Lunette Warren
Lunette Warren

Charlize Theron, Caitlyn Jenner, and the Eternal Recurrence of the Same

I am not a thought leader. I am not qualified to lead anyone, or for that matter to have anyone follow me, in thought. To be honest, I don’t know of too many people qualified for that job. I certainly don’t think this guy is one of them.

Is this … irony? If it is, it has missed the mark by a mile and a half. You see, comedy is supposed to be funny. This article is not funny. This article is shot through with every prejudice that a westernised white male would have about women’s looks if he never took the time to think too hard about it. He has some other ideas about the aesthetics of pleasure as well, but we’ll get to that. Before we do, let me make it clear that I do not intend to launch an ad hominem attack on the author of this article. I have no mercy to spare for his views, however, and the article he has written, whether intended as comedy or not, is miserably misguided.

Rod MacKenzie thinks there are too many beautiful women thrown in our faces by billboards and magazines and movies. They’re everywhere, he says, like dessert cakes in a deli. Delicious, but if you have too many, you eventually get sated and you don’t want them anymore. Women are like exotic foods, we’ve mixed too many flavours and now they’re bland. Are you trying to critique a homogeneous view of beauty in Western media, Rod? Is that what you’re doing here? I have seriously considered this possibility out of willingness to give you the benefit of the doubt. But no, I must conclude that this is not a critique of anything but beautiful women, because you go on to say that because of all of these beautiful women, we have started to fetishize ugliness.

Let me stop you there, Rod, and point out a few things that really, really bother me. I need to know where you have found these universal standards of beauty. You mention the Greeks, and you call Charlize Theron “canonically beautiful”. But there is no canon, Rod, beauty standards keep changing over time. And don’t even get me started on cultural differences in beauty ideals. Your Westernism is showing, Rod. You do, after all, only name white women in your article. I guess that is maybe to be expected in a piece that literally treats women like dessert. The alternative is that you couldn’t think of any examples of black women to put in your article, and honestly, Rod, I’m not sure which is worse. Here, let me help you out: Laverne Cox, first transgender woman (I stress this because I see you had trouble with it in your article) to appear on the cover of TIME magazine, Viola Davis, and Angela Bassett. Now, I know Angela Bassett didn’t have such radical transformations as Charlize Theron in Monster, but she had three breasts in American Horror Story: Coven, so I feel confident that you would still consider her to have been “uglified”.

That brings me to my next point. You say that Charlize is ugly in Mad Max: Fury Road, because she has only one arm. No, not ugly, “hideous”. Mental illness also makes her ugly. There is a word for this kind of attitude, Rod, and that word is “ableism”. This probably has something to do with that universal idea of beauty that you’ve got in mind, but I’ve got to tell you, Rod, a missing arm or a mental illness does not make a person deficient. And by deficient in this case I mean ugly, because ugliness according to your criteria is clearly a deficiency. You know, Rod, you might like Peter Singer.

Things get a little weird from here on out, and I have to tell you, Rod, it made me a little uncomfortable. I felt like a forced voyeur trailing behind you in the British Museum, watching you squeeze the buttocks of marble statues. I honestly don’t think that’s what the sculptors had in mind when they chiselled away at those buttocks. It gets worse, the Greek sculpture makes you think of Charlize and you (and lesbians, but not bisexuals or pansexuals or anybody else for that matter, just men and lesbians) wonder what it would be like to sleep with her “even with her sawn-off limb”. The attraction is elevated by repulsion and by not having to ask for consent. Rod, you shouldn’t say these things out loud, you shouldn’t even be thinking them, much less put them on digital paper and trick innocent people into reading them.

Rod, women are not here for your pleasure. They do not “uglify” themselves in order to emerge anew when the process is over so that you may once again appreciate their beauty. They do not go through radical transformations so that you may wonder what’s between their legs. Women are not desserts, Rod, and they sure as hell aren’t dragonflies, waiting to devour their prey. You may think it’s okay to take ownership of these women and engage in the fetishization of disability, mental illness, and “ugliness” because of the “filmic gaze”, but that is not a thing, Rod. The male gaze, on the other hand, very much is a thing.

Perhaps you should look it up.

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