Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Where have you gone, Molly Ringwald?

I hope that those of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful holiday. As for me, I took a few days off, which is why I didn't post anything new last Thursday. It's the first time I've taken more than one day off in a few years, so it was incredibly relaxing, so relaxing that it feels odd to get back to work.

But the new year is approaching fast, which means I've got to start working on appreciating what I have accomplished this year and getting back to my regular schedule.

The good news is that part of relaxing means watching more movies, and tonight I was lucky enough to find my way to a television broadcast of Sixteen Candles, the John Hughes high school classic.

Sixteen Candles was released in 1984, the year I started high school, so I have always felt a kinship with Samantha Baker, the main character who is masterfully played by Molly Ringwald with a heavy dose of teenage angst and longing.

I suppose another reason I connected with Samantha is because she seems so normal—she's cute but not perfect looking, attractive but not head-turner hot. She's just a regular girl—like the rest of us—and that's what makes her both likeable and relatable.

But as we were watching Samantha moon over senior hearthrob Jake Ryan tonight, Dave turned to me and said, "Would Molly Ringwald get this part today?"

He didn't have to explain because I knew exactly what he meant. Molly Ringwald was/is a regular girl, a girl who has perfect skin and big teeth, adorable freckles and a wide forehead, a button nose and a flat chest. And it is these contradictions that make her so beautiful.

But anymore we don't see young women like Ringwald in film or television. We don't see young women who look beautiful but still real and, more importantly, flawed. No, instead we get only young women who have perfectly straight capped teeth, flat-ironed artificially extended hair, plump collagen lips, flawless and perfectly powdered skin, and a facsimile of Ringwald's button nose.

And that's why I had no choice but to say no when Dave asked me that question.

No, as much as I hate to admit it, the young Ringwald would never be cast to star in a movie about teenagers today. (I'm not even sure that her male equivalent would be cast in his role either.) And what that means for our society is that teenage girls today are taught that there is only one way to look and one way to be: perfect.

I can't help but wonder what that will do to their self-esteem in the long run. I know that it can't be good, and I'm saddened to realize that though the Hughes' movies gave my generation an opportunity to watch characters with which they had things in common, this opportunity doesn't exist for kids today. Instead, when young people go to a movie or turn on the TV today, they almost always only see people they will likely never be.

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