Last Updated 09 Apr 2020

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Category Beauty, Rock, Success
Words 683 (2 pages)
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In the film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957), Rock Hunter’s fiancé, Jenny Wells (Betsy Drake), realizes that attending college to just develop her mind was a serious mistake. Fearing that Rock will leave her for the buxom and vapid Hollywood star, Rita Marlowe (Jayne Mansfield), Jenny initiates an exercise regime designed to develop her modest bust line.

Upon visiting her apartment after work, Rock discovers his fiancé comatose on the ground and frozen in a perpetual push-up. When Rock informs her doctor that the malady was caused by too much exercise – specifically push-ups – the doctor nods knowingly. “Push-ups are a waste of time,” the physician tells the advertising executive. “It’s really better for women to just go to a store, if you know what I mean.” When Rock Hunter returns to his own apartment that night and checks in on his teenage daughter, he finds her sleeping in bed, her arms above the covers in a frozen push-up.

Prescriptive literature, Hollywood films, and popular culture in general created and perpetuated the postwar feminine ideal of the “Sweater Girl” – a busty, curvaceous figure more sexual than maternal. Yet, this ideal gave way in little more than a decade. One of my earliest childhood and most lasting memories of my mother is watching her inspect herself in the full-length mirror of our family bathroom.

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She would stand, twisting and turning, her eyes intensely scrutinizing the curves of her body. Then she would turn to me and simply sigh, “We were born in the wrong decade.” Those same eyes that had just previously scrutinized her own shape would gaze on me as if to say that I was destined (doomed?) to follow in her footsteps. I would file away her beauty tips and hints and embarrassingly chant, “ I must, I must, I must increase my bust” with my middle-school friends, thanks to the influence of young-adult author, Judy Blume, a woman who experienced her own teen years in the 1950s.

My mother, neither unattractive nor “overweight” was born in 1960. Like many women of her generation, she clung to the urban legend that the Hollywood sex symbol of the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe, wore a size 12 dress. She came of age during an era where youth culture placed a cult-like status on Twiggy, a model with a 31-inch bust and 32-inch hips. How had the ideal female body type changed so quickly and so drastically?

How did we go from a society that worshiped full, buxom blondes to child-like waifs in just over a decade? Previous scholars have not recognized how malleable these ideals were and how susceptible the female figure is when seemingly disparate factors like consumerism, fashion trends, foreign policy, medical opinion, and mortality collide. While many women conformed to the Hollywood “sweater” model and then later looked to Twiggy as the fashionable ideal, most did not exhaust themselves in efforts to remold their bodies to replicate these unique body types.

This dissertation explores and analyzed how women of different ages, races, and sexual orientations imagined and actively altered their own bodies in their efforts to mimic or reject this body ideal from 1945 to 1970. At least once scholar has argued that women face more pressure to conform to an ideal standard of beauty than men because women learn early on that their future – economic, social, and reproductive opportunities – hinges on their personal appearance.

Moreover, as historian Kathy Peiss notes, “Beauty signifies difference… making distinctions between high and low, normal and abnormal, virtue and vice. In so doing, beauty helps to define morality, social status, class, gender, race, and ethnicity. ” Women’s bodies are constantly under surveillance. Borrowing Foucauldian language, Dina Giovanelli and Stephan Ostertag refer to the media as a “cosmetic panopticon” which dictates women’s clothing, hairstyle, body size, and shape. By “violating expectations” such as being fat and female, women are subjected to discrimination. And even though we are mostly cognitive of the images and messages thrown at us in the mass media today, some are harder to resist than others.

Read More:
- Horace Miner
- Body Ritual among the Nacirema by Horace Miner

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? essay

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