of public humiliation and bullying, with no real interest in musical talent.

In the hour that the show was on, we were shown contestant after contestant who couldn’t sing. Who had been put through that first round of auditions to appear in the live shows purely as a form of hideous entertainment. Purely for the audience to mock. To laugh at. To boo offstage. To boo the judges when they highlight how dreadful the individual is. To actually look affronted when they are told that they will never make it as a musician. For every awful humiliation we were shown a (less than) 5 second clip of a talented individual being put through to the next round. What happened to make us, the human race, crave the soul-crushing over the success? When did it become a national (pretty much international) hobby to watch as people are tortured before our eyes. That’s all I witnessed. One incredibly talented woman (who was, it has to be mentioned, mocked for her job as a pre-school leader) and a dozen acts who were laughed at, snarked at, and metaphorically pelted with rotten tomatoes from the audience.

Reality tv is like a modern day version of the stocks. We are no longer able, as society, to lock people up and throw things at them for public humiliation and entertainment. Instead we slap a few flashing lights around them and call it a music show.

“Brave”: Disney, Let’s have words.

*DISCLAIMER: This post includes spoilers for Disney/Pixar’s new movie Brave. Just letting you know.*

Dear Disney,

Firstly, let me commend you on successfully producing an animated film (possibly for the first time) that focuses on the Mother-Daughter relationship. Genuinely, props to you for that. It was hugely refreshing to not be subjected to the typical Daddy’s little girl storyline that centres on an angsty princess (The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Pocahontas, etc.), or the equally popular choice of a coming of age story that focuses on the becoming-a-man transition (The Lion King, Hercules, Finding Nemo, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Disney/Pixar film, but that relationship was a new one, and greatly appreciated.

Equally enjoyed was the sheer monstrosity that was your heroine’s hair. Finally, a children’s film that advocates having masses of unruly curls. As a fully-paid member of the massive-haired clan, I’m all for providing a role-model with non-salon-styled hair.

The idea of a Scottish animation was such a brilliant one. Animation (not to mention the majority of other mainstream children’s films) rarely ventures outside of generic as far as accents are concerned. In ‘Pocahontas’ John Smith, the explorer from London, has an American accent. ‘Mulan’, a film set in China, features a whole series of American accents. ‘Ratatouille’, set in a Parisian restaurant, again American accents are the preferred choice. I could go on. I appreciate that American/English is, in many cases, the easiest accent to understand through film, particularly for young children, but this is where Brave appeared to be breaking free of animated-tradition. The Scottish accent. Admittedly, it was a slow Scottish accent. The mainstream audience did have to understand the film after all. But it was such a brilliant idea.

This, however, is where my praises end.

The exploration of a massive-red-haired, mother/daughter relationship told through the voice of a Scot had the potential for such greatness. So, I really have to ask, what the hell happened to the storyline? Who actually sat down and thought “You know what, a touching story following the Mother-Daughter bond might not get through to a modern audience. Here’s an idea, let’s turn half the cast into bears!” WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Magic and witchcraft aside (we all know it’s not really a Disney film without that…), it seems an absolutely ludicrous idea for any story. Ever. Especially in this century where kids seem to adore (and want to be) The Saturdays and Justin Bieber and One Direction and Selena Gomez and other fresh-faced (read: TWELVE YEAR OLD) celebrities that take their clothes off and squeak about love. In other words, in this century where children can’t wait to be older than they are. Even the 6 year olds have boyfriends. How is a film about turning your mother into a bear because you don’t agree with her thoughts on marriage setting a good example? Sure, they resolve it in the end – through tears and a long hug and a lot of sewing – but really?! This is not going to prevent Mother-daughter problems.

Also. What happened to feminism? Come on Disney, it’s the 21st Century. Young girls SHOULD NOT GIVE IN AND ACCEPT TRADITION. They should say “Fuck it, I’m going to marry who I want to marry. In fact actually, I’m going to run off to the woods and get leaves in my hair and dance to crazy loud music because I’m still a child and do not need to be thinking about marriage yet!” Your protagonist almost managed. But instead, she went and got her mum turned into a bear. And then, in order to apologise for that fuck-up she goes and tries to give in to tradition and betrothal. Thank god for the mum/bear eh, who has a sudden change of heart and tells her to break tradition (through that well known bear language of hand-gesture).

Seriously Disney. What the fuck happened.

Skinny vanilla latte for one.

Every so often I decide to give something up. Be it in a spontaneous desire to be healthier, a chance to create welcome change in my life, or simply because I just can’t be bothered with it anymore. It’s a kind of social experiment on myself I guess.

A couple of years ago I gave up on entirely female social groups, realising I wasn’t one of those who could constantly compete with girls-en-masse. Before you label me as some sort of anti-feminist, I have nothing against any of said girls in said groups. I simply couldn’t commit to the stressful high-energy necessary to compete and keep up with a group of girls.

Last month I gave up on social-dining. Lunch-dates, coffee-dates, any form of food or drink related activity that includes more than myself. It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s just that it seems to be the only part of my day that I get to sit alone with my thoughts. Life has been busy recently, not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s been on the insane levels of busy.

Those casual conversations I so regularly had with myself have been buried under piles of musical-related-thoughts and degree-related-thoughts and there-is-not-enough-time-in-the-day-related-thoughts, and my poor little brain needs time to itself to ponder the function of snow, or other seemingly obscure-yet-fascinating thoughts.

So yes, coffee for one seems to be the way around it.

Why does time fly so fast..

It’s April. Already. In fact, it’s not even just April. It’s already over a week into April. I swear this year is going so ridiculously fast. Super fast.

Put it this way, I’ve been home for a fortnight. It doesn’t feel that way. Not in the slightest. And yet being home I’ve already discovered some brilliant (and not-so-brilliant) things about myself..

1. I still bake awesome cakes. Not that I doubted this, but y’know, when you usually make plain and simple fairy cakes it’s nice to branch out occasionally. So yes. The mocha cupcakes I’ve spent the entire evening concocting? Beautiful. If I do say so myself..

2. I would rather read for pleasure than work. Honest. Hence the fact that I ploughed through the 4 or 5 books put aside for ‘enjoyment’, and I’ve still only achieved 20-odd pages of Ulysses. It’s an absolute hoot.

3. Spotify is becoming the new facebook. In my life at least. I without a doubt spend 6 times as much time surfing through bands I’ve never heard before and creating new playlists than I do on that beauty of a book of face. Which is weird. Very weird. Not in a bad way though, it does after all lead on to..

4. ..The fact that talking about music is becoming a substitute for sleep. I still have disastrous sleep patterns, but at least now I spend time contemplating soulful lyrics and arguing about the beauty of French pop.

5. I like gin. In small doses. But..

6..I still talk too much when drunk. And tell too much. I’m not loud. I’m not lairy. But I do tend to talk. Bugger.

7. Despite owning at least 4 pairs already, when shoe shopping I still resort to converse. They’re low-tops, which is y’know a change, but still.. I should probably branch out at some point.

8. I hate Oxford on a Saturday. Regardless of the sun.

9. I drink less caffeine when I’m at home. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s more of a Brighton thing. Maybe I don’t wake up early enough to warrant it in Oxford. But yeah, it’s unusual..

10. My movie knowledge is still one of the worst things about me. STILL. Despite the fact that I’m a student and do nothing with my time. I still have the worst knowledge about films – classic ones at least. Ask me about Harry Potter, or any Audrey Hepburn film, and I’m your girl. But those must-see-before-you-die classics? Nuh-uh. Clueless.

11. It is still possible to waste an entire day watching tv re-runs. Admittedly it’s now more likely to be One Tree Hill, or Weeds. But only because the Charmed box sets are in Brighton.

12. The first ever dinosaur to be named and studied was found a few miles down the road from where I live. THIS FACT EXCITES ME SO DAMN MUCH. I’m probably still a child.

That time I fell out with Public Transport..

After panic attacks, being the ‘weirdo-on-the-train’, hours of delays, fatalities, a million bags, children with suitcases, an out-of-battery phone, and a whole tube of fruit pastilles, I’m avoiding public transport for a while..

Yesterday was quite honestly a nightmare. Picture the scene: -A hurricane of clothes decorating my room as I attempt to pack logically. -One MASSIVE suitcase plus 2 fairly heavy arm bags weighing me down as I trek half way across Brighton and up the mammoth hill to the station, I swear whoever built that place didn’t ever consider that people have to walk. With suitcases. -An exhausted, pale girl with too many bags slumped in a corner of the station unable to breathe or focus and trying not to cry (Hellooo Panic Attack, you beauty..). -A stupid amount of people on the trains that are normally empty at that time of day. -That fantastically insistent beeping of an iphone telling me it would like to die soon. StupidLackOfBatteryOnAnOtherwiseBeautifulPhone. -An hour and a half (at least) delay at Reading station, because somebody was hit by the train I should’ve been getting on. -*That* child with the bright pink suitcase who got between me and the train doors. Of the first rescheduled train back to Oxford. Thus preventing me from getting home for a good extra hour. Also making me feel as though I were essentially living ‘Sliding Doors’, and could have just missed a beautiful Scottish man, aka Mr John Hannah.. -And finally, sugar rush. From the banana & choc. chunk cakes with homemade-marshmallow icing I’d been chowing all morning, not to mention the entire tube of fruit pastilles I’d inhaled in a wacky attempt to curb the panic attack. There was a serious case of the sugar shakes going on..

Luckily, I managed to resist the urge to clobber the small child (and her pink suitcase) that prevented me from catching the closing doors of the train. Which is really probably a very good thing because I don’t think my stress headaches could deal with some sort of asbo/restraining order/formal complaint/arrest. But I mean seriously, let’s be honest, any day that begins as beautifully bright as yesterday was, and then has to be spent packing, is always going to be a failure.

That huge really long time that I didn’t write. Also known as Christmas..

I thought I really wanted it to hurry up and be 2011, naively had that positive attitude of ‘Yes. This term will be better than the last. Yes. This year will blow 2010 out of the water!’ That positive attitude is already wearing thin, and term hasn’t even started yet..

Screw it though. Despite having rehearsal clashes (already), as well as ridiculous amounts of reading to do (of things I don’t yet own), plus several socials to organise, and of course the christmas weight to lose, THIS YEAR IS GOING TO BLOODY WELL BE GOOD OR SO HELP ME THINGS WILL START TO BE THROWN.

I think living with a northerner has made me angrier. Or maybe just more open in my anger. Which could actually be a good thing.. If you think about. Which I am.

So, christmas (because it’s that first post since and it’s practically law that I therefore at the very least comment on it before moving on quickly.) It was pretty good actually, aside from the whole being hideously-ill-and-delirious for most of the weekend thing. That sucked. Y’know what’s really odd? I’ve always *loved* christmas, like really really been a big fan. But I think that, actually, I just love the lead up to it. The bustling and secret planning so that people don’t discover what you’ve bought them. The late night food shop that the mother and I do every year on December 23rd, even though we always say we’ll “plan earlier this year”. The several hours it takes me to get the christmas tree right (I may be a slight control freak when it comes to the tree. Maybe. Just a little..) The fact that I’M ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PLAY CHRISTMAS SONGS AND PEOPLE WON’T SHOUT AT ME. That’s probably one of the faves.. And then it’s just all over. And the next week seems to be this big pile of anticlimactic eating, which then only makes you feel worse when you realise that life doesn’t stop at the new year and you actually still have to do things, and oh-shit-can’t-fit-in-the-clothes any more. That could be a problem, I don’t think they allow nudity on the streets..

But yeah, 2010. It was actually a pretty alright year, let’s be honest..

The kitchen floor is comfy. Deal with it.

People often get confused when I blabber on about how I work better under pressure. SLASH cope better under pressure. SLASH actually kind of like being under pressure. It was only today, whilst sat on the kitchen floor drinking tea (as you do. Actually if you spend any time in our house you’ll realise that that’s actually *all* we do. Despite our kitchen being the size of a broom cupboard. A particularly small broom cupboard..) that I was able to fully get my own head around why that is..

I’m basically a massive control freak. Huh. It’s slightly weird saying that out loud. Because I did actually say that aloud.. Obviously. I guess it’s the same with most people, you like to know where you stand? In life generally. Or in a specific situation. But I just find that you always know where you stand when everything’s going on. When life is stupidly stressful. And you’ve got your list (also known as manic mindmap) of everything you need to deal with/sort out/do. It’s easier to clear your mind, after a good cry (or three), and deal with everything that keeps piling up and up and up.

When everything’s going right, I tend to panic. Be constantly dreading the next moment, knowing that it can’t last and that something has to go wrong soon.

That’s why I like the stress. The pressure. The massive weight of everything on your shoulders. Because you know where you stand. And what’s going on. And what *needs* to happen in order to sort it out.

Basically I’m a massive control freak.

You know the other thing I cleared up for the housemate tonight? I don’t like being relaxed. I know! I’m practically inhuman.. But yeah, I dread that feeling of total relaxation. It makes me immediately panic. How very fucked up is that? I prefer this ridiculous constant feeling of anxiety and uneasiness. Why? Because, well, because I’m an insane individual.. The idea of a spa or a massage literally puts me on the edge of blind panic. In the same way as how I woke up this morning and was immediately filled with dread at the fact that I had literally nothing to do today. I had a day off. AND WAS FILLED WITH DREAD.

What. The. Hell.

When life decides to be a bitch, dark chocolate always helps. Especially when it’s man-bought dark chocolate.

It’s been one of those kinda days. The kind where you end up making friends with the lady in the launderette, or at least end up on the receiving end of her pitying smiles as you trundle back and forth with wash-load after wash-load and practically spend your life savings so that you can have clean clothes. Yep. It’s definitely been that kind of day.

But it’s okay. I discovered chocolate in the wardrobe. The good kind of chocolate in the wardrobe discovery. Not the kind that results in massive cleaning bills. It was a dark chocolate discovery. Beaut. I love dark chocolate. Especially the super super extra-dark kind that you can only eat in tiny amounts.. One of the bestest things.

On the happy side of life, I went for lunch with my ex-drama teacher yesterday. Which was, as is to be expected if you ever met her, FANTASTIC. She’s one of the best people alive. No joke. In fact she’s basically me in a few years time.. If I suddenly decide to become a teacher. Which, y’know, is always an option..

Also on the vaguely happy side of life, my room now smells like a launderette. The washing powder/fabric conditioner combo is probably one of the best smells in the world. That and paint and wood smoke and the-morning-after-heavy-rain and my Mum’s perfume.. (which, coincidentally, both my housemate’s wear.. Odd.)