Nancy Rechtman
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Inanities

PICTURE THIS

by Nancy Machlis Rechtman

I'm going to make a confession. When I go to the grocery store, I usually don't wear make-up. I don't always brush my hair before I drop my kids off at school and I sometimes wear mismatched outfits when I run my errands. There, I've said it. How many women do slather on make-up, carefully brush their hair and coordinate their outfits with their purses and shoes when running out to pick up a gallon of milk? Is that really the top priority when you realize your cupboards are bare and there is no milk for tomorrow's bowl of cereal? And no cereal to put into the bowl? So what was the big deal about seeing famous people going about their daily lives without the phony glamorous trappings usually splashed throughout the media?

For those of you not "in the know," one of the TV networks (whose name rhymes with "lox") recently aired a special that involved glimpses of celebrities sans make-up. Oooh, how earth-shattering! I did not actually watch the show. However, several of the entertainment shows that I do watch, used the lame excuse of purporting to show the angst and heartbreak over being seen with chipped nails as a way to air more clips of barefaced and ungirdled stars than I imagine the actual show did. We were shown the same photos over and over again of stars eating a sandwich, stars sitting in their cars, stars walking down the street. All without makeup. Shocking!

What the show ended up doing was to reveal that these people are human beings. What is disgusting is the way the paparazzi stalk celebrities to get candid photos to sell to the highest bidders and that a network would craft an entire show around the aim of humiliating and embarrassing people.

But the pictures I saw were reassuring. It showed that we're all human. The perfect super-Botoxed and Liposuctioned images we saw on the red carpet at the Oscars are all part of the make-believe world of Tinseltown. Illusion and sleight-of-hand are the by-products of an industry that glorifies youth and anorexia to the point of insanity and covers up or discards any signs of aging and curves that might embarrassingly pop up before they blip onto the radar screen. If you watched the Academy Awards, you saw actresses who could barely walk in their mermaid gowns, let alone sit down or breathe. This is the illusion that Hollywood wants us all to aspire to, the image that young girls strive to imitate in teen magazines, the image that grown women feed into and believe should be their birthright as they diet themselves into oblivion in the hope of retaining their youth and allure.

What these photos did, was show us the little man behind the curtain. Nobody is perfect. Really. When we see stars in their 50's who are flawless and youthful, it is a painted-on illusion that takes about 2 hours of work with a make-up artist. The images we see in magazines are not only airbrushed, but, often the heads we see are not attached to the bodies they actually belong to. That is not real life. That is a publicity machine at work, wanting us to believe in the magic. That's all well and good when we're watching a movie, but when it comes to the real world, the lines are blurred, if not completely eradicated. This is why we're so shocked to find out that what we deemed to be "perfect marriages" between stars had major cracks in their foundations. As we all know, marriage is not easy. When a marriage is lived under a continuous microscope with no hope of true privacy, what is shocking is that any marriage lasts under those conditions. It's all a grand illusion. We don't know these people. We see them in movies. We watch them on talk shows. They are showing us who they want us to see. But there has to come a time when the lights go down that they get to take a deep breath and reclaim their humanity.

Recently, we have been flooded with images and stories ad nauseam about various celebrities and every moth-balled detail of their lives, particularly Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson, as reporters fall all over themselves to give us any trivial scrap of useless information that they can dig up. There was a telling political cartoon in one of the news magazines depicting two little children who had been victims of the devastating tsunami watching the news trucks all lined up, with reporters going in the opposite direction and one asks the other, "Who are Brad and Jen?"

I recently saw the moving and powerful movie Hotel Rwanda which tells the story of the massacres and genocide that took place in Rwanda in the 1990's as the world turned a blind eye to the horror taking place there. For those of you who were around in 1994, you might not even remember hearing about Rwanda at all. Or the atrocities that were taking place in Bosnia at about the same time. What you were probably bombarded with were round-the-clock stories about Bill Clinton being accused of sexual harassment while governor, breathless coverage of Nancy Kerrigan being attacked in a skating rink, and the continuous promotion of two new NBC shows called Friends and ER. It was easy for the world to close its eyes because the media's priority was on gossip and more light-hearted fare. Who was sleeping with who? Who wasn't talking to who? Ironically, in 1994, the Oscar for Best Movie went to Schindler's List. A movie that should have reminded us "never again." A movie that should have jarred our consciousness as well as our consciences. As Edmund Burke said, eloquently shattering any feeble excuses we might have about involving ourselves in the tragedies of others, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

There are more tragedies happening in the world today. But in their insatiable quest for higher ratings, the major media outlets feed us a junk food diet of "News Lite," filled with the empty calories they think we want to consume. How much have you heard about the slaughter currently taking place in the Sudan? Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and our own House of Representatives recently voted to eliminate $150 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Darfur. Thanks to the thousands of people who raised their voices to protest this vote, on March 8th, Congress voted to restore the humanitarian aid. But where are all the news trucks and camera crews that can alert the world to the action we need to take to stop these horrors? I guess they're still parked on the streets of Hollywood, hoping to get a glimpse of stars without their makeup.

Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at nancy@nancyrechtman.com.


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Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail nancy@nancyrechtman.com.