Tag Archives: selling sex

Fashion: How Movies Corrupt History

I’m not talking the thousand dollar (plus) frocks that actors wear during the Oscar ceremonies. I’m talking about historical (or pseudo-historical period pieces). There are a full range of historical movies from the earliest eras of humankind up to World War or gangster films. All of these take a fair amount of research and knowledge on the costume designer’s part to recreate the era and the feel of the time. Sometimes the director and cinematographer may want a particular atmosphere, so costumes might be brighter or subdued in color range. They might be conservative or very outre in appearance depending on that movie’s theme. A costume designer might take some leeway depending on the depth of their research, what is know about a particular period, and what the director wants (which of course can hugely frustrate the sensibilities of the costume designer).

Now I’m not a costume historian, as in I don’t have a degree of any sort in this. However I have a keen interest in historical costume with some 50 books at home. I also love period piece films and will go partly for the historicity of the movie and of course for the costumes. I can usually pinpoint a century, or a decade if in the 20th century, by the clothing alone, if not the story. It gets sketchier the earlier we go but I can still pretty much tell a Roman and Greek era film and know what should be right.

One of my big pet peeves is that should a movie make an attempt at being historically accurate in clothing, that they tend to veer wildly the more important the character, especially if the character is a woman. The earlier the film, the more likely this will be. Here are a few examples of really sad costuming in movies and TV series. Gladiator. You would think with their big movie budget and names they could have tried a bit harder and really how many women were in that film? But in fact both the crazy emperor Commodus played by Joaquin Phoenix and the love interest and only woman in the film with any major part, Lucilla tend to have some iffy contrivances. Plunging necklines and tightly wrapped robes appeared. Some of the helmets for the men became pretty fantastical and veer from what would have been worn for actual combat as opposed to ceremonial helms.

More recently I watched the HBO series Rome. The lot of the average Roman is a gritty existence. It’s mostly about common men but there are the “nobler” groups and their political machinations as well. Though I’m somewhat dubious of the manly armbraces that Vorenus and Pullo wear all the time (as they’re not going to stop more than a light nick with a knife) the men’s clothing seems okay. I’m not very interested in military outfits but given that armies like the Roman legions would have supplied some uniform, they might have asked for the weapons back but let the men keep the basic tunic. People wouldn’t have had many changes of clothing and would have worn their tunics to shreds so it’s likely that the guys left the army with the basic tunic. The show seems to have got right the robes, as well as those of citizens and senate, and who would wear the large red or white togas.

There are many major female characters in this show and the one that probably wears the most historically accurate garments is Lucius Vorenus’s wife Niobe, who must hide her earlier adultery. Her garments are the basic chiton, peplos or stola. All clothing of these early eras still followed rectangular construction. Why? Because everything was woven on looms by hand and was expensive and time-consuming to make. A person would construct their garment, never wasting even an inch. Every scrap was used and before sewing techniques and inventions developed, rectangles were easiest.

I’m more up on women’s clothing and though it’s fuzzier when it comes to Roman I can tell you that almost everything the conniving, amoral Atia wears is pseudo Roman to downright fantasy. Plunging necklines and clinging items bound and wrapped in all sorts of ways defies anything but modern convention. Let’s not even go into the fabric, which would be most commonly woven wool and linen. Cotton and silk would have been rare, imported and expensive in that era so it’s possible the richest people and the emperor would have some pieces of this. I’m more willing to allow leeway in textiles as long as they look right.

Rome tried with the men’s clothing, mostly. It tried with the background and peasant/lower classes but once it go to opulence the centuries flew by. When we followed Mark Antony in Egypt, oh my god. I could not believe the stupidly bizarre take on Egyptian clothing and wigs. What were they thinking? The stuff was ludicrous. Interestingly enough, we’re more likely to see authenticity in later period pieces because when you get to Baroque and Roccoco, the women’s clothing couldn’t have been more extravagant. Still, there are good and bad shows.

Brotherhood of the Wolf, which came out in 2001 took place in the 18th century and had very good costuming. The storyline was equally well done and it’s worth watching. There are a few costume weirdnesses here with the unkempt village folk/cult followers that kind of resemble crazed, Mad Max biker guys and I question that but am willing to accept some of it. But most of the main costuming, including the women’s, was appropriate to the period and well done.

I was going to get into the new series Spartacus: Blood and Sand but I’ll just do that as a review of the first couple of episodes. As for costuming in period movies, it would be nice if directors (and costume departments) could decide to do a piece without dressing every woman like a modern vixen. And in fact, with Roman and Greek clothing, the natural drape of a peplos could have a very low neckline and an open side right up to the waist to boot. There are few movies that would get an A+ in costuming. I’d give Gladiator a B+, Rome a B- and Brotherhood of the Wolf an A.

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Auctioning Virginity

A twenty-two-year-old woman in the US plans to auction her virginity to pay for her college education. She hopes to get a million dollars for it. Ebay wouldn’t touch this so the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a legal Nevada brothel is fronting it.

What we get down to in the most basic sense of the action, is prostitution. Whether you’re selling sex on a street corner, in a brothel or on the internet, it’s still prostitution. I’m all for legalizing prostitution (like Nevada and Amsterdam) as it would solve many problems, especially if there were state-regulated brothels. Just some of the problems that could be eliminated, controlled or cut down on (in relation to prostitution) are no pimps, drugs, street crimes, women being abused and murdered, litter from condoms, johns being harassed and making neighborhoods unsavory, as well regular health check ups to keep STDs at bay, and keeping underage boys and girls out of the business.

But what I’m not for is such blatancy of prostitution and if this woman is for real and hasn’t already lost, given or sold her virginity (if I was a bidder I’d ask for a certified doctor’s note that she is a virgin), that she’s using the money to pay for her education. Okay, I actually don’t mind someone making money from their body to pay for education but a million bucks and the attention seeking advertising? I know education is expensive and that a masters or doctorate can run a person up to $100,000 (in Canada) but a million means she’s hoping to cash in on her experience. Well, why not? People should make a profit at their jobs.

So what we have is really in-your-face prostitution. This woman says it is empowering for her, but let’s look at what is really going on. A woman, a female, selling not just sex, but selling virginity. We already have this age-old problem of women being treated unequally because of their gender and physical strength. Though men can be raped, there is a far higher percentage of women raped by men or otherwise sexually abused. We have cultures that denigrate women to this day. There are cultures or religions that hurt women (or even kill them) if they aren’t virgins at their marriages. Yet, the men have no such onus nor a way to prove whether they’re virgins or not because they don’t have hymens.

In this sense, this woman isn’t doing something that’s empowering but perpetuating the double standard of a woman’s virginity being different/other/special and needing preservation or a higher price/dowry put upon it. It says that a woman is still property and should be in pristine condition for a man, no matter where he has been or dipped his wick. If we keep flagging such gender differences as virginity, we’ll continue to have gender intolerance and prejudice.

But let’s look at another part of this–the outright creep factor. Some lithe young thing is auctioning sex and virginity to some unknown bidder. The type of guy who is going to clamor and slaver over deflowering some young woman and bid maybe up to a million bucks is not going to really care much about who she is or if he’s gonna give her a good time. A guy with that kind of money isn’t going to be a cute young college guy. In essence, this woman could be deflowered for money with a crude rapelike thrust. Nice. Or say, a bunch of guys throw money together, or the winner owns a couple of sports teams. She could become the employee benefit: sign up and get a free ride.

But hey, she’s paying for her education and planning to do a masters in family and marriage therapy. She may well need it before she can ever get married. That is, if this isn’t all just a ploy to do a masters thesis, to see what people do when someone offers to auction their virginity. I’m just glad I gave my virginity to my equally virginal boyfriend, who I loved at the time. But then, maybe I’m just sentimental.

http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSSP12411420080911

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