Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Does this matter?



body image, underarm hair, hugo, scorsese, hollywood sanitation, botox, julia lesage

Is the disappearance of underarm hair in the above cut from Martin Scorsese's Hugo a continuity error or a decision? If purposeful, does it matter? Is it reasonable to believe that the people in the makeup and costume departments who worked on this scene didn't notice the hair in Méliès original film? Why should they care about continuity at all if they're not going to attempt to match everything? Who decides which details matter and which ones don't? Does it matter if a shadow was used in an attempt to cleverly mask the break in continuity? Is it unreasonable to ask for underarm hair to be applied to an actor lacking underarm hair for the sake of continuity and historical accuracy? Did someone subconsciously think the close up might offend or confuse the film's primary audience if the hair wasn't removed? Was underarm hair deemed unsafe for children? Did the MPAA threaten to give the film an R rating if the underarm hair wasn't removed? What's with all the promotion of hairlessness anyway? Do we detest hair because it reminds us that we're animals? Are we going to keep shaving areas where we have hair until there's no hair left to shave? Is this why people have shaved heads in futuristic films? Is it wrong to talk about underarm hair and expect to be taken seriously? Am I even being serious? Does it matter? Was I inspired to write in this style after reading Crispin Glover's humorous and apt take down of Spielberg? (Why is Spielberg in Blogger's spell check but Tarkovsky isn't?)

I once let a friend borrow Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us. He pointed out a continuity error in the film as an example why the film wasn't a masterpiece. I told him he cared about all the wrong things. I told him Kiarostami (also not in spell check) probably wouldn't have done anything about it even if he had noticed. And why assume he hadn't noticed?

Am I now caring about all the wrong things?

 Hollywood is obsessed with continuity. It teaches others to obsess over continuity—not just in films, but also with matching socks and clear skin. At first glance, this cut from Hugo might seem to be an example of the opposite—a disdain for continuity. But looking closer one can see that it's also an example of a much larger kind of continuity.

Through its images, America's conception of beauty has come to dominate much of the world. Is this cut in Hugo a form of cultural sanitation that attempts to render everything American? Is it an example of a kind of retroactive domination that denies the spectator any history of alternatives? In other words, an uninterrupted continuation of American culture through all time?

* * *

"In current television and popular culture, there is a significant division between connotative imagery, as in the photos above of actors and public figures, and the televisual narrativization of plastic surgery and other personal 'makeovers.' On the one hand, we have that which is merely suggested. On the other, we have shows such as Extreme Makeover, The Biggest Loser, or What Not to Wear which depict how people, often lower middle class or working class, submit to regimens of authority dictated by experts in the fields of fashion, personal appearance, and physical culture. These are disciplinary regimes, as described by Michel Foucault; the shows' participants are expected to internalize the experts' norms. Both within the shows and in the eyes of viewers, all the minute aspects of the participants’ bodies are judged, evaluated, objectified, and constantly measured for deviation and conformity. Those on the makeover shows are rehabilitated through monitoring and regulation—both the authorities' taste and their own internalization of the authorities' norms." —Julia Lesage, "Watching for Botox"

watching for botox, julia lesage, hugo, body image, body hair, steve carell, 40 year old virgin


Gentress Myrrh said...

This post is just another example of why I keep coming back! Thank you for bringing this possibly unanswerable question to light...we can only hope that someone involved eventually speaks up. (Wouldn't that be delightful?!)

America is truly obsessed with the eradication of body hair, and I would be a liar if I claimed it has never affected me as an American Female. haha...

I say let the beautiful moon-maiden retain her tufts! I'll keep mine unshaven in solidarity!

Gentress Myrrh said...

OH! And every time I watch a "sci-fi" or "set in the future" film, I tend to exclaim: "In the future there would be no beards!"
(And, no smoking!)

Tyler said...


And it was pretty much obligatory for men to have beards in the second half of the 19th century! All of the standards of fashion are just fads that people take far too seriously, and the irony is that the people who try to keep up with such things in order to "stay hip" are the very ones who end up looking the most "out of date" in old pictures. They have the "wrong hair" and the "wrong clothes" and get embarrassed about it, yet they weren't embarrassed at the time to mock others for not keeping up with all the latest trends! This leads to another irony, which is that the people who have their own style and don't give a damn about any of the "supposed to" things are the very ones who often look the most modern, though it's only noticeable when one looks at pictures of them from the past (they're usually the ones who don't look like a goof).

And, going back to hair as an example, it's not that as if shaving whatever hair one chooses to shave is wrong either. What's wrong is for one way to be deemed "correct" and another "incorrect."

Tyler said...

" 'I had a boyfriend who didn’t realize that women had pubic hair,' she tells us in an interview. 'Because he had only watched porn, he had never seen a naked woman outside of porn, so he just sort of failed to realize they had pubic hair.'

'This came up somewhat before my pants came off,' she added, 'so you can realize how awkward this was.' She paused. 'His face was memorable. In an 'oh God, what is wrong with me, I am never taking my pants off in front of anyone ever again' way.' " (full article)