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Things That Were Actually Written in 2013

[ 81 ] January 16, 2013 |

Note #1: An article written in a major American publication asserts that “[w]omen no longer need to be beautiful in order to express their talent. Lena Dunham and Adele and Lady Gaga and Amy Adams are all perfectly plain, and they are all at the top of their field.”

Note #2: The article, from that point, arguably (if implausibly) gets worse.

Note #3: Oddly, the Paul Giamatti profile in the same issue does not dwell on his perceived fuckability.   I mean, is he hotter than Merrill Garbus?  We need answers!


Comments (81)

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  1. Adele and Amy Adams are plain? The fuck?

  2. Derelict says:

    I admit that I had to Google three of the four women mentioned. “Plain” is most certainly not the way I would have described any of them.

    I think the Marche deserves credit for being able to crank out that many words using only one hand.

  3. Jonas says:

    This has been going on for years. 20 years ago I used to hear about the refreshing change in beauty standards because ‘larger’ women like Cindy Crawford were now sex symbols.

    It’s almost refreshing to hear people say things like that out loud (or in print) so you can just stop listening to (or reading) anything they say.

  4. somethingblue says:

    The side-bar ad for this post is pitching me a new book on guerrilla warfare by Max Boot, with a glowing blurb from Senator John McCain.

    I’m assuming this is being triggered by the post’s use of the word “gaga.” But maybe I’m doing an injustice to these gentlemen’s perceived fuckability.

  5. Joshua says:

    Amy Adams is most certainly attractive, and Lady Gaga, well, she’s a style icon.

    Barbara Walters recently asked Hillary Clinton about taking her hairdresser on foreign trips. I wonder how Warren Cristopher and Colin Powell fielded that question. John Kerry better be prepared!

    • Ed says:

      Barbara Walters recently asked Hillary Clinton about taking her hairdresser on foreign trips.

      I wouldn’t necessarily call that evidence of sexism on Walters’ part, merely evidence and acknowledgment of the extra pressure on women, no matter how powerful they are, to worry about their appearance, something Walters and Clinton both understand very well. Context also makes a difference. Asking Clinton this question on a lighter show intended for a primarily female audience is very different from asking her about it on Meet the Press.

      • Sophia says:

        Yes, bothering the big man brains of the Meet the Press audience with hairdresser questions would be sexist.

        • Anonymous says:

          God yes, thank you for that. “Female audience,” indeed.

        • Ed says:

          Yes, bothering the big man brains of the Meet the Press audience with hairdresser questions would be sexist.

          Not what I said or meant, although I’ll grant you it could be read that way. I meant that to ask Clinton on such a question on a show devoted to hard news (theoretically, at least), particularly from a male interviewer, would be sexist and condescending in the most painful way. I don’t think Walters intended it that way, although women can be guilty of sexism as well. Given that this was an ABC News interview, you can indeed argue that the question was still inappropriate. I doubt it would have been any big deal coming from Walters on “The View,” whose target demographic is women 18-49 and where I have the impression that the topic of personal grooming arises regularly – as I noted above, women, especially women in public life, face much greater examination on that front than men do.

    • Just Dropping By says:

      I thought Kerry took a muskrat wrangler with him?

    • Hogan says:

      He can get tips from John Edwards.

  6. Joe says:

    Ah the poetry: ” “[Her skin is] the colour the moon possesses in the thin air of northern winters.”

    Helen of Troy has nothing next to her.

  7. Sorry, Scott, because I know this isn’t the point of your post. I know you’re bemoaning the fact that something this fucking silly and sexist was written…but I have to take issue with very the premise of the article.

    Sure, Megan Fox is very pretty. And she wears lots of make-up and has had lots of surgery to ensure that she is. So, I’d slow your roll, Esquire “writer.”

    I dunno. I’m very troubled by the idea of worshipping at the altar of artifice. It sends a pretty disheartening message to most women, who are not surgically enhanced and do not have make-up artists and hairstylists at their disposal.

    The whole thing is kind of sickening, but I actually find calling Amy Adams and Adele plain troubling. It’s easy for an old feminist like me to shrug it off, but I think as a teen, I would have thought “My gosh, if you don’t think those two women are attractive, what fucking shot do I have?” Nevermind that trying to be attractive to men at all times is not the most healthy impulse, but that’s a whole nother ball of wax.

    There’s lots that’s wrong with this article.

  8. Plain!


    I guess Adele defaults to plain because she’s chubby. HOKAY.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yes, I assume that to the asshole-fratboy demographic Adele isn’t thin enough to be considered attractive. What makes Amy Adams unattractive even by asshole-fratboy-obsessed-with-Megan-Fox standards, though, is unclear. Frankly, I don’t want to know.

      • Just Dropping By says:

        The article doesn’t say any of the women mentioned are “unattractive,” it says they are “plain.” Amy Adams is a pleasant looking woman (and I would be very happy to have a romantic partner that looked her if I wasn’t already married), but I don’t think many people do double takes as she walks down the street other than maybe as a reaction to recognizing her as a celebrity. Similarly, Lady Gaga in regular street clothes or a pre-celebrity status Adele would also not likely draw that kind of attention.

      • CaptBackslap says:

        Morally judging people based on who they do or don’t find physically attractive doesn’t strike me as a good road to go down.

        Of course, being a sexist asshole about it is a different matter, but no accounting for taste and all.

        • Asserting that there’s an agreed-upon standard, then, is similarly out.

          • CaptBackslap says:

            There are certainly traits that people generally tend to find attractive, but there’s a lot of individual variation, and a lot of (most?) people have a specific “type” that can be more important than whether someone is “conventionally attractive,” particularly in the context of a long-term relationship.

            But my point is, who cares? If your friend at the party doesn’t agree that the person you’ve been drooling over is Venus/Adonis, that’s not some sort of strike on either of you.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          This guy is making assertions about a consensus, not talking about an idiosyncratic personal preference.

          • CaptBackslap says:

            The writer was implying that (most thoughtless people assume everyone thinks like them), and he was obviously wrong. But it’s hard to read “I assume that to the asshole-fratboy demographic Adele isn’t thin enough to be considered attractive” without thinking you’re harshing on dudes who aren’t into her.

        • Anonymous says:

          On the other foot, dudes with stories from their boner they’re just dying to share with the rest of the world via soft news-ish articles about celebrities are moral titans because why?

  9. Jerry Vinokurov says:

    Paul Giamatti is definitely not hotter than Merrill Garbus.

  10. Anna in PDX says:

    Well, I think Adele is beautiful. Not that this is the main thing about her, I also think her voice is beautiful, which is what she is all about. I think the writer of the article is kind of nuts/obsessive. And the writing is so awful, it’s hard to believe Esquire published it although they are a silly men’s mag. But then, sometimes I am surprised at even fairly good reporters who cover celebrities, they still have that starstruck sound even in mags like “Rolling Stone” and it can really be annoying.

  11. Jon H says:

    Apparently the writer, in his raptures about Megan Fox’s flawless beauty, failed to notice her mutant thumb.

  12. Anonymous says:

    i don’t think it’s really possible to be a “plain” female, and be a successful movie/tv actress. guys can get away with it, kind of, but women, not so much. let’s be blunt, who’s going to pay $10, to see a movie with “plain” looking women in it? heck, i can see them on the street all day long, for free (and please, i mean no slight at all to “plain” women, because that’s mostly a media fiction). so yeah, megan fox is very pretty. surely a rarety in the entertainment biz.

    i had to go to the linked post, to even know who merrill garbus is, and i still have no clue what she looks like, though no doubt she’s pretty. i then made the mistake of reading the comments, and realized just how unaware i am, of bands, since, geez, 1980? that said, i recently discovered a treasure trove of old music vids on youtube. i re-acquainted myself with Cream, Traffic, Blind Faith, The Spencer Davis Group, etc. i fully expected to groan, on hearing them again, decades later. i was truly surprised at how well most of their work still holds up. really ugly clothes though. hopefully, ms. garbus will avoid that.

  13. cpinva says:

    rats! forgot to fill in the name thing. me is “anonymous”, for those wishing to criticize directly.

  14. david mizner says:

    I have a symmetrical ass — does that means it’s attractive?

    A related pet-peeve: Salon on its front page posting a photo of Megan Fox with the link “Esquire Pimps Megan Fox” — pretending to criticize but really joining in.

  15. Roger Ailes says:

    I’d do Paul Giamatti, but only if he was portraying John Adams at the time.

  16. Lancelot Link says:

    Oh, I thought by “major American publication” you meant a real magazine, not Playboy for Prudes (Maxim for the Middle-aged?)

  17. thebewilderness says:

    It’s kind of amazing when you think about it, that entire magazines consist of little more than “notes from my boner” by this or that self styled journamalist.

  18. Rarely Posts says:

    So, as a gay man, I’m not the best judge, but under what scenario is a woman who can look like this “plain,” given our current cultural norms?

    I mean Lady Gaga has the ability to look gorgeous when she wants to. Notably, for artistic purposes, she chooses to look less gorgeous (under our current cultural norms) than she could. But, her potential “beauty” is part of her message.

    The original writer’s commentary almost proves the opposite of what he means to prove – under his view, if a woman chooses to focus on her other talents and de-emphasize her beauty, then she must be “plain.”

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