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Old 9th January 2010   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default The Brigitte Failure; or, Diminishing Expectations

Writing about media curve-o-phobia for 11 years teaches one a little skepticism, to say the least.

When the news first broke that the German women's magazine Brigitte was going to shift to photographing ordinary women rather than professional models, we were extremely pessimistic about what the results would be. The appearance of an attractively styled Crystal Renn editorial seemed to belie this, but now that the magazine's first issue without professional models has appeared, it turns out that the initial pessimism was fully justified.

Instead of professional underweight models, the magazine now features amateur underweight models. The only thing that has changed is that the models are now, say, a size 6 rather than a 0 or 2. Big deal. Furthermore, they are acutely unattractive--and therefore not the least bit subversive of the media's "thinner = prettier" deception.

Says one Web logger who admits to buying into the initial hype about the publication:

the pages are still filled with thin females, be they professional models or not. Sadly it seems that "skinny equals chic and beautiful" is here to stay as our going beauty standard.

The thing that really ads the salt to my sizzling blood though, is the free bonus this first 'model free' New Year's edition includes...oh shame...a DIET booklet for my purse. As if that weren't enough the dominating headline on the magazine cover reads, "The new diet...this is how it fits into your life". All of which only serves to underline the reoccurring "thin remains beautiful" message.

The aesthetically dismal quality of the revamped magazine is no surprise, although the crassness of the starvation promotion is even worse than we anticipated.

And yet, astonishingly, some are still trying to cast this magazine's shift as a success. On what planet does a change from one type of underweight model to another type of underweight model constitute any kind of triumph? The diet promotions are still there; the thin models are still there. The only thing that has changed is that whereas before, some of the models may have had some facial beauty, now even that is gone.

So the end result is a magazine that manages to be even less beautiful than before.

How does this benefit anyone?

The only people who could genuinely be heartened by this development are not those who are truly pushing for size celebration, for the restoration of the ideal of full-figured feminine beauty, but rather, those who are simply operating out of a resentment of any kind of beauty at all (even the marginal "pretty-face beauty" that some underweight models possess), and want to see a media world filled with nothing but homeliness.

To what end? How will this aid the aesthetic restoration? How will this prevent eating disorders?

As a self-styled "real women's" magazine, the new Brigitte still pushes body-diminishment, both implicitly by its models and explicitly by its promotions. All that has happened is that the media world has become a bit uglier; yet it remains just as pernicious.

Two things should now be obvious: 1. The problem is not whether models are professional or not. The problem is whether they are emaciated or not. To swap underweight amateur models for underweight professional models is utterly futile, and simply degrades the culture in a different way. A resentment of professional models for their "beauty" is a base impulse. Rather, one should seek more beautiful professional models--plus-size professional models. They, and they alone, can endow society with a healthier, more natural, more positive ideal of attractiveness.

2. One has to avoid falling into the trap of meekly accepting diminished expectations. Just because Brigitte magazine changed its booking policies doesn't mean that it changed them for the better. As it turns out, it has changed them for the worse.

The same problem of diminishing expectations afflicts the public's reaction to Glamour. How has the magazine followed up on its very loud November announcement? So far, Glamour has produced (1) a few tiny images of plus-size models in its "dos-and-don'ts" pages; (2) the inclusion of a single model in a multi-page editorial who was so faux-plus that one Web site ran a damning "Can you spot the plus-size model?" story to indicate that you couldn't; and now, (3) an editorial in which Crystal Reen has been made to look practically straight size. Glamour was ironically doing better at representing plus-size beauty before its big announcement. And yet people are still praising the magazine. For what? Lip service? Have expectations becomes so low that merely a promise to do better matters more than actually doing better?

In retrospect, the criticisms of the aesthetics of Figure magazine seem less valid all the time. One single issue of Figure contained more images of full-figured models (genuinely full-figured models) than Glamour and Brigitte combined, over the past six months.

It is time to stop accepting such marginal representation, and being abjectly grateful to the so-called "mainstream" fashion industry for throwing out a few faux-plus crumbs. More than ever, it is time to demand true plus-size models, photographed to look curvy--and gorgeous. Ideally, this would come from a plus-specific print publication, but if one must endure the mainstream magazines, then one should demand this of them as well.

Gorgeous, full-figured cover girl of another, better time:

Lillian Russell, late 1890s.

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Old 16th January 2010   #2
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Join Date: November 2008
Posts: 417
Default Re: The Brigitte Failure; or, Diminishing Expectations

An Australian newspaper just ran an article about the Brigitte move. Mostly the write-up is unimportant, but it does contain the following absolutely devastating indictment of what the magazine has actually done, vs. the hype:

It has been widely noted that none of the women are "plus-size" models. German media commentators have complained that a slight paunch here and a few wrinkles there are hardly the stuff of which body-image revolutions are made. Most of the women featured in January could, pointed out the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, probably be models if they hadn't chosen other careers.
After claiming to be doing away with models ("Ohne Models" - without models), what Brigitte basically did was simply to scout models.

How pathetic.

And in fact, the irony is that the move isn't even daring within straight-size parameters. Among most people who don't follow fashion, the impression that they have of "models" is of girls who look like Doutzen Kroes. But that's very rare in the modelling industry these days. Models are increasingly selected for looking "unconventional" (translation: homely). By and large, models aren't even facially attractive anymore (a look at the last winner of America's Next Top Model confirms this).

Moreover, magazines like Brigitte often cast from agencies' lifestyle divisions, which feature older, plainer models to begin with (just still underweight).

So to say that Brigitte's women "don't looks like models" is absolutely false. They look little different from today's skinny models, especially the "lifestyle" models. In fact, if Brigitte had peopled its magazine with Doutzen Kroeses, it would have made a bigger change from its previous casting policies than it did by scouting "women who could probably be models if they hadn't chosen other careers."

It was a cowardly move, a case of announcing change and not delivering. Real change comes by hiring gorgeous professional plus-size models, or girls "who could probably be plus-size models if they hadn't chosen other careers," over a size 14, and shooting them to celebrate their full figures and their timeless beauty.
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