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Monday, January 25, 2010

An Open Letter to Heidi Montag

Dear Ms. Montag-Pratt,

I begin this letter with the admission that I really don't know who you are. I don't watch reality television, so I've not see your show, and, apart from your being mentioned on the occasional episode of "The Soup," you are pretty much off of my radar. In fact, you are among the last individuals I would ever have considered writing about on my blog.
However, one show that I do watch regularly is "The Bonnie Hunt Show," and she discussed your recent plastic surgeries and the accompanying People magazine article. I then saw the same article while I was sitting in the waiting room of an office.
Now, we all make decisions about our own lives, and we all must live with those decisions. We can't put the blame for who we are or how we think or what we do on anyone else. We must shoulder the responsibility for those decisions ourselves.
That having been said, I cannot help but feel that I owe you an apology.
I feel that I should apologize for my part in creating and perpetuating an "ideal" of beauty. I know I am but one cog in a vast machine that judges what a woman ought to look like, but I am still a part of it. I like to think of myself as progressive and enlightened in my view of women, and, compared to a lot of the men I know, I really do think that I am. Still, I can do better.
I have, for many years, considered myself a "fan" of Jennifer Love Hewitt, though I've only seen maybe two of her films and none of her TV shows. She may be a great actress, but I am judging her on an altogether different set of criteria.
On this very blog, I made a joke about being grateful for Eliza Dushku's pilates instructor. It was a joke, but, again, it perpetuates an idea. I didn't say I was grateful for Kate Winslet's acting coach, now, did I?
These may seem like little things, but, again, these small things add up to an environment in which women (younger and older) feel that they must meet some standard of beauty that surpasses even what we men have ever sought after - even when we were thirteen-year-old boys discussing "the perfect woman" at a sleepover.
I have a younger sister whom I love dearly. I have younger cousins and nieces as well for whom I hold great affection. I know a great number of young actresses in this town and around the country.
That any of them could ever look in the mirror as you did and see flaw upon flaw upon flaw that must be repaired just breaks my heart. The thought that they would ever subject themselves to the pain and risk of multiple (or any) plastic surgeries because I have failed (along with society) to let them know how beautiful they are just as they are is, to me, unbearable.
Logically, I know that the real ideal woman for me is the woman with whom I can converse, laugh, and share the experiences of the rest of my life. However, deep down, it is somewhat ingrained in me that she should also look like Alyssa Milano, which is ridiculous. I think most every woman I meet is beautiful (which, frankly, gets me into a fair amount of trouble), and, yet, there is still that part of my brain that can't let go of the 13-year-old boy who had a Paulina Porizkova calendar that he hid from his mom.
One could make the "chicken or the egg" argument that asks, "Do we have this standard of beauty because Hollywood feeds it to us, or does Hollywood feed it to us because it's all we want?"
Well, that's a cop out. Of course, it's on us. We build the norms of our society not once every four years at the ballot box but rather every day at the cash register. Our world looks the way it does because of the way we spend our money. We are ultimately responsible for the billions of dollars spent every year on botox, liposuction, viagra, plastic surgery, teeth whitening, tanning booths, erectile dysfunction, hair transplants, and electrolysis, whether we're spending it ourselves or simply buying magazines, watching TV shows, or going to movies that perpetuate this fantastical notion of "the beautiful people."
Now, Ms. Montag-Pratt, I know that you are an adult woman and made these decisions of your own free will. I do not wish to sound condescending by suggesting that you had no choice in the matter.
I am simply acknowledging that your decisions were made in an environment that places an enormous and unfair amount of pressure on women - particularly young women, particularly young women in the entertainment industry - to measure up to an unrealistic ideal. I am also acknowledging that I have some responsibility for that environment. I promise to work on that.
I am sorry, Heidi, I truly am. I hope that you feel better soon.

The Big Bad Wolf

1 comment:

Kendall said...

Your prose is as elegant as ever. And spot-on as usual. I only wish Heidi could actually read this.