Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Once upon a time it was a fairytale came true

“Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away there lived a young girl, whose hair was made of gold, the people saw her, oh how beautiful she was. Once upon a time there was a very pretty girl who lived in a box and everybody loved her. She went to live in a beautiful house and all the people loved her and she was very happy, but the people in the village were very poor and every night they crept into the house, where the girl slept and they cut off a piece of her golden hair and they sold it for money. She’ll never even notice they said, and so all the gold was gone from her head. And the people said, oh she’s not beautiful and they took her away and drove her into the street and she went away. She never came back and people got hungry again and went to the beautiful house looking for gold but there was none there.”
The film Gia is based on the real life of a model that became popular during the 1980’s. Throughout the film excerpts are read from her diary. The above is pieces of the fairytale that are read throughout the film. The film is very much like a fairy tale, but also veers off the ideal of the typical female who marries Prince Charming and lives happily ever after. The messages sent to girls in fairytales and in fashion magazines are more similar than one might think. In the fairytale the young woman is portrayed is the ideal woman. She is beautiful and perfect, and in the end gets the guy. In fashion magazines the images encourage girls to, “bury alive their real selves, to become “feminine,” which means to be nice and kind and sweet, to compete with other girls for the attention of boys, and to value romantic relationships with boys above all else,” (Kilbourne 259).

Gia stumbles into a life that many young women crave. She’s discovered by a modeling agency, and before she can realize what is going on she is fashion’s new “it girl.” Right before her big break Gia was the only woman willing to pose nude. In a critique of fashion magazines Diana Crane points out that “fashion photography has incorporated blatantly sexual poses from pornographic publications that include sexual cues, such as closed eyes, open mouth, legs spread to reveal the genital area, and nudity for semi nudity, particularly in the areas of the breast and genitals, (316). Gia’s willingness to pose nude and the fact that this propels her career verifies and proves the point made by Crane. Gia is beauty, she is sex, and she is fashion, and everybody wants a piece of her. In one scene Gia compares herself to a piece of meat. The advertisers are not interested in who she is, they want her image to send the message that “what is most important about girls is their perfume, their clothing, their bodies, their beauty,” not the way they think or feel, (Kilbourne 260). In another scene the fashion photographer tells the girls to “look brain-dead.” This statement shows how women are supposed to look “submissive”, “vulnerable”, and “subordinate,” (Crane 316). In the fairytale that is told throughout the movie even Gia understands that her beauty is being packaged and sold for money. She talks of the girl who sells her golden hair for money, and that’s all the people want and care about. Gia understands that she is selling her body for money, and doesn’t always understand why she does it, but is rewarded for her looks with money and fame and possessions. This just adds to the ideals sent to young girls that beauty equals success.

The interesting part of Gia’s personality is that outside of her photographs she has image that isn’t very feminine. She carries around a pocket knife, she curses, her hair is a mess, and she dresses like a biker and a homeless person. But these qualities make her stand out in the fashion industry and with some make up and the right clothes she becomes gorgeous, and embodies this ideal figure presented in fairytales and fashion magazines. It’s also interesting how a woman who embodies the ideal female in the eyes of the public can also be so different. In the film Gia’s primary love interest is a woman named Linda, which isn’t the typical male Prince Charming, but Gia loves Linda and tells her she was the only one that always had her heart and that she is amazing. In the opening scene Gia’s story is being told and her mother says, “It was a fairytale come true.” But was it really? Gia’s story was very similar to a fairy tale, and all her dreams did come true, but it didn’t end happily ever after. Gia had a hard time dealing with everything in her life, and as her romantic relationship with Linda fell apart she became more and more involved with drugs, which led to her eventual contraction of AIDS, which causes her death at the end of the film. These struggles with drugs, her identity, and everything else prove that while fairy tales and fashion magazines are sending out these messages that beauty is everything, it really isn’t. Gia is the story of a girl who lived a fairytale. She was everything all girls want to be, but her failure shows that there are more important things in life than fame and beauty and that isn’t what really makes an individual truly happy and successful.

Crane, Diana. "Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines” Gender, Race and Class in Media. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2003. 314-331.

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, The More You Add: Cutting Girls Down to Size.” Gender, Race and Class in Media. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2003. 258-265.