The Liberal French

Flicking through the latest issue of VOGUE Paris, admiring the editorials and trying to better my French, I was astounded by one image in a beauty editorial. It took me a while to realise why I found the image so arresting. Then it hit me, the model, Daria Werbowy, was smoking.

Now although the concept of anyone smoking (let alone a model) is nowhere near shocking or controversial, or even a new concept in fashion photography, it got me thinking - this picture would never have ran in say, British or American VOGUE.

Now we all know that political correctness (in Britain in particular) has gone mad in recent years, but why should a picture in a fashion magazine, of someone smoking stop me dead in my tracks? Perhaps it was because it was in a beauty editorial? Safe to say there is nothing "beautiful" about smoking. Some may find it sexy, or poetic even, but take away the make-up, the lighting, and the airbrushing and get up close to the discoloured teeth, yellow nails and coarse, blemished skin and you will see that you will certainly not end up looking like Daria Werbowy by lighting up a cigarette.

Of course there is the whole ordeal of "Young girls will look at this and think it's beautiful, this model and many other like her are role models to young women all over the world and it's images like this that subconsciously encourage them to smoke". But that's not what bothered me. Women in the public eye aren't forcing young girls to do anything and the prospect of people in the public eye having their careers endangered because of what they do in their personal lives has always somewhat infuriated me. What did bother me however, was the level of censorship we have succumbed to in this day and age. Critics are always attacking the fashion industry for not portraying "realistic" images of women. Well, above, there is one. A thin, tall, beautiful, independent woman - smoking, just like many other women all over the world. It seems that critics want to see "real" people... just so long as it isn't too real.

People smoke. People drink too much. People take drugs and have sex. It is not my aim to condone this behaviour but I'm certainly in no position to judge or scorn other people for living their lives. nor is it my intention to desensitise the world to these goings on. But I can't help but think, with a little exposure to these things and a little more education, maybe the children and adolescents of today would be wiser and more knowledgeable, less ignorant and more tolerant. Shedding light on things like smoking could enrich and empower young people's lives. For knowledge is power!

And that's my rant for today. For those of you who are interested, here's the rest of Daria's beauty editorial, although the smoking image may have overshadowed the success of the editorial as a whole, it is nonetheless, beautifully shot by Ben Hassett and styled by Julia von Boehm.

On a another note, a friend of my mine brought my attention to this McDonald's commercial today, that is currently being aired in (where else?) - France -

This come just short of 2 years after the UK received a sea of complaints and eventually banned this Heinz commercial -

It actually just angers and frustrates me to no end. It's the 21st Century, the year 2010, and that gets thousands of complaints and gets banned?
What makes our children so different to French children? Why are the French so much more liberal and tolerant?

I'm considering moving to Paris where I may just be allowed to live a life without worry or concern that I may be judged or censored.

Vive la France!


iñaki said...

Amazing article Jack!
it might be because I have been a avid Vogue Paris reader for most of my life but I rarely get shocked anymore. I think you made a lot of good points. But I will always speak against having 'real' people in magazines. I don't think anyone ones to see people they can see about town in an editorial, that is why we buy these magazines. Everyone has simply become so falsely politically correct that it looks bad to say we don't want ugly people on covers or stretch marks on editorials. That's what mirrors are for.

Screw censorship.

PS. but, seriously, great post!

Jack Murphy said...

Oh I totally agree!
I'm all about skinny, airbrushed goodness when it comes to fashion but censorship is EVERYWHERE nowadays and I don't even think it's about censorship in fashion, it's about aesthetic, they want products/editorials/models/whatever to look their best and I'm all for that!
Less censorship would be an amazing thing, so when people are confronted with this type of thing, they can understand it instead of deriding it!

Thanks Iñaki!
Always grateful for your comments & support!

Ana Paula Sampaio said...

Wow! I can't remember the last time I read something so lucid! Great article. What is all this real-women-thing about? All women are real. Including the ones who smoke. Thank God I live in Brazil, a place even more liberal than France. =)