Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Conspiracy theory of the day

Every Fashion Week, the question gets asked.* Every week, even: The models, why are they so thin? So young? What's driving this? When will someone help the poor girls?

While the biocon (h/t to Isabel Archer for this oh-so-useful term) answer would be that men lust after 15-year-olds like no one's business, I suspect that men at the very least like 15-year-olds with breasts, and that an alternate explanation is needed.

The easy answer is that models are as thin as they are because people can't get enough of reading the same story again and again, and if the models were size 6, there's be no story. But my conspiracy theory is that they are as they are because this makes grown women with an interest - professional or amateur - in fashion take pity on the poor dears (see the comments to the video, but perhaps also the video itself). If the women fashion was being marketed to were confronted with models who were simply beautiful, well-proportioned 24-year-olds from happy suburban homes, young women who make more in this career than they would otherwise but are not fleeing post-Soviet poverty, the only feeling would be jealousy.

It feels wrong to envy the prepubescent Lithuanian peasant girl, away from home for the first time, an innocent, deer-in-headlights, whatever, in the scary world of judgmental casting directors and worse. We sense that they are if anything more victimized by Fashion than we, the jeans-dig-into-our-hips-no-matter-what audience. As was not the case with earlier incarnations of models, we have trouble imagining this set as vain, or even as cheerily enjoying their youth and good looks. "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" is something one could imagine coming from a Naomi Campbell or a Brooke Shields, but not from one of today's waifs. We picture this set going straight from being teased for their lankiness in middle school (or whatever that's called in Estonia) to leading a life that, we're forever reminded, is not glamorous, contrary to what we surely expect. How can we - heavier, older, and with careers that extend past age 18 - wish to trade places with them? They're tragic, basically, by industry design.

*Uh, typo fixed.

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