Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gia - Life in a Fairytale

Gia, a fictionalized biography of Gia Carangi who was the first supermodel, is narrated by Gia’s character in the form of a fairytale. Beginning with “Once upon a time…” Gia’s life is lived and ends like a fairytale, just like Gia’s mom describes. However it is easy to see this is not the case at all, where getting aids and being a drug abuser is hardly what a fairytale contains. But Gia’s story can be seen like a true fairytale in a land of patriarchal standards and gendered constructs of beauty and success. Ultimately, girls’ and women’s understanding of beauty begins and ends with being thin; a message received by all.

Being thin gives women a false sense of freedom and power. Chernik admits “I felt powerful as an anorexic. Controlling my body yielded an illusion of control over my life” (131). This illusion of power transports every woman to her own little world, exactly what society had intended. Because of this, society is what keeps this little world in motion, more specifically society’s praise. As Chernik is suffering/dying from anorexia, she is given much praise by others for being thin, which they describe as “healthy and a winner” (132). This clearly leads to a feeling of success for a woman being able to control her body. This trivial pursuit in a society where it is nearly impossible to have the figure of a model is what is centralized in women’s minds, therefore resulting in a world solely created for a woman.

Thinness is about cutting a girl down to size. As Kilbourne states, “it [thinness] is only a symbol, albeit a very powerful and destructive one, of tremendous fear of female power” (262). By becoming thin, a woman is actually taking up less space in this world, literally. Figuratively, it is about a woman’s actions; what they say and do. This pertains perfectly to a model, as described in “Gia”. When first meeting with Wilamina, Gia’s agent, Gia is told “talking is not really required or even encouraged.” A model’s success is based on how well she can be sculpted in the image of another (most likely a man) where her voice means nothing. This message is transcended down to other women on what it means to be successful as a woman.

Thinness is central to the definition of beauty for a woman. Ads are mainly responsible for this false truth. Society and ads have permeated the minds of women to the extent that women rather lose 15 pounds than any other life goal. Gia maintained this image, but at what cost? - Heroin, cocaine, and alcohol. Ads proclaim that the first thing a man notices in a woman is not her personality, but her body (Kilbourne 260).

The only fairytale that could exist in our society is one defined by the patriarchal standards and gendered constructs of beauty and success. These messages of false beauty and success are disseminated to young girls and women all over. Gia’s life may have been a fairytale in her eyes, but the only true fairytale is perceived through society’s eyes. She was thin and did everything to maintain that, she spoke through her eyes into a camera using her body as her voice, and she made the cover of numerous magazines; a fairytale indeed.

Works Cited

Chernik, Abra Fortune. "The Body Politic". 1995. 130-134

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, The More You Add: Cutting Girls Down to Size". Dines, Gail and Jean M. Humez, eds. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. United States: Sage Publications, 2003. 258-267.

Picture from : http://www.braincellslur.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/02/gia.jpg


Jessie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessie said...

Mike- your focus on the issue of thinness in fashion, is certainly related to the the industry and to fairy tales.

The quotes chosen are appropriate and support this focus on thinness. However, I'm not sure how the film as a fairytale is linked to this issue based on what you've written. To a reader without prior knowledge of the film, or the women's & gender studies, it might seem like there's either a big gap in the understanding of the connection between your focus and Gia's life, or an implication of an automatic link between the two arenas. Therefore, it seems like the readings and the thinness issue worked well together for you when writing your piece; however, the link between that area and the focus on it in relation to Gia's biography isn't so clear.

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