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33 Responses

  1. Colin Day
    Colin Day May 18, 2012 at 10:37 am |

    300,000 is one tenth of a percent of the US population, not one percent.

  2. Athenia
    Athenia May 18, 2012 at 10:51 am |

    ““GIRLS HAD FULLER FIGURES BACK THEN,” said one casting notice sent, in all caps, to local models and actresses.”

    Is this even true?

    There’s that email chain that has been sent around where it’s all, “Marilyn Monroe was a size 12!”, but I believe I read somewhere that that has been debunked.

  3. Sulyp
    Sulyp May 18, 2012 at 11:53 am |

    So… the director and casting director are having problems finding real women who resemble the idealized caricature of what they think “women looked like” back then. Huh. Color me shocked, just shocked!

    Fuck, not even Marilyn Monroe looked like “Marilyn Monroe”. She had surgical alterations and a facial implant, chest often padded out to enormous proportions, hair relaxed and fried to a prominent shade of silver blond. She managed the two facial expressions she could have in public between “frightful doe” and “come hither”, and she did it masterfully. And she worked out by weightlifting in her younger days. She had to really work for that whole costume, it wasn’t natural in the slightest.

  4. Amelia ze lurker
    Amelia ze lurker May 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm |

    Sulyp is correct…there’s a famous anecdote (not sure if it’s true) about that: MM and someone (a friend? journalist? can’t remember) were walking down the street in New York (some versions place it in Greenwich Village), and none of the passers-by seemed to notice they were in the presence of Marilyn Monroe. When MM’s companion commented on this, she said, “Oh, you want me to do HER?” and then went into character. As soon as she did this, everyone started reacting accordingly.

  5. matlun
    matlun May 18, 2012 at 2:05 pm |

    @Sulyp: Why do you think he is looking for an “idealized caricature” of how women actually looked in the 50s? Marilyn Monroe did indeed look like Marilyn Monroe. Whether that was her “natural” look or not.

    Women and men have been using cosmetics and ornamentation for all of human history. I am not sure we have ever looked “natural” since the dawn of civilization. As far as I can see the only things that have changed are technology and the specific beauty ideals.

  6. Donna L
    Donna L May 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm |

    I don’t know why this director and casting director are surprised that it’s “hard to find” young actresses who haven’t had breast augmentation (even assuming that’s true), given how much pressure women in the entertainment industry receive — from directors, casting directors and producers just like these people — to achieve body proportions that aren’t necessarily common without surgery. What do they expect?

  7. Donna L
    Donna L May 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm |

    PS: Obviously I’m not suggesting that women *not* in the entertainment industry aren’t under the same kind of pressure. In the entertainment industry, though, breast augmentation surgery can be an express job requirement.

  8. Sulyp
    Sulyp May 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm |

    @Matlun: To be honest, I don’t know what context you read my words in since that’s not what I was hoping to say (at least in *my* head anyway)…

    So lemme clarify.

    The very people who are idolized for their appearance had to put forth an enormous amount of effort to attain, maintain, and sustain their image. Marilyn Monroe began her transformation at the urging (coercion) of her handlers, Joe Schneck and crew. They had a very clear idea of what they thought a wholesome and desirable woman should look like, and it wasn’t the natural package that Norma Jean showed up in. They saw someone who they could mold into this illusion, but what they didn’t bank on was this same woman being a bit rebellious and subversive with said image. This was the unspoken context behind “Marilyn Monroe didn’t look like ‘Marilyn Monroe’ “.

    I was also finding it ironic that in modern day, the directors are moaning about how hard it is to find women who suit these voluptuous ideals, while holding onto their fixation about implants and how they’re just ruining everything, or something.

    Am I a little clearer now?

  9. matlun
    matlun May 18, 2012 at 4:57 pm |

    @Sylup: I think we agree. It may simply have been me misreading your first post.

    What I was trying to point out was simply that the whole struggle to conform with a cultural beauty norm is nothing new. It is just that the norm and the means used to conform was different in the 50s (as well as pretty much any other period).

    That the differences causes casting problems seem unsurprising since to be successful many actors will have conformed with the current norms and not those of the 50s.

  10. maggiemay
    maggiemay May 18, 2012 at 5:38 pm |

    i believe i’ve said this B4, but —my body is NOT a fashion accessory—that being said, i can certainly understand why many ppl cave in 2 the pressure 2 have surgery—-the desire 2 improve one’s circumstances is a strong one, even if it means sacrificing one’s bodily integrity

  11. ~s~
    ~s~ May 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm |

    @Athenia

    On Marilyn Monroe being a size 12: she was a 1950s size 12, but that’s about the equivalent of a size 8 today. The size of the average American woman has increased over the last 60 years, but the size of the beauty ideal has decreased (starting around teh same time as the popularity of Twiggy). A couple months ago Sociological Images posted some ads from the 1950s on how to gain weight because women under about a size 4 (in 2012 sizes) was considered unattractively skinny.

    Breast augmentation was less common back then (it was much more dangerous than it is now) but it was still done, although women were more likely to wear padded bras and underwear with a girdle in order to get the perfect curvy body.

    okay, /nerd rant. I took a class on the history of beauty and the body once and it’s stunning how many of the pressures remain through different periods of history when the ideals change.

  12. Chazzfazzle Dopptennhaufer
    Chazzfazzle Dopptennhaufer May 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm |

    Talk about “too-ripped men”, it’s amazing how much weightlifting a lot of men do today. No wonder steroid use is climbing.

  13. kungfulola
    kungfulola May 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

    ““GIRLS HAD FULLER FIGURES BACK THEN,” said one casting notice sent, in all caps, to local models and actresses.”

    Is this even true?

    To an extent, yes. Even as recently as the 90′s. Watch George Michael’s video for “Too Funky”. I think it’s arguable that the women in it had “ideal” bodies for the time – otherwise, how could they have been ‘The Original Supermodels’? Nowadays, those bodies would probably be considered “fat”; they look thicker and more substantial to me than the current crop of models. I can see a big difference.

  14. Sulyp
    Sulyp May 18, 2012 at 6:48 pm |

    @Matlun: I gotcha.
    ~~~~~~~~~~
    I think the comparison of 1950′s sizes to modern sizes is deceptively incongruent in seamstress terms, because the average typical woman that was designed for back then had totally different body shapes than the average woman today. I recently inherited a whole bunch of sewing patterns made between 1959 and 1977, and holy moly were the body shapes different. I strongly suspect restrictive foundation garments had a lot to do with final skeletal outcomes in women.

    A size 12 waist back then does not equal a size 8 waist today. Models back then commonly had a 21 or 22 inch waist to go with the rounder hips. Today’s models seem to have 24 or 25 inch waists to go with narrower hips. Both body types would be considered quite slender in their respective times, but the shape is definitely different.

  15. ch
    ch May 18, 2012 at 9:33 pm |

    kungfulola,

    Models and women in music videos =/= all women. Which is the argument of the post.

  16. Debbie Notkin
    Debbie Notkin May 18, 2012 at 11:23 pm |

    Colin, yes, of course you’re right. My error. At the same time, the point stands.

    Athenia, Marilyn Monroe was a size 12; look at the pictures. I’m 60, and when I was a teenager and she was a sex goddess, no one had heard of “size 1″ adult clothes. Sulyp, yes, of course she worked for that look. Less than now, but still thanks for pointing it out.

    maggiemay, go you!

    Everybody, thanks for expanding on the post!

  17. Jay Schiavone
    Jay Schiavone May 19, 2012 at 11:16 am |

    I stopped watching Magic City after two episodes in no small part because of the implants. The program goes to great and gratuitous length to emphasize “faithfulness” to period detail. I once stopped watching a movie set in the early sixties when I noticed that a scene at a burger joint included the use of plastic straws. The issue of breast implants in period movies is tricky. As several commenters have observed, a young woman seeking screen time in the biz these days is expected to be buxom. Sadly, this is likely true mainly for women seeking to become established. The irony comes as they succeed and become known: the augmentation becomes an impediment to their career. A “serious” actress doesn’t have implants. So, casting directors demand that ingénues have implants, but won’t allow them to move up the ladder because of said implants.
    But why do they need implants? In the olden days of Magic City, chorus girls didn’t need big breasts because (since they did not ever appear nude) they could where “falsies.” Which was just as well because it would have been very difficult to find enough women who were trained dancers who also had big breasts. The new TV show is on Starz, a pay channel, and is obliged to have gratuitous nudity. Perhaps the casting director assumes that the mob boss played by Danny Huston would need to have a wife with big breasts and also need to appear onscreen in the nude. But the wife character has to support a “sexy” and dramatically charged sub-plot, and must be able to act well. In this day and age, “falsies” have evolved to a regrettable and ubiquitous surgical procedure.
    Maybe the mob boss character cannot otherwise but have a wife with large breasts. It is part of his (!) character. Such a character set in the present day would definitely have a wife with surgically enhanced features. But in 1959, he would tend toward a character of recognizable voluptuousness. I’m thinking of Edmond O’Brien’s mob boss character in The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) and his desperate need to project power by way of the physical expression of his girlfriend played by Jayne Manfield. That was actually the plot of the movie. And, it’s worth pointing out, it is an excellent movie.
    Ultimately, the producers of Magic City make a false compromise, and they pretend that plastic surgery is more convincing than it is. I make my choice as a viewer and turn the channel because bars back then used swizzle sticks, not plastic straws. Jessica Marais, the Australian actress who had the augmentation (perhaps before she ever heard of Magic City), made her choice and will deal with the issue once she has moved to the next level of her profession.
    A positive outcome remains a possibility. Once we have established a solid generation of augmented women, in and out of show business, sensibilities will shift and we will adapt again, as we have since the days of foundation garments. And let’s hope that any further technological advances will be applied, for a change, to men’s brains, to help us to accept that big breasts are not an issue.

  18. kungfulola
    kungfulola May 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |

    Models and women in music videos =/= all women. Which is the argument of the post.

    But in this context, they are looking for “tv people”. It doesn’t matter what people actually looked like then, they are casting for a television show, which means they still want ideal bodies. They just want ideal bodies from decades ago, and it’s clear that the standards were different.

  19. Michelle
    Michelle May 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm |

    The journalist, Kenny Malone, doesn’t quite grapple with whether or not this represents a problem (other than for the powers behind Magic City). He doesn’t leave us feeling that widespread breast augmentations are either a good or a bad thing.

    I appreciate that the original article didn’t try to talk about why the women look the way they do. When journalists attempt arm-chair sociology, it is generally muddled at best and downright damaging at worst. I would expect something along the lines of, “But women these days aren’t afraid to go under the knife to get the body of their dreams. We’ll all just have to accept period pieces with extra va-va-voom.”

  20. rkel
    rkel May 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm |

    @#12

    Yeah men these days certainly put a huge amount more focus on the way their bodies look than previously.

    Having just finished university it shocks me when I reflect back and think of how many guys I knew went on steroid cycles whilst being young men at university (young 20′s). They didn’t even know what their genetic limits on hypertrophy and strength even were, they simply could not wait for that body and decided to spend serious money on steroids. Whilst I see steroids as a useful tool for older lifters to maintain their lifestyle, or older people looking to kick-start strength training (under careful guidance), it is simply wrong that young men and women should be using such drugs to get the bodies they desire.

    Back onto the topic of the article, I know this might be offensive to some but does anyone else agree that the standards for women’s beauty in MM’s era were to some degree healthier? It honestly seems like they were far more reflective of realistic body shapes and sizes (at least considering the far lower calorie diets of the era). The current ultra-thin model of femininity put forth by high fashion is in actuality a rather rare type of body that very few women could ever hope to realistically hope to attain no matter how hard they diet or exercise; we can’t change the lengths of our legs or rib cages, nor shoulder breadth.

    Not that having a single standard was all that healthy, but whatever.

  21. EG
    EG May 19, 2012 at 9:28 pm |

    does anyone else agree that the standards for women’s beauty in MM’s era were to some degree healthier?

    Certainly not if we consider race.

  22. Alexandra
    Alexandra May 20, 2012 at 1:12 am |

    The beauty standard for both men and women today celebrates an extreme of athleticism – the men all strive to look like caricatures of Greek gods, and the women are trying to achieve a look that I honestly can’t remember from any other time in history or any other culture, because it so de-emphasizes the beauty of fertility in exchange for either a highly skinny or highly athletic look. The only women who seem to be celebrated for different body types are “exotic” women like Salma Hayek or J Lo, or to a lesser extent Christina Hendricks, who is also exotic because she is so strongly associated with her character on Mad Men, who is of course from a different time.

    That rarity is prized is I think no aberration in human history, and that casting directors find changes in body type an enormous difficulty in film and television is also unsurprising to me; it’s a common complaint from people interested in period dress that men and women don’t “look right” in costume because they don’t have the ideal – or at least sought for – body types of the period. It’s hard to attain a flapper look, for instance, in an era where larger bust sizes are prized.

    Certainly there is a particular sexism to ideals of beauty. But how many men, for instance, had the body of Michelangelo’s Adam? Or of Ammannati’s Fountain of Neptune? And how many prehistoric women had the body of those famous Venus sculptures – the rich flesh symbolic of fertility and of course only obtainable during times of great plenty?

    I’m reminded somewhat of Darwin’s comments on how sex selection, the extreme traits promoted by a species’ continual progression to flashier and flashier sexual dimorphism. The tail of a lyrebird or a peacock, the coloring of tropical fish – all attract mates, and all attract predators, or hinder prey in escaping said predators. It’s not only adaptive traits that are selected for, after all – and the extremes of the human pursuit of beauty, from corsets to steroids, are often harmful.

    Hummm.

  23. Sunday Morning Medicine | Nursing Clio

    [...] Feministe looks at feminism, breasts (natural or augmented), and empowering art [...]

  24. Crys T
    Crys T May 21, 2012 at 3:58 am |

    RE the whole “Marilyn was a size 12″ thing: all you have to do is look at her to realise that she would be jeered at for being “too fat” nowadays.

    Whether a 50′s size 12 is vastly different from a 2012 size 12, I don’t know, but I do know that back then clothes were worn differently. Especially for skirts and trousers, “waist” meant the body’s literal waist. Virtually no one wears theirs skirts or trousers up to the waist anymore, they’ve migrated to down near or even on the hips. Which tend to be–guess what?–wider than the waist. So, yeah, if a size 12 now is made for a wider measurement…no doy.

    I think a lot of this malarkey about sizes driftin upwards is part of the whole fat-shaming craze anyway. “Sizes” are an aribitrary freaking concept in the first place.

  25. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 21, 2012 at 11:03 am |

    I think a lot of this malarkey about sizes driftin upwards is part of the whole fat-shaming craze anyway. “Sizes” are an aribitrary freaking concept in the first place.

    Okay, “sizes” are arbitrary but BMIs have also gone up; whether or not you think it’s a legitimate measure of size, it is a constant measure of size that has increased significantly. It’s not all fat-shaming.

  26. Sulyp
    Sulyp May 21, 2012 at 11:48 am |

    Whether a 50′s size 12 is vastly different from a 2012 size 12, I don’t know, but I do know that back then clothes were worn differently. Especially for skirts and trousers, “waist” meant the body’s literal waist. Virtually no one wears theirs skirts or trousers up to the waist anymore, they’ve migrated to down near or even on the hips. Which tend to be–guess what?–wider than the waist. So, yeah, if a size 12 now is made for a wider measurement…no doy.

    With the library of patterns that I have spanning decades, I can quantify (with my eyes and measurement tape only) that not only the sizing, but the proportions have definitely changed. One constant that doesn’t change position is the ‘waistline’. If it’s not at the natural waist, then it’s just called a waistband. Unless it’s a drop waist or an empire waist, for comparison between decades, the waistline can tell you everything.

    If you’re following modern trends at all, the waistbands are jumping back up to the natural waist, or just below natural waist. As Bagelsan has already pointed out, BMI averages have gone up. In my dressmaker’s eyes, the increase of waistline allowances in sewing patterns looks to be very significant. Somewhere in the 90′s, dressform companies largely redesigned mannequins to reflect the change in “average” female body shape. It really hasn’t gone unnoticed by the fashion industry, nor with DIY sewing enthusiasts, so please, drop the disablist “No Doy”. Your statement (though I disagree with it) can stand on its own without that.

  27. DP
    DP May 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

    It really hasn’t gone unnoticed by the fashion industry, nor with DIY sewing enthusiasts, so please, drop the disablist “No Doy”. Your statement (though I disagree with it) can stand on its own without that.

    No doy is disablist? WTF? How do you keep up with this?

  28. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll May 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

    So in other words, a director has discovered that too many women have conformed to what directors want. And, with typical blind MP, has no earthly idea how this occurred or his role in it. All he knows is that it’s inconvenient for him.

    In other news, water is wet and fire is hot.

  29. Hamgravy
    Hamgravy May 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm |

    DP:

    How do you keep up with this?

    One way to “keep up” is to accept it when someone corrects you and try not to repeat the mistake.

    I personally find it extremely difficult to take criticism, though, and not get all butthurt….

  30. Crys T
    Crys T May 22, 2012 at 3:48 am |

    “No doy” is disablist? Then you better all flock over to berate Liss at Shakesville because I was channeling her*.

    Marilyn Monroe would’ve been considered “too fat” nowadays. Full stop. And the annoying thing is that you all actually know it. I know this because if you’re talking about her appearance I know you’ve got eyes in your head. Get over it.

    And, really, fashion trends by patterns? Who the hell even uses patterns these days, when making your own clothes is exponentially more expensive than buying at discount stores? And, even those do do their own sewing are moving toward drafting their own patterns because commercial ones are bloody useless (and always have been). Not to mention that most patterns (and I have flicked throught the catalogues pretty recently) are not exactly on-trend.

    Also, the day I see most women wearing skirts up to their waists again, I’ll believe that there’s a massive shift. That day is currently….nowhere on the horizon.

    Well, here’s something you cannot deny: it was the norm then for women to wear unbelievably tight foundation garments. Now, yes, I know that these are also making something of a comeback, but they are IN NO WAY being used on a mass scale they way they once were, and even when they are used, most women nowadays would not tolerate the sort of compression that was typical back then. And you sure as hell don’t see many women wearing girdles or corsets under shorts or swimsuits these days.

    *don’t go flocking over to Shakesville. I love Liss & do not want to bring her strife from the language police. One of these days when I have the time, I am going to do an etymological study of some of our most commonly-used terms, then any time one of you uses one that could be even conceivably linked to any kind of oppression, I am going to Donald-Sutherland-at-the-end-of-Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers you the same way so many of you do here. It should be fun: you won’t be able to form a coherent sentence.

  31. Athenia
    Athenia May 22, 2012 at 10:12 am |

    does anyone else agree that the standards for women’s beauty in MM’s era were to some degree healthier?

    Certainly not if we consider race.

    I just finished reading “Fat Shame” and there was lots of fat shaming going on in the 50s as well–especially towards upwardly mobile women, immigrants and WOC. Moreover, the diet industry started in the 1920s so……we’ve been at this for awhile.

  32. EG
    EG May 22, 2012 at 10:20 am |

    Yes, I agree. The fifties were when my mom was growing up, and she certainly learned that her flesh was unacceptable. And then there are all the “ethnic” aspects of her looks that weren’t acceptable–curly hair, for instance. Thick eyebrows.

  33. Hamgravy
    Hamgravy May 22, 2012 at 6:46 pm |

    @Crys T

    Ha ha, u mad.

    It’s actually not that hard to avoid insulting language, but you present a compelling defense of your right to be a jerk.

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