Posts Tagged ‘Mad Men’

It’s no secret that the fashion industry has an affinity for white models. And it’s no secret that Hollywood has an affinity for white actresses- clearly that’s why Halle Berry is the only Black woman to have won the Oscar for Best Actress since the ritual began in 1927. However it’s the modeling industry that’s always under fire, whether its the weight issues, lack of diversity, objectification or drug use- seems like they can’t get a break.

In a world where membership draws a hard line at height and body fat composition, I wonder how Black women (and other women of color) who have features and physiques different from the norm are ever going to be fully integrated into the system. In the short documentary the Colour of Beauty we learn that when a particular designer does want a Black girl, she has to be like “a white girl dipped in chocolate.”

And while Black girls like that do exist (thanks to our country’s history we come in a million different varieties)… can you imagine someone actually telling you that?

Diversity in fashion isn’t just about the runway, in fact, I’d argue it’s more about who’s working behind the scenes. Not only are the models as lily white as this year’s Vanity Fair Young Hollywood cover but so are the agents, the heads of major firms and the people working at fashion magazines.

Obviously, we can’t do anything about our “big eyes, big nose, big lips… Things that are common traits in African-Americans,” but hell will freeze over if we think just talking about the problem is enough to solve it. I mean, how do you go about integrating an industry that seems very comfortable with things the way they are? After all, can you imagine a client trying to explain to a person of color exactly what “type” of Black girl is needed? I don’t think think the chocolate dipping analogy would go over too well.

Integration isn’t about just being able to show up to the party without fear of being escorted out, it’s about being invited. How do you change people’s perceptions about beauty when its based off something completely subjective to begin with? And unfortunately, in a world where models would be manufactured like Barbies if they could, I’m not sure the Black ones would be the first choice to market clothes. After all, no one wants to be thought of as a “Negro company”…I learned that from Mad Men. Looking at it through an economic lens, items are marketed to people who have the money to buy and in the world of high fashion, Blacks are an afterthought-along with anybody else who can’t afford a $400 pair of shoes or a $1,500 bag.

That’s the official story.

The truth however, is that Blackness or rather, the stereotype of Blackness has been rejected because it’s seen as being ugly. And in a world where everything that matters is based on superficial perception, how do you go about changing the way shallow people think?


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“As far as I’m concerned, as long as men look at me that way, I’m earning my keep.”-Betty Draper, Mad Men

I just started watching Mad Men on DVD, delivered right to my door by Netflix. I’d heard how ingenious the show was and considering my friend Raechal’s excitement for its third season last August, I knew I had to tune in. Knowing that it was written by one of the writers of another one of my favorite shows, The Sopranos, made it that much easier to get my boyfriend on board. All that to say, we’re hooked.

In my opinion, one of the most thought-provoking elements to me about The Sopranos and now Mad Men, are the relationships between powerful men and their women. In the case of Mad Men, we have Betty Draper, the petite beautiful wife of Don Draper- the main character and advertising executive of the uber successful Sterling Cooper (I’m still only on Season 2). The social dynamic of the kept woman is interesting to me maybe because my mother was one until I was five but more likely because from TV to magazine articles, the plight of the financially secure, yet “profoundly sad” woman who is often placed, untouched, on a pedestal by their husbands, boyfriends and male partners is always a source of reflection.

In May’s issue of Marie Claire, I read about Jillian Lauren’s experience as one of forty girlfriends of the Prince of Brunei who was, at first, excited about her new life but then quickly became dismayed by the cycle of interest and disinterest that became commonplace. Granted, she knew the deal when she got there but it goes to show that even when you’re prepared, the treatment can be damaging. In VH1’s, Basketball Wives viewers are given access to the life of a wife, girlfriend or ex-whatever of a NBA player.

And what do these women have in common? A man to take care of them, who’s shockingly inept at delivering the makings of real lasting love. And I know what you’re thinking (woe is them) but, if you consider that at the end of they day, everyone just wants to be loved and appreciated, imagine how sad a life like that could be. On Basketball Wives, the common athlete practice of playing single while on the road is reiterated which is no different from Don Draper who experiences the best part of his life at the office, away from his perfect wife, where he takes lunch breaks for romantic interludes and drinks all day. I guess perfection and a hot meal waiting at home is boring.

And in questioning the male rationale, I don’t understand how they’re willing to financially support someone who’s obviously not enough. Maybe it’s just the male nature of the chase and because the wife or girlfriend is already “won,” he’s on to the next. Perhaps a wife is like an accessory and if you have enough money you have lots of wiggle room to accessorize.

Still there’s strength in sadness and sadness doesn’t always have to mean defeat. In Betty’s case, she’s no pushover. She might smile and kiss her husband everyday when he arrives home but there’s something in her that allows his boss to grope her in their kitchen after dinner. Gotta say, I appreciate her gall.

Still, she and perhaps other kept women like her are treated like trophies- after the thrill of winning is over, they’re often left alone on the mantel piece, forgotten by their owners and admired from afar by others. Talk about being duped.

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