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Movies and Pit-Hair
cap, captain miss america
As of yesterday, I saw my fifty-first movie of the year in theaters.

This means that in six months, I have seen over fifty movies, and puts me well on track for seeing 100 in theaters by the end of the year, assuming I don't relocate to somewhere where seeing movies is more difficult.

I am thinking that if I do relocate in New York, I want to move up closer to Lincoln Center so I can go to the Lincoln Square cinemas more often and still be near a regular first-run theater. Because there are a lot of movies that only play at Lincoln Square, and also, they have homemade cookies.

Anyway, yesterday I saw Une Vieille Maitresse. It wasn't as good as I was hoping-- although it did have gorgeous clothing. It was just rather...been there, done that. I've seen plenty of "love turns into dangerous obsession" stories, and while Asia Argento plays a damn good madwoman, it didn't do anything new for me.

Except for one thing, and this is going to sound as silly as silly can be, but since she is nude for about half the movie, it is absolutely impossible to notice that she has, being a European woman and all, very natural, unshaven armpit hair.

And this got me to thinking. How many times in American period romances do we see women with pit-hair? I mean, women in this country didn't start shaving their pits till about the 1910s. So all those movies with naked women from the 16-17-1800s? They should all have hairy pits and hairy legs! But the actresses don't!

I am thinking about this because there are so many things we do in movies to try to invoke a certain era, or to make things as 'realistic' as possible-- actors gain or lose weight, color, curl, straighten their hair or wear wigs, we make certain no one has an electrical line anywhere there wouldn't be one...but we don't insist on our actresses having the proper body hair. In fact, I think a lot of people would see a movie about people in the 1700s and see a woman with underarm hair and make comments about it being gross or unattractive.

I shave, most of the time. I don't really feel strongly one way or another about it. In the winter, I don't shave my legs as much, but armpit hair tends to be itchy, so I do usually shave that. I don't have any opinions on the feminism or anti-feminism of hair-shaving. But I do have an opinion on the fact that when something offends our standard of beauty, we ignore anachronism in favor of modern ideas about what is beautiful, which is weird. We think a lot of things are beautiful now that aren't appropriate to previous periods in history, and we don't let them slide.

I think this is something I am going to notice from now on.

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The only reason I shave my legs is probably psychosomatic - I had my lower leg in a cast for almost an entire semester, and the utter nastiness that was matted hair and dead skin when the cast came off means that my legs just itch unbearably if I go more than 2 weeks or so without shaving.

I do agree about the anachronisms in general - then again, it all depends on whether people want a romanticized view or an accurate one. Sometimes people who swear up and down they want accuracy really do want romance (I encounter that in certain patches of the SCA all the time).

Huh. I'm not surprised by the fact that even in period dress, we do tend to ignore things like body hair, because I'm sure people would deem it "gross" and focus all this negative attention on it. But I never noticed it before, either!

I usually shave my armpits, too, because it is itchy, but I won't have a fit if someone catches a glimpse of a day's worth of stubble. I almost never shave my legs, because I almost always wear jeans or long pants, so who's going to see it? I only shave my legs when I plan on wearing a skirt or dress. (There's another area I sometimes shave, but only because it makes certain activities more comfortable for the boyfriend.) I don't buy into the whole women-should-be-completely-hairless-all-the-time thing. Everyone has body hair, I just don't have the time or the energy to spend getting rid of mine daily.

Yeah, it'll distract viewers from the story when they think, "ugh, armpit hair!" if they see it done in a historically accurate manner. Better to keep them in the story.

Then again, sometimes you get viewers like my mother, who disliked Shakespeare in Love because it was unrealistic, she said, "Because Gwyneth Paltrow should have had hair under her armpits and she didn't!" Takes a particular sort. What a lucky daughter I am.

Hairy pits and legs are also missing in Planet of the Apes and those movies with prehistoric settings.

I think that's just something about historical fictions of any kind, be they movies or books or whatnot. With some exceptions, the goal of most of these is to make the audience "believe" a certain time period, not to recreate it. This naturally taps into our cultural beliefs about what is proper for that time period, rather than what actually occurred. It's unfortunate for the die-hards, but I think there is something to be said for really capturing the modern feeling of a past zeitgeist. (Also if you look at historical [like Renaissance] paintings, you rarely see pit hair -- not because it's not there, but because decorum just dictated that it was not something you displayed.)

Yeah, that bothers me. The extreme negative reaction to women with body hair is really disturbing.

Also, somewhat related, a theater performance of "Rocky Horror" was put on at my women's college, and the way people excitedly prepared for their male roles was to not shave. WHOA! Yeah, really in-character there. What's funny is that in the movie, where transvestism is a major theme, those same characters had no pit or leg hair that I noticed.

And being in the front row, a lot of us got a nice close-up view of a certain body hair that they probably didn't intend to show for the benefit of the act.

Edited at 2008-06-29 09:32 pm (UTC)

My favourite part of period pieces is imagining how bad the lot of them smelled! Well, maybe not quite, but, er. Anyway.

Body hair's certainly crossed my mind, but it's the makeup I find interesting - some films make quite an effort to eliminate the signs of modern-looking social war-paint, and others flaunt it, and others use it more subtly but still play up aspects that the modern viewer would find appealing...

Obviously it's all part of how the 'period' setting is handled on the larger scale of the film - I'm not about to object to everyone looking a bit tidier if it's well-integrated and, as delizia says, captures the spirit of the thing - but it's still something that I find myself taking into account when I process actors as being from a different era, as it were. And it always amuses when the Main Characters The Audience is Meant to Relate To are obviously more fresh-faced and modernised than the rest of the cast...

It would be period to leave it in, but there are usually bigger and more offensive anachronisms in the film that I pay more attention to. Even though it is fitting to the time, I think it's distracting, unless it's part of the character.

I would like to be open minded about armpit hair, but I really think it is nasty. >.< And not just for women. Armpit hair on a guy makes my guts cringe. Actually, any kind of excessive hairiness makes me squeamish. (Unless it's long head hair, which makes me un-squeamish. Lol)

I say leave out the body hair unless you want to be truly accurate to the film. The story is most important for me at least.

It is weird when it's a historical movie that goes out of it's way in all other aspects, but nixes the body hair- the ones where having the camera pan past a chamber pot being dumped sets the scene but letting the leading lady have hairy pits would somehow be distracting. But I get it when it's just historically set fiction- like Marie Antoinette, which was on it's own, tangent, aesthetic trip.
I don't really get the gross out factor, but I stopped shaving my arm pits a while ago, & to me they don't look manly, they look like my underarms, with girly hair.

This is precisely what I'm getting at. It's one thing in a movie that is very highly stylized, but something like Titanic where they make a big deal about how they even got the china patterns on the ship right?

I don't get the whole grossed out reaction Americans have to female body hair. How did that even happen?

I stopped shaving my pits a couple of years ago. Was itchy as the hair grew in, but now it's silky soft, and to my mind, kinda pretty. All in your perspective, I guess.

It'd be cool to have more cinematic role models of body hair, regarded in a positive light.

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