I ran into these two videos, and thought they made an interesting duo.
In the above video, via Rebecca at The Mary Sue, model Cameron Russell talks about the ups and downs of “winning the genetic lottery” and being a model. She’s self-conscious about the problematic nature of someone who makes a living off being privileged (white, thin) talking about the negatives of that privilege, but is also bothered by the little girls who tell her they want to be models when they grow up, when they could instead hope to “Be my boss. Because I’m not in charge of anything.”
And in “Thank God I’m Pretty” (which I found via The F Word), the musician Emilie Autumn also talks about being pretty – but describes it as an almost entirely negative experience with only trivial advantages:
Thank God I’m pretty
Every skill I ever have will be in question
Every ill that I must suffer merely brought on by myself
Though the cops would come for someone else
I’m truly privileged to look this good without clothes on
Which only means that when I sing you’re jerking off
And when I’m gone you won’t remember
Thank God I’m pretty
(Full lyrics here.)
I’m not sure what to think about “Thank God I’m Pretty” (and I’m not the only one). It’s a wonderfully bitter pushback against the cultural assumption that pretty equals happy, and against the stereotype that pretty people are vacuous and untalented. But at the same time, the song shows little awareness that – despite her obviously considerable musical talent and work ethic – Emilie Autumn’s ability to make a living has benefited a lot from being a thin, pretty white woman, and an equally talented hard-working woman who was also (say) fat would find it harder to earn a living from her music.
It’s a little bit like affirmative action. It sucks for talented, hard-working people who have worked their way into a good position in a competitive field to be objects of suspicion – “maybe they wouldn’t have gotten where they were without help from AA/help from being pretty.” (Or as Autumn says, “Every skill I ever have will be in question.”) On the other hand, bad as that is, it’s better than potentially not having gotten that position at all.
Also, I found it interesting that both Autumn and Russell incorporate changing their outfit into their performances.
I think Alas readers might also be interested in Autumn’s song “Girls Girls Girls,” which is very showtuney, and makes a parallel between being women in asylums (Autumn is herself an asylum survivor) and performers in a freakshow. (Lyrics here).
You see, they’re really more like animals than people
Which has been proven haven’t any souls at all.
The only bits that aren’t inferior are bosom and posterior
And these are only useful in a seedy music hall
They don’t bite, well they might
I say this one does look hungry tonight
So get your picture with an inmate
But be sure she’s locked up tight.