ugliness signifier idiom
Wednesday, March 23 2005
This afternoon I had a job interview for the part time IT position at a local independent radio station (not the one in Connecticut where I occasionally do work). The interview went well and I was a perfect fit for the job. Additionally, (and, for them, unexpectedly) I brought all sorts of useful skills related to the web and streaming media, aspects of their operation that has languished. But the president of the station totally lowballed me with a lousy $15/hr offer. As Gretchen pointed out later, that's the sort of salary one usually offers to unskilled laborers. In an attempt to sweeten the deal, the president also offered me a private office and free advertising, but I already have a huge laboratory and if I take on a part time job I'll have less need for advertising, not more. I humored one of the president's men and had a look at the office being offered, which was adjacent to the studio where supposedly the video for "Video Killed The Radio Star" was recorded.
In the evening Gretchen and I watched the Parker Posey vehicle Party Girl off the Tivo. I'd seen it before some years ago, but all I remembered were little details mostly incidental to the plot: the falafel vendor, the library sex scene, and the odd ban at the nightclub on spinning music from a certain producer. The general story arc of the movie cleverly mocks the classic teen "ugly duckling to swan" movie: at the end Posey is wearing glasses and a ponytail, Hollywood's usual method for indicating that we should think of a beautiful woman as muy fea.
Of course many people, myself included, have a fetishistic interest in glasses if not ponytails, and we just had to accept the Hollywood "ugly look" as an idiom. We'd see a really hot woman wearing glasses and a ponytail and we'd just know she'd be shedding those glasses and hair tie (if nothing else) by the final scene.
The "ponytail & glasses=ugly" idiom seems to have its origins in the 1980s, when everybody was striving to maximize the poofiness of their hair and, if they couldn't wear contacts, the thinness of their glasses' rims. By the early 90s hipsters had rediscovered the æsthetic value of glasses and thick rims, and only the cheeseballs were still perming their hair. Yet despite these changing fashions, the Hollywood ugliness signifier idiom continues to this day, increasingly as a joke.
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