Vamp. Tramp. Temptress. Seductress. Tart. Trollop. Words that conjure up such wickedness, such evil, such sensuous manipulation of men!

In what is primarily still a man’s world, where things are seen and documented from a male point of view, the worst villains are always women. Sure, there have been some seriously devilish men, but the best of the worst are always the women. Just ask the happy folks at Disneyland. In a recent poll of the “Best of the Worst” villains, three of the top five characters were women. It seems even the kids are picking up on just how vindictive women can be…

In our culture, women are portrayed as either angels or monsters – never anything in between. Yet even the angels among us are assumed to have a repressed manic energy. “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned” and all that. Women are expected to go mad at some stage in their lives – it’s just a matter of when.

Why? Is it really all Eve’s fault for believing that dastardly serpent? Was Adam so peeved with his woman for denying him a life spent lazing around in Eden eating mangoes, that he felt obliged to teach every man after him never to trust a woman?

Or was it Adam’s mythological first wife, Lilith? She liked it on top, but he wanted to make love missionary style so he told her to bugger off. Given that most men would be content with sex in any position, was Adam perhaps a repressed homosexual? That’s it! No wonder the Catholics have exerted so much energy repressing women and bolstering the position of men. The last thing they would want made public is that the father of mankind is a raving poofter!

Then there was Pandora and her irresistible box of evil little voices. Her curiosity didn’t just kill the cat; it damned mankind for all eternity.

It is a theme that runs consistently through history, from ancient mythology to present day. Women stuffed up by taking the initiative, and refusing to wait for a man. Interestingly, the very characteristics that make these women a target are the same personality traits admired in men – aggression, courage, strength, independence and dominance.

Of course, as the feminists have been pointing out for the past 40 years, we’ve historically only ever heard the bloke’s side of the story. Maybe both Eve and Pandora were sick of languishing with the limp wristed other halves, and desperate for a bit of excitement. Who knows? Lilith certainly wasn’t going to hang around, sexually frustrated and subservient to her husband’s urges. The world’s first feminist, was our Lilith. Germaine Greer in full flight was never a patch on Lil, who screamed and cursed Adam for banishing her from Eden, and spawned evil little babies to harass her ex husband.

We will never really know what caused women to obtain such a violently unattractive reputation, although perhaps Freud went some way to explaining the problem all men face, when he admitted that for all his psychoanalysis, he never could work out the intricacies of the feminine psyche. I suspect a lot of the mystery surrounding women relates to men’s view of ‘that time of the moth’, and their utter bemusement at the mood swings, cravings, obsessions and trauma that females go through every month. Part of the expectation that women eventually go troppo must surely come from generations of men watching their mothers’ journey through the wonderful world of menopause, without actually understanding what the poor woman was enduring. This thinking, by association, must culminate in long lasting cultural references to the Mother-in- Law figure.

What we do know is that the motif of the dangerous woman remains current in our culture and shows no sign of abating. Within society, we don’t ever anoint a queen of ‘nice’ (well, we have Miss Universe but no one in their right mind takes that seriously), yet we always have a reigning queen of all that is conniving, manipulating and obsessively sexual.

In every generation, there is one woman anointed by society, who embodies the archetypical temptress. A mysterious, dark and untouchable fembot, whose only aim in life is to suck the essence out of every man she encounters. These women come primarily from the rank of actress, perhaps as a result of the flamboyant nature of the business and because as a profession it was always seen as only a slight step up from prostitution, although there has been the occasional politician, author and painter.

So what sets these women apart from their peers?

Well, firstly they act as though men’s only use in life is to provide a little light entertainment; they appear to believe that men are an unnecessary appendage in life. This is a woman who we could never envisage living for her family, standing in the kitchen making her husband’s dinner, hanging out the washing, or ducking through the supermarket, a kid on her hip, grabbing toilet paper, sugar and milk. Audrey Hepburn, widely considered one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived, couldn’t have cut it as a vamp. She was too domestic, too devoted a wife and mother, too darn nice. Instead, one imagines a real vamp waking slowly just before lunch, wrapped in satin sheets, hair shining in the late morning sun, her luscious ruby lips calling for a Bloody Mary to get the day rolling. These aren’t the sort of women you wouldn’t take home to meet your mother; they’re the sort of women who wouldn’t want to meet her anyway. Wanton women, who care for nothing other than their own peace of mind, are somehow Succubus incarnate. It is as though women, in forsaking their duty as controller of domesticity and childrearing, are letting down society. The inability to become breathless with excitement at the thought of a new washing machine in which to clean hubby’s clothes is seen as almost deviant in mindset. Indeed, many continue to believe that the family is the very foundation up on which we depend, without it we are ruined. Every woman who consciously chooses to ignore her social responsibility represents one more tear in the moral fibre of society. The “Post War Happy Housewife” must be determined to lose herself in the happiness, and cleanliness, of her family. Any other way of life just isn’t normal.

Secondly, a vamp is nobody’s fool and nobody’s victim. She most certainly does not require rescuing. Marilyn Monroe, the world’s most famous sexpot, doesn’t fit in with these women as she always had a quality about her that seemed fragile. Even in a low cut, figure-hugging sequinned number, all lips and tits and breathless singing, she appeared as though a little girl secretly dressing up in her mother’s clothes. Men yearned to be the one to save her, yet the only thing that could have helped her was a large dose of what a true vamp possesses in truckloads – confidence. Vamps exude self-assuredness. They live to please themselves and are not fazed by outside opinions. They aren’t the sort of women to check themselves when they bend down so that their underwear doesn’t show. Rather, they’d be quite happy if someone did get a flash of their undoubtedly sexy underwear.

Most importantly, these are women who have never apologised for their behaviour, as they frankly don’t see what needs repenting. Where men historically flex their muscles, or those of their troops, women flex their brains and squeeze their opponents by the heart or the testicles – whichever they reach first. What’s more, they get away with it, via a raised eyebrow and a determined pout. There have been some ballsy women throughout history – Queen Victoria, Joan Crawford, Margaret Thatcher, yet they never really got away with being iron fisted. Mostly, they were just written off as uptight bitches who ‘need to get some’.

Why do we bestow on some women an almost reverential form of fame, while others are hard-hearted old bags?

An undeniable part of the allure must their beauty, although it is by no means the only reason. Grace Kelly was a stunning woman, but always seemed to have something ultimately wholesome about her. Jane Fonda almost had what we’re looking for. Barbarella proved beyond doubt what a little sex rocket she could be, but then she went all serious, all activist, all aggression and frustration. Hanoi Jane didn’t exactly exude sex appeal riding in a tank during the Vietnam War, in her camouflage gear and with her hard hat slipping sideways off her head. Not even if the world did know she was pretty gorgeous under all that dirt and dust!

No, it is more than just beauty. It is an awareness of their attributes, combined with a total disregard for their looks, a slightly untouchable quality, a self sacrificing sense of humour, and a twinkle in their eye that indicates there is serious mischief to be made. No matter how bad they are, you can’t help thinking they’d be fun to hang around.

Their effect is measurable on both males and females. Men seem to behold the seductress in morbid fascination – at once repelled and aroused at the thought of a woman proving them redundant, while women are caught between jealousy and admiration. In either case, the world is in awe of the vamp.

So, are these man-eating, praying mantis-like, hyper sexualised, masculinised women all bad? With the media constantly chugging out constructed images of the world, who knows? We do know that their very existence threatens the makeup of society, the way we are conditioned to expect women to behave, and the standing of man and women as equals; with men a little more equal than the women.

Yet the vamp is a necessary evil. We need rebels and rule breakers amongst us to provide the excitement and interest in life. We need them so that we may safely experience danger by living vicariously through the experiences of those daring enough to take a risk, and we need them to measure ourselves against. In short, we need the sinners as much as the saints in order that we may live a little easier within our own mundane lives.

The power she wields over society ensures there will always be women who would relish the opportunity to personify all that is deliciously, hellishly, sensuously alluring, untrustworthy and villainous about women. It is, after all, what sells stilettos and red lipstick – year after year, generation after generation.


This is not what you think it is.
I was cleaning the loo the other day using one of those cleaners in the bottle with the swanlike neck that is ostensibly to help you get in under the rim, but in fact means you squirt craploads of disinfectant out in the very beginning, before running out just prior to completing the bowl’s circumference. I was trying to navigate the final squirt of solution around the bend when I saw in bold print on the label:
Really? Who is that message for? Presumably the only people who would even contemplate putting the spout in their mouths are toddlers or morons – neither of whom can or would read the bottle first. It would have been better had the warning read
But stuff’s like that now. Not just the warning labels, sometimes it’s the serving suggestions. My butter container actually says “SPREAD ON BREAD.” Hmm, ground breaking idea.
Quite often it’s the whole stupid blurb on a product that upsets me, especially the ones where some marketing guru thought it’d be a good idea if the thing itself appeared to try and talk to you.
An example: I was staying with my brother and noticed his girlfriend’s shampoo and conditioner.
“COLOUR ME HAPPY” pleaded the shampoo, “DANGEROUSLY STRAIGHT” claimed the conditioner. Even her face cleaner was called “WASH OFF!” (complete with exclamation mark).
The back of these bottles was worse, giving the products personalities and attempting a dialogue with me.
SHAMPOO: “I’ll protect your colour treated hair because I’m packed with conditioners to help keep your hair healthy and truly radiant. And that’s a sign of happiness.”
Is it really? I thought smiling was a sign of happiness? Or laughing.
The conditioner was worse, it had vaguely homophobic undertones.
CONDITIONER: “I’ll get right to the point. It’s easier to get straight.”
It then got all condescending with me:
“Can I be straight with you? You don’t have to work as much. Get the look with a big dose of my conditioning…and move in a fine line.”
Weirdly, the directions for use (again, is that really necessary? Are there actually people confused by how to use conditioner?) were kind of creepy, somewhere between Mills & Boon and Sex Predator:
“Use me: Massage me in, relax, rinse me out, walk straight ahead.”
UGH! I instantly felt like a dirty old man had whispered into my prepubescent ear. Good thing I was in the shower at the time.
I don’t get it. I don’t get why shampoo can’t just say “this shit cleans your hair”, and conditioner say “this stuff makes your hair smell better & stops the comb getting stuck in your knots.” I reckon we’d all get the gist.
Tampons are another one. You know you can buy them in silver foiled packs now? That’s good. Us girls like to be a bit ‘showy’ with our sanitary protection. Combine the blinged up little box with a super cool ad showing a bunch of models dancing around a nightclub toilet flicking their tampon packets open and shut in time to the music, and you’ve got one super sexy status symbol. NOT. Nothing, and I repeatNOTHING, is going to make us get excited about getting our period. Unless we were freaking out about an unwanted pregnancy. Actually, that’s a great idea for a tampon ad. A teenage girl stressing out that she’s up the duff, then excitedly running to the chemist when her period belatedly arrives. The conservatives would hate it, it’s bound to get extra publicity.
It’s all such rubbish, and it makes me feel that we’re considered a pretty stupid bunch of consumers. Sure, some of us probably are. But I’m reasonably certain all barr a few real nutters out there DON’T ACTUALLY THINK THE SHAMPOO IS TALKING TO THEM. At all. Not even a mumble.
Radiant hair is just a sign of a good hairdresser; I don’t care what my shampoo tried to tell me over breakfast this morning, I know I’m right.

International Endometriosis Week

This week is International Endometriosis Week, an issue very close to my heart. Well, actually it’s an issue close to my ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, bowel, kidneys and, according to the surgeon’s report, my Pouch of Douglas – whatever the hell that is.

For 13 years I was left to suffer the debilitating symptoms of Endometriosis as the condition went undiagnosed. From the first day of my second ever period, I began a way of living that was entirely based around my very unpredictable menstrual cycle.

Once a month, quite often twice, my entire life was brought to a screeching halt by the arrival of ‘The Period’. Its onset meant at least two days in bed with a migraine headache that no amount of medication would shift (although I never tried general anaesthetic – I suspect that may have worked), and at least three days of pain in my abdomen so intense that it caused nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, shaking, diarrhea and fainting, and required two Panadeine, two Nurofen and half a bottle of red to cope. It was all a bit Elizabeth Taylor, but at least the combination knocked me out for long enough that I could sleep through the worst of it. I then had a week of, and I’ll leave out the graphic details, extremely heavy bleeding which left me tired, anaemic and run down.

The rest of the month was spent getting more and more uptight about its return, whenever that may be. The erratic nature of my menstrual cycle meant I soon learned never to leave home without a large supply of Tampax Superplus, a few Nurofen & Panadeine, extra sanitary pads, and a spare pair of undies. Travelling filled me with angst. If I happened to be away from home, or unable to get home, the whole experience was humiliating for me and confusing for everyone else. How I could go from perfectly fine one minute, to an ashen grey, sweating, shaking, vomiting mess the next, was well beyond most people’s comprehension. Generally the reaction was to suspect me of ‘putting it on’. Once while travelling from Langkawi to Brisbane with a group of work colleagues I barely knew, my period unexpectedly turned up as we flew into Kuala Lumpur’s old airport. I was wearing white linen pants at the time – make your own conclusions there – and was left to sort myself out in a revolting public toilet in a decrepit airport in a primarily Muslim Asian country that didn’t freely sell sanitary protection, all the while experiencing a cold pain so strong it felt like a knife slicing through me. The only toilets available were of the squat variety, with the restroom attendant sporadically sending a burst of water from a fire hose under the stalls to clean the toilets out. Trust me, no one goes to that trouble for attention.

For years I tried doctor after doctor, sent from specialist to gynaecologist and back again, and was referred to many GPs who were apparently “amazing” with women. I was put on five different contraceptive pills, sent for three ultrasounds, given Wild Yam Cream, Evening Primrose Oil, organic tampons, had an operation to widen my hymen, prescribed copious packets of Ponstan, Naprosan, Naprogesic and Voltaren, boxes of Panadeine Forte, had acupuncture, Bowen Therapy and Electromagnetic Therapy, took magnesium supplements, iron tablets, ginger tea, special diets and applied heat packs. It was all a load of rubbish, and culminated in one doctor telling me that the best thing I could do was have a baby as that generally “sorted things out”. I was 15.

Finally, at the age of 26, I found a GP prepared to listen. When I met her, she was the President of the Australian Medical Association, and therefore had a few good contacts. One of them was an Ob/Gyn who was at the time President of both the Australian Federation of Medical Women and Medical Women’s International Association. My point in telling you this, and I do have one, is that this is the standard of doctor I had to find before getting a diagnosis. Within six months of meeting these women, I was essentially clear of the Endometriosis that had been festering inside me and causing me so much distress.

The thing that really irks me is that it took so long to get the correct diagnosis and treatment, and that it took two female doctors at the absolute pinnacle of the Australian medical profession to diagnose something as common as Endometriosis. Most women aren’t as lucky as I was to come across the level of expertise I found. After years of being sent for ultrasounds, I was told that Endometriosis rarely (as in never) shows up on those scans. That the only way to properly diagnose endometriosis is via laparoscopy.

This is pretty mundane stuff as medical problems go. It’s not like I was suffering from some weird African flesh eating virus no one had ever heard of. Endometriosis is a condition that affects approximately one in eight women, roughly the same as the rate of men suffering prostate cancer from what I’ve read. Granted, cancer kills, but quite frankly, so does a fragile mental state, and I most definitely had one of those by the end. Unbeknownst to me, I was also displaying classic symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), which is essentially like having an incredibly bad bout of PMT all month. Constantly in a state of high agitation, I was permanently moody, depressive, lacking confidence, lethargic and generally difficult to get along with. I had no sex drive, no motivation and no patience for anyone. My relationships with my family and partner were fractured. I am told it is common for women with Endometriosis to also have PMDD. If only I had known this sooner. Imagine how the people around me must have celebrated this secondary diagnosis – “Thank god they can give the bitch drugs!”

The doctors I spent years going to for help were completely ill-informed and ignorant to either of my conditions, something that only served to drag the whole frustrating experience out and make it even more upsetting. I’m not sure much has changed. And for this reason I say to any woman who suspects her menstrual problems won’t be solved by a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down:

Demand your doctor investigate fully. The majority of women have periods that only last a few days, and experience little or no pain. If you deviate from this, demand a laparoscopy. Take control of your health yourself. If you don’t feel you’re being listened to, demand they start paying attention, or change doctors. Just push and push until you feel satisfied that you truly have examined every single aspect of the problem. Your doctor may not take you seriously, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to. The immense feeling of having your life back, of being able to live spontaneously and free of the stress of Endometriosis is worth whatever was required to get you to that point.

And if anyone ever dares say to you, “C’mon love, take a Panadol and get on with it”, give them an uppercut. Actually, give them two.

If you would like more information on Endometriosis, go to

Oscar’s Red Carpet

It used to be that the Oscars was the show, yet every year an estimated audience of one billion viewers tunes in just to watch special coverage of the Academy Awards Red Carpet star arrivals. Not the ceremony itself, just the red carpet. Why? What is it about that long stretch of cerise shag pile that makes people tune in? Do we really need a show about stars arriving for another show? Yes, apparently.
“The Oscars is the highest example of red carpet spectacle in the world” (HREF1)Nothing screams to the world “I have arrived” the way an invitation to walk the red carpet does. In that respect, it becomes important to our society to see who exactly is granted this privilege, and evaluate whether they deserve it. Likewise, there is pressure on those we are watching to meet our expectations and fulfill our need to watch “the popular and the beautiful celebrate their popularity and beauty” (HREF1). School formals, corporate functions and rugby awards nights all hijack this symbol in an attempt to bring a touch of Hollywood to their night and make attendees feel special. Every movie premiere and every awards show in the entertainment industry stages their own red carpet arrival, but of all the red carpets in the world, the one belonging to the Oscars is the reddest.

“The famous Red Carpet entrance has, over the years, become the setting for rampant individualism and competition. Who is wearing the best dress? Which up and coming is dating which executive? Who’s in the ten-mill bracket this year? Who will win that gold icon, join the ‘in’ crowd and add another zero to their pay packet? Which post bash party will be the most exorbitant? This frothy pre-ceremony catwalk preserves the highly ideological notion that something called talent brings you happiness, power, good looks and fame.” (HREF4).

As the only part of the Academy Awards to directly involve members of the general public (fans can purchase tickets to sit in the bleachers running the length of the red carpet, but entrance to the ceremony is by invitation only), the red carpet is the one moment where some degree of interaction between celebrity and fan is possible. As such, it is the only place where a degree of intimacy can be imagined by the audience, the main ingredient in a successful relationship between media products and consumers. What is interesting is how the red carpet walk has developed from a chance for stars to be interviewed and show off their outfit to mean so much more. Rather than just being a glorified catwalk, the red carpet has become its own little world, with its own customs and expected codes of behavior, dress and social standing. So iconic has the image of the red carpet become, that it now exists in a separate place within society.
Although the classical rituals of laying robes for royalty and religious deities were adopted innocently enough by Hollywood almost a century ago, red carpet events have really evolved with the advent of pervasive global media coverage. Despite its long history, the red carpet was made for the media of the 21st century, even to the extent that the exact colour of dye used on the rug is one that best shows up red on television (HREF2). The Red Carpet now stands alone as a symbol of power, glamour and success – three highly valuable commodities in our society. The Red Carpet Foundation, naturally based in the United States, describes the red carpet as one of the entertainment industry’s “longest lasting legacies…playing a unique role in our cultural identity”. (HREF3)
Yet troublingly, this cultural institution is one built on façade and superficiality, a result of image after image being created without any substance to it. Unlike the Oscars ceremony, which does have the business of presenting awards to quantify its existence, the red carpet exists purely as a media spectacle. It is there just to be looked at, and in this respect fits neatly into the work of post modern theorist Jean Baudrillard.
Baudrillard was concerned with the post modern preoccupation with appearance, what a self centred emphasis on image and style becomes the dominant force in how we create ourselves (Elliott 2001, p131). He theorized that a world consisting of “glittering media surfaces and radiant commodified images” (p140) would lead to what he termed a hyper-reality, where repetitious images of excess intensify in the collective minds of the public and become more real than our actual reality (p136).

Perhaps when Baudrillard first tossed about the idea of hyper-reality he had some premonition of the space we now know as the Oscars Red Carpet. Foxtel’s 24 hour continuous broadcasting “Live From the Red Carpet” summarises everything Baudrillard pointed to when he became concerned the audience was the victim of the image. Round the clock coverage of actors and actresses arriving on the red carpet, overlaid with inane commentary by supposed style gurus, does not advance society. The viewer remains stagnant, simply consuming image after repetitious image. His ideas about a world driven by explicitly excessive and transparent imagery could surely find no better fit than within an analysis of the way this seemingly inconsequential event has been packaged for society’s consumption.

“Who arrived with Donatella Versace?”
“Who’s going to Elton’s party?”
“Did anyone see Oprah talking to me?”
“Does Joan Rivers like my dress?”

To some level, we are all susceptible to the razzle dazzle of high wattage stars, and it is this form of seduction that is at the heart of Baudrillard’s notion of the hyper real. The version of the red carpet that we see on television is pure fiction, a ‘fantasyscape’ (p136) that becomes more vivid and intense than the more benign, less perfect reality that exists behind the cameras. The viewing audience in not privy to the networking, marketing and publicity seeking games that go on between the Hollywood studios as they fight to get their stars on the red carpet.

We hear rumours of designers lavishing stars with gifts and money in order to get them to wear their gowns, yet we see no evidence of this. All we, the viewers, see is the end result – ethereal Hollywood goddesses gliding down the carpet. Nor are we privy to the sight of said goddess being led by her publicists away from lesser known media entities, and towards the ones who matter – Joan Rivers, Oprah Winfrey et al.
Media coverage has ensured that an audience clamouring for a glimpse of their favourite star is given ample quantities of what they want. Even their arrival at an event becomes valuable currency for a society demanding information about them. The Red Carpet provides the perfect opportunity to cover, without distraction, the stars and their image. Inevitably, the 30 minutes a star spends on the red carpet becomes worth more to audiences than the two minutes they may spend presenting on stage.
Part of the fascination with watching the red carpet must also lie in seeing famous faces allowed to act in ways considered taboo in ordinary society. Thos who are granted the privilege to walk the real Hollywood carpet find they are also accepted into and arena where ‘anything goes’, where extreme examples of behavior are not only condoned, but encouraged. Where else are we allowed to talk about ourselves, encourage gratuitous compliments from virtual strangers and blatantly preen ourselves for photographs? The result is what Marxists would consider a highly fetishised space of “irrational reverence or obsessive devotion”, where stars compete with each other to enact expected modes of behavior (HREF1).
Partly a throwback to the bohemian image thespians have long cultivated within society, where marginal tendencies were encouraged, there are stars that make a point of being the most extraordinary of all attendees. Celebrities such as Cher, Angelina Jolie and Bjork have created a reputation for trying to shock on the red carpet by wearing eccentric clothing, kissing their brother, and laying an egg (?!?!) respectively. In the ordinary world, to enact these forms of behavior attracts criticism for displaying narcissistic tendencies, broaching taboo forms of behavior and generally considered off-putting, yet on the red carpet it is accepted. This is one occasion that is all about maximum exposure, and whatever can be done to heighten the attention is just part of the game. If you don’t want to be noticed, best you sneak in through a side door.
It is commonplace for stars to wear haute couture gowns and designer diamond jewellery borrowed for the evening, so much so that media don’t ask ‘What are you wearing’, but ‘Who are you wearing’. Now, any female will tell you that borrowing clothing from a shop to wear to a party then return it the next day is one of the biggest crimes a girl about town can commit. Yet for the Oscars, designers like Valentino and Versace WANT the actresses to do it. Not only that, but sometimes the gowns have been worn a couple of times before! Julia Roberts started a continuing trend when she wore a vintage gown the year she won her Oscar. Where else can a woman admit to wearing a second-hand dress to a black tie event?
Jewellers such as Harry Winston give literally millions of dollars worth of jewellery to veritable strangers and presumably cross their fingers it will all be returned in one piece – all for the possibility that someone watching at home will rush out the following Monday to grab a pair of earrings as seen on the lobes of Gwyneth Paltrow. Ironically, the only person I heard admitting to the crime of wearing her own jewels was the perennially plastic Dolly Parton. “Whay would aye wear someone else’s stuff when aye can wear maye own?” she hollered to a stunned Richard Wilkins. Indeed, but if your boobs once belonged to the makers of Tupperware, what difference does it make whose diamonds you wear?
Of course, the notion that stars inhabit a world far removed from the great majority is not new, and the sight of the red carpet at the Oscars is only the manifestation of this fact. On a daily basis, celebrity allows for excessive displays of behavior as it “radiates greater material and symbolic power than non celebrity” (Rojek p31). It is seeing so many people in possession of this power all in one location that is truly dazzling to audiences.
Recently, Hollywood has begun to use the red carpet as a means of communicating to the wider community. In 2001, the glitz and sparkle of the red carpet was hyped unprecedented levels as Hollywood attempted to counteract the downturn in the USA economy. The following year, as America reeled from the shock of 9/11 and US troops were days away from being sent overseas, the red carpet was shortened, stars were discouraged from acting as outlandishly as previous years and the majority of the world’s press were denied access. The following year, it was back in all its glory – shinier than ever (HREF4). Small changes may be made to the televised ceremony, but the red carpet remains the site where Hollywood chooses to make the most visible statements. This, more than anything else, confirms the awareness that all eyes are on the red carpet. When next you watch the Oscars look closely for the second carpet, the other entrance that the stars don’t use. Often visible in the background, it’s for the other attendees – the ones that are not famous and therefore hold no social currency. It is the best illustration of what we consider valuable and praiseworthy.
There is a great romanticism about the Oscars and its history, and it seems cruel to treat it too cynically. Yet so much of what is celebrated during this annual event is intangible and, for most people, unobtainable. In many ways it summarises much of what is worrisome about our culture today. Soren Kierkegaard, as far back as the mid 1800s, foresaw the future of the human condition if we continued to place too much social importance and emphasis on the surreal. Believing that human experience in modern times consisted of three spheres – aesthetic, ethical and religious, with the aesthetic sphere being considered the lowest of them – his work centred on what he saw as the decline of religious, the ethical, priorities (Carroll p184). He theorized that if left only with the aesthetic sphere of pleasure and sensual experience in which to experience life, we become focused on the pursuit of temporal happiness, and indulge in passion and beautiful pleasures, a state he likens to the love affair (p 185). While on the surface it doesn’t sound like too bad a state to be in, anyone who’s experienced the rollercoaster of a love affair knows that eventually things crash to the ground and the illusion is shattered. What Kierkegaard is implying is that without an ethical or spiritual base to fall back on, it is not enough to just have everything looking and feeling pretty as it is in Hollywood. We require the substance underneath to sustain us when the shiny media image presented to us begins to tarnish. Real life can’t be stage managed the way the red carpet is, so us mere mortals require something more tangible. We may all secretly crave a chance to set foot on Oscar’s red carpet, but we don’t really want one running through our own house, do we?