The Model Paradox: Ken and Barbie Vs. Homer and Marge

Truthfully, do we prefer to see perfect airbrushed models or just reminders of our own bodies?  Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder or does how we spend money on magazines what we actually believe?

America has always had a love/hate relationship with Barbie and Ken. Unsurprisingly, it exactly reflects the way we both worship and curse the models we see everyday on TV and in movies and magazines. During the Fall season of 2009, there was a lot of Internet buzz about a model named Lizzie Miller who was featured in the September issue of Glamour magazine. The picture showed her proudly smiling, displaying her nude yet self-censored body, seeming both unaware and apathetic about the fact she has a “belly”, stretch marks, and thick legs.  The letters and emails poured in by the masses, praising the magazine for showing the beauty of a “normal” woman. While Glamour has been known to feature plus size women on the cover, like Queen Latifah in May 2004, the magazine mainly uses thinner models instead on a regular basis.

But, if normal sized and average looking people are what the general public really wants to see and even the magazine editors know this, why consistently do we continue to see models with perfect abs and bodies with less than 2% body fat? Because when it really comes down to it, we don’t truly want to see a model who reminds us of what our own bodies look like. The proof? Lean models sell more magazines. Bottom line. And we the average people are the ones buying.

In 2006 Dove soap began their Self-Esteem Fund campaign, featuring “real women” in their TV and Internet ads.  While the ad campaign is still active as of today, according to their website it will be ending after 2010, for whatever reason.  But even if these ads with “realistic models” help sell more soap, why are there still skinny, muscular, sexually provocative models on the covers of fashion, beauty, and even health magazines?  Because despite increased sales of soap, the image of the person on the cover of a magazine is largely what sells it. And on a regular basis, I continue to see the real life equivalent of Ken and Barbie on fashion, beauty, and health mags, not Homer and Marge Simpson.

The physical ideal self is what so many consumers are looking to become. It’s a nearly impossible image that we may be able to get close to, but never actually permanently attain for ourselves, unless we own a gym.  And that perceived void in our lives to feel beautiful or sexy (or maybe simply to feel worthy of being in a healthy relationship) largely helps to magazines to sell, by feeding into our subconscious. It’s the image that some people keep stuck in the front of their minds when they work out or when make a conscious decision to eat grilled salmon and a salad instead of a bucket of fried chicken and a 48 ounce soda.

We blame the magazines and media for bombarding us with unrealistic models. And it makes us feel good when magazines do display people that remind us of ourselves. For about five minutes. Then a flash of a shirtless Ryan Reynolds or Jennifer Aniston wearing nothing but a men’s tie on the cover of GQ changes that. We can say we want to see imperfection, but how we spend our money directly affects what images continue to show up on magazines covers and retail ads.  Tired of seeing unrealistic models?  Stop reading and buying those kind of magazines until they only feature people who look like you and me.

But that obviously will never happen.  Because our love/hate relationship with models is somehwat like a kid who goes to Disney World for the first time but is old enough to know that Mickey Mouse is not actually a 6 foot tall mutant mouse, but instead a college student in a really expensive costume.  Even so, this child is no less excited even though he or she knows it is just a fantasy.  And that’s just what models are- a fantasy, both equally demotivating and inspiring.

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Being a Handsome Man Vs. Being a Hot Guy

And why it ultimately doesn’t matter anyway thanks to a little something called “charm”.

Recently I asked my facebook friends via my status update, this question:

Females, I need your input for something I’m writing: What is the difference between a guy who is “handsome” and a guy who is “hot, sexy, etc.”?

To summarize the similarities of the responses, with a man who is “hot” there is an attraction (mostly physical), whereas  with a man who is “handsome” is someone who simply is a good-looking guy, though there is not necessarily any kind of attraction there.  Of course the ironic thing about this can best be summed up by what my friend Holly Arnesen said:

“if i refer to a guy as handsome, it usually means that physically speaking he’s nicely put together, but doesn’t necessarily mean i’m attracted. hot and sexy usually has to do with more than what a guy looks like. like some women think intelligence is sexy so, they’ll go for a smart guy over one that they think is nicer to look at.  i once heard someone say, ‘men fall in love with women they are attracted to, and women are attracted to the men they fall in love with.’ i’m not a guy, but i’m pretty sure this tends to be way things go.”

On the right, Bronson Pinchot, who played "Balki" on Perfect Strangers.

What enticed me to walk up to my future wife on October 5, 2006 and talk to her the very first time I saw her from across a large crowded room was her appearance.  Though it wasn’t until four months later to the day, on our first date (I knew it was a date but she didn’t until it was over), that she actually thought of me in any kind of romantic way.  My physical looks were irrelevant to the equation up until the point I made it clear I was interested in her, given that I’d shared with her my personality and character prior to day that we crossed the line from being friends to dating.

Until we started dating, I was just another average-looking dude.  A forgettable face.  Perhaps the most memorable physical trait would have been my dark hair.  Based on the celebrities that people have told me I look like in the last couple of years (“Cory Matthews” from Boy Meets World, “Balki” from Perfect Strangers, “Ross” from Friends, as well as David Arquette and Paul Rudd), I evidently have the looks of a Jewish-American comedian, which all of those Nick Shell look-alikes are.  Men that are remembered not for their looks, but for their personalities and talent.  Are those men handsome?  Sure, why not.  It’s irrelevant either way.

Ben Savage, who played "Corey Matthews" on Boy Meets World.

Speaking of David Schwimmer, I don’t believe anyone could have played the part of Ross better.  But to be part of one of the most popular romantic American TV couples ever, he was a very ordinary looking guy.  Fans of Friends always think of Ross and Rachel fondly, though never once have I ever heard anyone comment good or bad on David Schwimmer’s looks.  But regarding Jennifer Aniston, it’s not that way at all. Her looks were so relevant she actually started a hairstyle craze in 1995 called “The Rachel”.

When my wife and I reminisce on when we first started dating, she always says, “You always had interesting stuff to say so I knew we’d never run out of things to talk about.”  It’s possible that’s what won her over.  My quirkiness.  Some people would call it my ability to “think some crazy crap up”.  Others more reverently refer to it as “thinking deeply”.   My lifelong habit of daydreaming during math and science class definitely paid off.  I charmed her.

So if a guy is simply average-looking, how can he improve his situation?  The “Makeover Week” on the TV show The Biggest Loser would tell us he would need to slim down, get his hair cut shorter, shave off his beard, and wear nicer clothes.  But I know my wife always prefers me to wear jeans, t-shirt, and a ball cap, and she never notices or cares whether I have a beard or not.  There’s really no official way for a schlub or average Joe to gain “handsomeness” or “sexiness” since that’s up to the girl they’re trying to attract.

The more colorful and eye-catching cockatiel bird is on the right. The female is on the left.

And I think that’s why it’s a guy thing to not care as much about our appearance as females do.  Because unlike male birds (which are always more attractive and attention-grabbing than the females they attract), male humans know they can attract a woman who is out of their league looks-wise as long as they are funny enough, smart enough, rich enough, strong enough, sensitive enough, or whatever else it takes to charm their love interest.  From Doug Heffernan to Barney Rubble, charm certainly has its advantages.

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld (Yes, Most of Them are Jewish; Even Matthew Perry)

 

After the recent overwhelming success and popularity of The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of LOST, I decided I am among the thousands who are also intrigued by the vast different backgrounds of the actors of all-American TV shows.  Starting with curiosity of my own ethnic background, I soon stumbled into a new hobby/obsession: studying and memorizing the ethnic backgrounds of celebrities.  I am officially claiming to be an ethnic background specialist.  And I’m half serious, half joking when I say that.

Want to buy this “No Soup for You!” shirt for the best price on Amazon? Click here!

no soup for you

Of course for me, the most fascinating part is always discovering the Jewish actor(s) and writer(s).  Being that there are more than twice as many Asians than there are Jews in America, in theory, for every Jewish actor in a show there would be two Asian actors.  Or, being that Jews make up 1.7% of the American population, for every 100 actors in a show or movie, only two would be Jewish.  But that’s almost never the case.

So with that in mind, I felt the best way to officially start “The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast” series is by examining two highly popular Jewish sitcoms.  Whereas most sitcoms have at least one Jewish actor as part of the cast who plays a plain ole’ American mutt, both Friends and Seinfeld featured Jewish actors who occasionally incorporated their “Jewishness” into their  characters and the culture of the show itself.

To keep from being confusing, unless specifically stated, “English” simply means the actor is American but of English descent.  Same thing with “Scottish”, “Irish”, etc.  However, if the actor was actually born in England and is not an American, I will specifically state they were born in England, or whatever country they were raised in.

If the actor is Jewish, and I know what country their family moved to America from, I will say “descended from” or “of (ex: German) descent”.  In other words, each actor is American born, unless otherwise stated with the phrase “born in”.

Friends:

David Schwimmer (Jewish, descended from Germany) as “Ross Geller” (Jewish)

Courtney Cox-Arquette (English, though she is married to David Arquette, who is Jewish, she did not convert) as “Monica Geller (Jewish)

Jennifer Aniston (half Greek, quarter Italian, quarter Scottish) as “Rachel Green” (American)

Lisa Kudrow (Jewish, descended from Russia) as “Phoebe Buffay” (French)

Matthew Perry (half Canadian-English, half Jewish) as Chandler Bing (Scottish)

Matt LeBlanc (French, Italian, Dutch, Irish) as “Joey Tribbiani” (15/16 Italian, 1/16 Portuguese)

Elliot Gould (Jewish) as “Jack Geller” (Jewish)

Christina Pickles (English, born in England) as “Judy Geller” (Jewish)

James Michael Tyler (English) as “Gunther” (Dutch)

Hank Azaria (Jewish, descended from Greece) as “David the Scientist”, Phoebe’s on-again-off-again boyfriend (American)

Paul Rudd (Jewish, descended from England) as “Mike Hannigan” (Irish)

Created by David Crane (English) and Marta Kauffman (Jewish, descended from Germany)

Seinfeld:

Jerry Seinfeld (Jewish, of Polish, Ukrainian, and Syrian descent) as “Jerry Seinfeld” (Jewish)

Jason Alexander (Jewish, of German descent) as “George Costanza” (half Italian, half Jewish)

Michael Richards (half Italian, half English) as “Cosmo Kramer” (Jewish)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Jewish, of French descent) as “Elaine Benes” (Czech)

Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (Jewish)

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did to find out if you might have Jewish DNA, here’s the link to MyHeritage.

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pretzels

 

John Mayer’s Stupid Mouth

Will his recent humiliation humble him for good?  We keep on waiting.  (Waiting.)  Waiting for John Mayer to change.

In November 2009 when his new album Battle Studies was released, I wrote a review that in essence said the music itself was solid as always, but the man John Mayer himself was becoming increasingly annoying and obnoxious (read it here http://wp.me/pxqBU-fj).  But I have the ability to separate the art from the artist.  I believe John Mayer will always make music that I love, but can he ever get over himself?

I remember a simpler time, in college, circa 2002, when I ironically thought to myself as I was in the check out aisle, “How weird would it be if John Mayer was ever on the cover of these tabloid magazines?  What if he dated famous stars like Jennifer Aniston?”  It was such a foreign thought regarding the fresh-on-the-scene musical Wonderboy.

So it obviously was a huge case of déjà vu when this random thought from just a few short years earlier became a reality.  And with his rock star status came a major case of “I’m too sexy for my cat”.  That brings us to the year 2010.

The once funny and personable musician began to realize that the general consensus of him is that he is the current textbook definition of a douchebag, even more so than Spencer Pratt, who held that title for 2008.  Realizing this, and trying to shrug off his undesirable reputation, he acknowledged the public’s perception of himself in the December 2009 issue of Details magazine, yet still ended up saying this:

“I’m in the place of greatest freedom right now- not giving a f—…  I don’t have f— you money… I have ‘that’s my seat’ money’ “

Ultimately, his attitude has seemed to be: “I’m John Mayer.  I’ve got the talent, money, fame, and women that everyone else wants.  Oh yeah, and I’m clever and witty too.  See?”

Here’s the complete article: http://www.details.com/celebrities-entertainment/cover-stars/200912/singer-musician-cover-star-half-of-my-heart-john-mayer

It didn’t seem like he really cared or wanted to change.  He just wanted people to stop desecrating his name.

Then came the interview with Playboy magazine.  To sum it up, he’s gives his biggest “kiss and tell” list ever as he sexually degrades the women he’s been romantically involved with, makes a remark about his romantic disinterest in African-American women, and uses the “N-word” in the process.  That’s the PG summary.  Here’s a more detailed recap, not the actual interview: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35334100/ns/entertainment-celebrities/

Not quite the same mindset as his hit song, “Daughters”.

Soon after, he apologized on Twitter.  And last night here in Nashville he broke down on stage in the middle of “Gravity” (appropriate song choice) with the most sincere apology and acknowledgement of his self-centeredness:  http://wonderwall.msn.com/music/singer-john-mayer-breaks-down-on-stage-1537819.story?GT1=28135

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYS_qdWy_wM

It’s one thing to be a rich and famous womanizer, but even worse to acknowledge it, then brag about it while trying to appear sophisticated, in the public eye.

Now only time will tell whether the musical prodigy/media addict will return to the 2002 version of himself.  The guy that knew how to keep his stupid mouth shut.  The guy that seemed to narrate my life the way the TV show The Wonder Years did when I was a kid.  The only other guy I knew who was equally obsessed with the year 1983.

No need for us to collect all of our John Mayer recordings and burn them in the city square like disgruntled fans did with The Beatles when John Lennon said they were bigger than Jesus, or when Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks said they were ashamed of President Bush.  I still believe in the guy, as a person, that he can get through this by getting over himself.

Back on his first album, Room for Squares, John asked the question:  “Will you love me when I’m not myself?”

Yes.  Yes, John, I will.  But I hope the real you is the 2002 version, not 2010.

Related posts by this author:

Manspeak, Volume 1: Humor  http://wp.me/pxqBU-1i

Boyspeak  http://wp.me/sxqBU-boyspeak

Life’s Too Short: The Sad Truth that the Past is an Imaginary Place We Can Never Return To

About a year ago I was watching American Idol and Simon was interrogating one of the male contestants on why he wants to become a professional singer. The man explained he has a wife and a kid and he wants to be sure they’re taken care of financially. Simon asked the man again, “I get that, but WHY do you want to be a singer?” The man again explained it was because he has a wife and a kid… then Simon (who was obviously looking for an answer involving the man’s passion for music, etc.) cut him off with, “I get that, just sing for us.”

We focus so much on “right now”. Chances are, you’re never going to have enough money. Because once you do, you’re going to buy a bigger house or find a new way to get yourself in debt. Money is never enough.

Chances are, you’re never going to have enough time. America has set so much pressure on its people to be thin and in shape, yet it remains one of the most overweight countries in the world. We’re too busy to eat the right foods and to exercise, so instead of making time to be healthy, 74% of the population is overweight but carries the heavy burden of wanting to look like Jennifer Anniston or Brad Pitt, two people who are paid to make time to live healthy lifestyles. So obviously if we as a nation don’t have enough time to be healthy, we’re never going to have enough time.

Maybe I’m weird for not questioning the meaning life, but it’s never really been an issue for me. I’ve just always kind of known. I’ve understood since the age of six that this life is barely a speck of dust in comparison to the life after this. I’ve understood that God has blessed us with friends and family and we need to value them like the precious a gift they are. I’ve understood, more importantly, that God loves us and what it really comes down to our relationship with Him.  Even that goes back to loving people.

I subscribe to a magazine called Details. The thing I like most about it is its unique, random, and yet relevant articles. I realize as someone who earned a degree in English that quotes are only supposed to be a few lines, but for this I will cheat:

“…I climbed eagerly abroad this one-way rocket to Death in Adulthood and left the planet of my childhood forever in starry wake. I know this. My grandparents, my boyhood bedroom furniture… I will never see those or a million things again. And yet, lurking somewhere in the back of my mind is the unshakable, even foundational knowledge- for which certainty is too conscious a term- that at some unspecified future date, by unspecified means, I will return to those people and those locales. That I am going back. No, that’s false. The delusion is not really that I believe, or trust, that I will be returning one day to the planet of childhood…”
– an excerpt from “Time Bandits” by Michael Chabon

my Italian grandfather, Albert Metallo

Only a few weeks after I got married last July, my Italian grandfather died. He is the only one of my grandparents I have lost. Only second to my dad, he had the most influence on me as far as what it means to be a man. I know a lot of the reason I randomly talk to strangers in public is because of him. He always did it. I learned from him that much heaven can be found in spending hours working in a garden and then being able to enjoy the beauty of it. (Even though I don’t yet have a house with a yard.) It was because of his decision to move from Buffalo, NY to Fort Payne, AL in 1973 that I am alive. Otherwise my parents wouldn’t have met.

Like that article reminds me, all those weekends I spent at his house in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s as a kid are only now a memory. He would push me and my sister down the hill in his front yard in barrels. Then when we got too dizzy, he would get in the barrel and make us push him down the hill. We would do that for hours it seemed.

Then he would take us to Burger King for lunch. We would sit next to the window right by the drive-thru and he would make funny faces at the people waiting in the drive-thru. It was hilarious to see a man in his sixties being so goofy in public.

We would go back to his house and he would watch taped professional wrestling from the night before (WWF- Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Vince McMahon… the whole gang) and we would get out the toys (which were Styrofoam blocks). After about 15 minutes of my sister and me playing, and him watching wrestling, he pick up some of our Styrofoam blocks and throw them at our heads. Which would start an all out war in the living room. Then we would sneeze for 15 minutes afterwards from all the dust in the air from those blocks.

He had a bathroom closet full of nothing but bars of soap. And a freezer full of freezer-burnt TV dinners and ice cream bars, which were a treat to us. He wore a flannel shirt, navy pants, and black shoes no matter the occasion. Except for my sister’s wedding, which he wore a tux and sunglasses. He really looked like he was part of the mafia.

And all these strange and funny memories make up who he was to me. There is a major importance to “showing up to life”. He definitely did that. He was always there for every family get-together and would look for an excuse to visit our family, like bringing over a junky knick-knack he bought at a yard sale the weekend before. He knew what life was really about.

I was watching my favorite movie, Garden State, recently and though I’ve seen it probably at least ten times, I heard (and finally processed) what is one of the major themes of the movie:

“You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some where you can put your stuff that idea of home is gone.
…It just sort of happens one day one day and it’s just gone. And you can never get it back. It’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I mean it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y2snCNXT2k

I’ll always have that sense of “home” when I think of my grandfather. I still have a lot of family and friends whom I still have that sense of home with. Despite whatever shortage of money or time, despite whatever amount of stress or chaos calls for, life is too short to worry. And if you feel you must worry, pray instead.

Classic song…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6xMqo3wFxw