In Which The Author Corrupts American Values

Becoming a romance writer in some ways has been entering into a new world.  The major themes of romance novels tend to be very different from, say, science fiction or mystery novels.

On the list of the things you are dealing with and describing, of course, is human beauty.  Most of the people, certainly the heroines and heroes in a romance novel are going to be beautiful.  It’s part of the fantasy, and attitudes toward beauty, effects of beauty and the consequences of beauty are going to influcence the plot of the story.

But in writing about women’s looks, you’re also writing about women’s perceptions of their own looks, and their comfort with their bodies and sexuality.  On the list of reasons I enjoy romance writing is it gives me a chance to explore, examine and present positive attitutudes toward the whole range of female beauty, along side positive relationships and positive sexual choice.

And this is EXACTLY why I’m so bloody PISSED OFF right now.

Maybe you’ve heard.  Fox News, that Defender of Democracy (TM) and arbiter of what is and is not Really American has decided that a Lane Bryant lingerie ad that doesn’t even BEGIN to hit the Victoria Secret standard for strutting and pouting in underware, can’t be shown in the eight o’clock hour.  Disney’s TV arm, ABC has joined the refusal to air the ad.

What’s the problem with it?   The women in it are all reubenesque.  They have normal, fit bodies with curves.  What’s more, they are pleased with what they see when they look in the mirror.

Horrors!  Shield your eyes!  Guard your children from this utter indecency of women with curves being shown not hating their own bodies!

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In Which The Author Corrupts American Values — 14 Comments

  1. Yes… that’s one of the US values I will never understand. We get all your crime series here in Germany and they show murder and violence at an hour impressionable children still are viewers, but confident sexy women? Love scenes? It’s a behaviour I find particularly unhealthy and othering not just women, but love, lust and sex…

    I’m sort of hoping that attititudes might change the more international connections there are… like the internet. I may be naive, though.

    I remember thinking Romancing the Stone remarkably open about celebrating women and their strength and their sexyness, though. But that movie was from the 80s…

  2. I really liked the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” ads from some months back–in which women of all sorts of body-types stood around in lingerie of various sorts. And one of the lower-market underwear makers (Hanes?) has a line that purports to be for women of a more generous cut, which (again) shows those women in the underwear, all looking pretty cheery about themselves. And I am pretty sure I saw them on most channels and all hours. What in God’s name is so different about the Lane Bryant ad, that it should be stricken from the view of the impressionable?

    A side-issue to this one is the casting of a slender, good looking woman as the wife of a hefty, funny-looking man. You see it everywhere, particularly in sitcoms. And (sitcoms being what they are) the woman is usually cleverer/wiser than her husband as well. Which always makes me wonder why she’s wasting her time with him. Not that it’s fat, but that he’s dimwitted, and she clearly isn’t.

    And then I realize that it’s part of the fantasy they’re selling to men: doesn’t matter if you’re a dork and a little funny-looking, like Kevin James on The King of Queens, you get to have a wife who looks like Leah Remini. Which is why I don’t want sitcoms any more.

  3. Everyone knows that the “perfect” body portrayed by Victoria’s Secret is a fantasy. Real women with curves are too real and normal. Therefore skinny models strutting their stuff with next to nothing covering a few key spots on their bodies is still fantasy. Real women with curves display more then one square inch of skin on their arms and feet makes people recognize sexuality when they firmly want to deny its existence.

    I know fundamentalists who would rather their sons watch slasher horror movies at dinner time than EVER seek a naked body. Another fundamentalist mother told me in hushed whispered tones that a mamogram was the most humiliating experience in her life — to actually have another person not her husband especially a woman, touch her. She sincerely hoped her daughter would never have to endure such a procedure.

    Loud voices in our culture can’t deal with real human sexuality. It’s time for the rest of us to raise our voices and drown them out.

  4. Yes… some SF/F writers are now resorting to torture chic to make a dent in readers’ cortices — but a nipple will consign you to porn. And curves? Nah. Women must be hangers for fashion designers’ fantasies.

  5. I agree 100%. I watched O’Reilly’s segment on it (hey, it popped up on HuffPo and I was curious) and the point was made that if a woman is plus sized, and her attributes are plus-sized, there is going to be more cleavage. That doesn’t make it more salacious, but it appears that this is what the networks were responding to.

    My only caveat is that the voice over tells a story (that I like, mind you) and added to the visuals, the story is she’s put on her sexy underwear to go have sex. The story itself might be more overtly sexual than the Victoria’s Secret ads which seem to have the models strutting and posing, but without a story behind them… maybe?

    That said, the irony is complete. The first show in question was American Idol. American Idol gave up the ghost in its second season, any attempt to keep all conteststants pop-cute and pop-sexy, and allow people with talent who don’t fit the norm to compete, and win. If any show has had to deal with the reality that people come in all shapes and sizes, it has been AI, and it has only been to the show’s benefit.

  6. Well, at least it’s got people talking about body image. Interesting side note, in Hollywood casting calls are starting to say “no botox, no plastic surgery,” because when your face is surgically or chemically frozen, you can’t convey emotion for the camera. Perhaps things will start getting a little better.

  7. Sarah, I saw that piece in the NY Times this morning about casting directors who don’t want people who have had work done; interestingly, they particularly don’t want them for films with historical settings because they don’t look right.

  8. I have a bad feeling that the “no botox” etc. rules will put older women actors in another bind. They’ll be told they look too artificial with plastic surgery, and too old without it. The “fresh young faces” are probably all in their 20s. It would be pretty to think they’re going to hire women over 40 who haven’t had work done, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Of course, if a woman wants to be both skinny enough to make it as an actor or model and still have the large breasts that are also considered de rigueur, she practically has to get breast implants. Anorexic women don’t generally come with much in the way of a bosom unless they do it artificially. The model in the Lane Bryant ad wasn’t fat; she was “well-endowed.” It’s pretty hard to have naturally large breasts and not have a large upper body frame to carry them.

  9. Nancy: Actually, I heard an interview with a sixty+ year old actress who was getting all the work she could handle, precisely because she never had surgery or botox and could project emotion for the camera.

  10. Sarah, I hope that’s indicative of a trend. I just think of those women who were the hot star for maybe 5-10 years, and then never heard of again, while Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are still starring as action-adventure heroes.

  11. I have a bad feeling that the “no botox” etc. rules will put older women actors in another bind. They’ll be told they look too artificial with plastic surgery, and too old without it. The “fresh young faces” are probably all in their 20s. It would be pretty to think they’re going to hire women over 40 who haven’t had work done, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Of course, if a woman wants to be both skinny enough to make it as an actor or model and still have the large breasts that are also considered de rigueur, she practically has to get breast implants. Anorexic women don’t generally come with much in the way of a bosom unless they do it artificially. The model in the Lane Bryant ad wasn’t fat; she was “well-endowed.” It’s pretty hard to have naturally large breasts and not have a large upper body frame to carry them.