Monday, April 4, 2011

Pretty Vacant

When I don't feel good, I watch movies.  Old movies.  Either old old like Singing in the Rain or just plain old like The Breakfast Club.  The other day found me feeling crappy so I curled up on the couch with a blanket and streamed Dirty Dancing.  I know a lot of gals my age watch this thing frequently but I haven't seen it in ages and ages, maybe not since that summer I made up dances to all the songs on the soundtrack and stopped wearing anything but capri pants, sleeveless button-up blouses and white keds.  I even created a dance to the Patrick Swayze song. I mean, come on!  "She's like the wind through my tree." Truly horrible lyrics that inspired twelve-year old me to bust out some very creative interpretive dance moves like holding my arms up and making them sway.

So, yeah, long time no see.

As I watched Jennifer Grey carry a watermelon and later seduce Johnny in the sweaty, screened-in worker's cabin, I was struck by a strange thought.  No, it wasn't that 80's movies are all about class struggles and it wasn't that Patrick Swayze, while hot in Roadhouse, was kinda short.  It was this:  Jennifer Grey looked like a real person.  Once I noticed this I could barely concentrate on the stimulating tale of boy meets girl, boy grinds girl.  I could only stare at her in awe.  My brain could not compute the regular-person features on my screen.

I had known something was off in earlier scenes but I couldn't put my finger on what it was.  But, as Johnny took Baby into his tree, I realized that I hadn't seen anyone that looked like Baby on television since forever.  When did everyone get so freaking pretty?  Don't get me wrong, I like pretty people too.  When my husband let me pick which movie we would watch first on our new 47" LCD flatscreen, I picked 300 for obvious reasons.  (300 shiny sets of six packs!  That's 1800 hot abs in high-definition!) But, it took watching freaking Dirty Dancing to make me realize that hardly anyone on tv or film looks like a regular person anymore.  Particularly the ladies.

I've been thinking about this ever since because I have absolutely nothing else to think about and also because it's interesting.  I grew up in the 80's, looking up to heroines such as Baby Houseman and Andie Walsh (Pretty In Pink).  These chicks were relatable and appealing because of their normal-girl aesthetic, not in spite of it.  While Molly Ringwald is arguably a cute gal, it's not hard to picture her sitting behind you in English Lit.  It's easy to get caught up in the story of Baby's hot summer fling or Andie's popular dude/ best friend love triangle because these ladies could be you!  I can't say I've ever found an Angelina Jolie or Eva Mendes character relatable.  The day I wake up looking like that is the day I get arrested for public nudity.


I miss quirky cute like Ally Sheedy.  I miss puzzlingly awkward cute like Shelley Duvall.  I miss interesting looking singers like Cyndi Lauper and Siouxsie Sioux, who would totally kick Katy Perry's pilates-toned, mystic-tanned rubber-clad ass.  I even miss the original cast of 90210, who, while hot, at least seemed somewhat realistic.  As in, their existence could be plausible even if only in Beverly Hills.  Have you seen the new cast?  They are all fifteen pounds lighter and fifteen times cuter than the first crew of spoiled kids.  Adorable?  Yes.  Compelling?  Not so much.

I might be wallowing in stupid nostalgic girl crap but I think I've got a point somewhere in here.  The actresses I grew up watching didn't make me strive to be thinner or tanner or cuter than I actually am.  They made me want to be myself.  Maybe with cuter clothes or better dance moves or guy friends that sing Otis Redding to me in public places but still, I wanted to be me.  I wonder sometimes if filling our televisions with tiny gorgeous people isn't setting us up for some kind of creepy plastic surgery diet pill apocalypse down the line.  It is, right?  It has to be.

So, I've got no real point.  But, I do know one thing.  If Dirty Dancing came out today, no one would put Baby in that corner.  She wouldn't even get an audition.

*photo by pandabrand.