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Monday, January 5, 2015

THE REEL REALS: Brigitte Bardot

Brigette Bardot

Brigette Bardot was beautiful. This is what we know. We also 'know' that 'was' is the key word in that statement, because now she is has, in the true fashion of tragic Hollywood, become "old and fat." How dare. Fortunately, I think it is safe to say that Brigette doesn't give a sh*t.

It's fascinating the way beauty is perceived, received and reacted to, which is generally with some measure of violence. A beautiful woman is at once some 'thing' immediately admired and equally the focal point for a mysterious hatred that generally manifests itself in varying forms of revenge. Catty women are jealous, and lesser men are angry. The fact that such a creature exists and, for the male part, is not possessed incited the need to debase the woman through masturbatory fantasy, the robbery of her identity through invented condescension or, most vindictive, the mockery made of her when her youth fades. She is punished at her zenith; she is punished after. As such, the continued celebration of Bardot-- much like Monroe-- has little to do with the woman and much to do with the imagery of physical perfection and the love/hate relationship America has with the sexual object. Brigette's beauty had one Hell of a commanding power, and our defense, as with most, is to label her as nothing more than a pretty face.

A native Parisian, Brigette worked fairly consistently for 2 decades, stretching from the early '50s to the early '70s. She was a ballerina, turned model, turned actress, which was an understandable transformation, considering her beauty and heavenly body-- including her iconic waistline. In her early career, she was essentially used as a pretty prop in a slew of romantic comedies in France, which capitalized on her gorgeous presence, even if she were only onscreen for mere seconds. She was definitely on the public radar, but it was And God Created Woman (1956) that made her an international sensation.

Idolized as a modern, sexual woman, she was labeled a "sex-kitten"-- the pouty "I want it but I don't want it" enticement-- and her fashion, hair and manner was copied ad nauseum by a society undergoing yet another identity quest and cultural shift. As the nuclear family made way for the free love sixties, Brigette's barely clad and occasionally totally nude appearances in films was but more kindling in the fire of America's already brewing need for extroverted sexual discovery. She had the pout of a little girl, which satisfied the "Lolita" fetish, but she also had the un-apologetically carnal passion of a flesh and blood woman. While few of her films would be described as works of art, they drew good box-office in their day, solely because of the star's naturally scintillating appearance.

Obviously, there was more to the woman than her appealing curvatures, and perhaps because of her need to distinguish herself from the goddess template she'd accidentally created, she endured excruciating personal setbacks and obstacles. The typical existential confusion of the dual identity star-human eventually led to her retirement by the age of 40. Four marriages, one estranged son, multiple affairs, and her supposed generous spirit, (which was allegedly beaten to a pulp), influenced Bardot's need for escapism to a space that she could call her own-- un-infiltrated by the damaging impact of public life.

She has dedicated the majority of the last 40 years (she is now nearly 80) to animal rights, a fact that continues to draw attention and keep her in the headlines. She has often lashed out at both the Jewish and Muslim community for "ritually slaughtering sheep," which is done as a part of their traditional religious practices. Often caught with her foot in her mouth, the quiet and silent beauty has become quite the opposite in her old age, and she ruffles as many feathers as she once raise temperatures. Of course, her antics and her identification with animals over human beings perhaps says it all concerning the crippling experiences she must have had in show-business. People aren't to be trusted. Today, the love demon protects the innocent of the four-legged variety.

With these clashing and contrasting images, Brigette Bardot remains unknown, though this is a personal choice on her behalf. Just as her cinematic persona, she is divided and indecipherable-- an angel and devil in one; a temptation that leads to both reward and punishment. She is a beautiful yet fierce creature, using her looks as distraction while she fuels the fires of her secret self and carries out personal agendas. She is more than what she reveals-- an imperfect yet physically perfect specimen/vixen to whom virtue is honesty-- the embrace of immorality and decadence in the face of all evils. Through Brigette, sex wasn't sin; it was freedom. The only danger, it seems, was in having too much.

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