Monday, February 23, 2015

If "not classically beautiful" is code for black, Marilyn Monroe and these women are black

I missed the twitterage under #notclassicallybeautiful after Alessandra Stanley wrote in Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine:
As Annalise, Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama. Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series “Extant.”
The assumption was that the comment's racist—see 26 Best Tweets in Response to Critic Who Called Viola Davis 'Less Classically Beautiful'—but a quick google shows these women are also "not classically beautiful":

The 100 Most Beautiful Actresses of All-Time...: "49) Marilyn Monroe - For all the hoopla and sexuality she was a lovely looking woman. Norma Jean was a determined young woman who made one of the most significant marks in 20th century pop culture. Certainly not classically beautiful, but one would be hard pressed to find a more memorable image on the silver screen. "

Pin by Robert Routh on Beautiful Ladies | Pinterest: "Jo Stafford-perhaps not classically beautiful but I find her alluring and I love her music!"

Pin by Ruth Waddell on exotic women | Pinterest: "how to describe a face like this without the typical cliches (eg not classically beautiful... ugh)"

Waddell points out the real problem with the phrase: it's a cliché that tells you nothing at all.

As for Marilyn Monroe, these black women were rated above her: Vanessa Williams (#11), Diahn Carroll (#17), Lena Horne (#32), Paula Patton (#36), Halle Berry (#44).

Bonus: Beauty and Indian actresses are discussed at The unsung beauties from the 50s | Indulging myself...: "Another beauty who was and I feel still is underrated was Nargis. Nargis was not classically beautiful, she had her flaws, but she made the flaws look so gorgeous that everyone wanted to copy the flaw."

ETA: Some of the people who claimed the writer was racist don't seem to understand how "and" works: the writer didn't claim skin color had anything to do with "classical beauty", which I'd guess began as a reference to Greco-Roman statuary. "Classical beauty" has to do with the structure of the face, favoring features that are found from Ethiopia to Scandinavia.

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