Mags: Teen queens cross over

Nineteen-year-old teen queens Emma Watson and Taylor Swift get sexy for for August issues of U.K. ELLE and U.S. GLAMOUR while simultaneously sweetening up for Teen Vogue and Girlfriend...

Okay, I'm mildly disturbed by the ELLE cover and its just-rolled-out-of-the-sack, spread-legged styling, but maybe that's just me being a Prudy Judy?

There's nothing new about teen stars "coming of age" via vamped up glossy images (Britney, Miley Cyrus, Nikki Webster anyone?) but it's a shame to see Emma in particular playing into the raunch culture cliche of good-girl-turned-sex-kitten in corset, signature Kate Moss smokey eye makeup and tousled bed head (she also did a provocative cover for Interview magazine).

Sure, she's an adult but in these post-Paris Hilton/post-Pussycat Dolls/post-Bratz/post-Sex and the City days, does the cultural marker for feminine maturity still equal sexual objectification of the body beautiful? Is "raunch culture" still alive and kicking?

When I interviewed him for a story about Disney girls for Cosmo (I know, ironic given Cosmo, the Samantha Jones of mags, has spearheaded female sexual empowerment), social commentator and author of The Truth About Paris, Mark Sayers had this to say:
"As you move out of your tweens into your teens and into your twenties, the Disney princess myth does not sell as well. Sadly the industry seems only have one real play here, to turn you from the nice girl next door, into the sexy bad girl. This PR move is becoming almost obligatory."

By continuing to play to type, we're just reinforcing the gender stereotype that says for a woman to be desirable, lovable even, she must look and act sexy. Girl-next-door sweetness, quirky cuteness, nurturing generosity, unbridled creativity, geeky intellectualism, career driven success – all attractive qualities, and perhaps cliches, in their own rights – barely get a look in. Even Drew Barrymore, the queen of cuteness and owner of her own film production company, plays the glamour role on the red carpet and vamps it up for the magazines. While we should be free to play all the aforementioned roles, female stars, it seems, are ultimately subservient to the mighty power of sex. Or so the Hollywood big-wigs and publishers would have us believe.

So long as we're producing glossy images like Watson's for girls to consume, getting your sexy on will be seen as simply par for the course on the road to womanhood. I'm not suggesting that we all revert to playing Barbies, plaiting each other's hair, wearing pink, baking cupcakes and selling cookies at old people's homes, but surely there's an alternative female narrative that needs an airing? One where the central character keeps her clothes on.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Gloss Ed said...

"I'm not suggesting that we all revert to playing Barbies, plaiting each other's hair, wearing pink, baking cupcakes and selling cookies at old people's homes"

Oh let's do that it sounds so fun and retro to me!

Shannon said...

Totally agree that there is constant (perhaps negative) reinforcement of the gender stereotypes, but I definitely have a soft spot for Emma Watson. I really dislike the Elle cover (I think it’s too overt to be sexy) but I loved the Interview cover (while provocative I found it a bit subtler) and the Burberry shots that Testino took (she comes across as beautiful, sexy and smart).

julialow said...

I completely agree with your thoughts on Emma Watson's provocative, albeit not entirely appropriate if women are your target market (has this become a lad's mag?), ELLE cover. She's naturally such a pretty and lovely girl who is maturing at her own pace, so throwing her into that... odd ensemble and pose was just unnecessary. (it's just a matter of time before the Fug Girls get to it, heehee!)

Thanks for putting focus on these type of issues, Erica. It's so important for females to be equipped from the start, placing more importance on genuine character instead of appearances and the 'need' (read: pressure) to be sexy.

Soapboax, over! :)


Julie said...

You're no Prudy Judy Erica. That cover shot of Emma is just far too much for me to take as the StepMum of a 10 year old who will be begging me to take her to see Hermione in the next Harry Potter movie very, very soon.

universe93 said...

I agree with you to an extent Erica, but I think the thing to remember here is that both Taylor and Emma are 19 year old adults who have spent their careers so far appealing a far younger audience. Taylor's music is aimed towards the younger teenage market whereas Emma, as of the most recent Harry Potter film is playing a 16/17 year old. You can use that as an argument that they need to keep their image young and youthful for the sake of their fans, but in reality they're adults and I don't see any problem with either of them actually acting their age for a magazine cover or two. Emma in particular has been looking into the high fashion side of things lately so it makes sense that would she take on the cover of a more high fashion mag at 19. Meanwhile I don't see much that's provocative or controversial about Taylor's Glamour cover - it doesn't look much different to any of the other Glamour covers of this year. I put forth that Emma doing that cover is no different to Daniel Radcliffe branching out and starring in Equus or doing that shoot for Details mag - only perhaps that she's getting more slack for it because she's a girl. Perhaps it's part of that double standard wherein it's fine for a guy to grow up and profess a distance from his professional image whereas when a girl does it it's suddenly seen as damaging or controversial for her to admit a certain amount of sexuality. Taylor, who I remind you guys isn't affiliated with Disney, isn't exactly destroying her image by posing on Glamour either because there isn't much about it that could be considered "sex kitten". I understand it's confusing for younger fans of harry Potter or Taylor to see them on the covers of more adult magazines, but these girls are allowed to admit their actual ages. They're adults.

Hope I didn't offend anyone with that!

Ondo Lady said...

I agree about the cover; it is not one of UK Elle's finest, however the interview is very good and Emma Watson comes across brilliantly.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I'm not sure about this one. I agree with your general point, but I actually quite like the Emma cover. It is definitely more sexualised than anything else she has done, but it's not that extreme compared to the various directions she could have gone in. I see this as Emma demonstrating her versatility as an actress, not a desperate attempt to show the industry that she is "grown up" and ready for adult roles now.

Transitioning from being a child star to an adult actor is a difficult process for both men and women. I think that Emma is handling it very gracefully.

KATE GUEST said...

I got more of a punkish/rebellious vibe from the Elle cover, not a just rolled out of bed thing at all! Diff'rent strokes...

Arushi Khosla said...

I agree with the last two comments. I loved the Emma Watson cover. A Disney star ultimately has to grow up and while growing up does not neccessarily mean raunching it up in a bare minimum of clothes, I don't think it's entirely wrong to wear clothes that show a slightly sexier side at times. Just my opinion anyway :)