Girl Talk: Were you a Jane girl or Marilyn girl?

Girl Talk*: Were you a Jane girl or Marilyn girl? (Jane Russell, rest in peace)

*With bonus 'Faith Talk' commentary. Woo. 

Long before Carrie Bradshaw and the girls gave us the "Hubble" scene, with Carrie, post-epiphany, declaring, "The world is made up of two types of women. The simple girls and the Katie girls. I'm a Katie girl!", there were Jane girls and Marilyn girls; otherwise known as Dorothy girls and Lorelei girls.

What intrigues me most about the late Jane Russell is that while the world saw her as the ultimate pin-up, and she was moulded into that overtly sexual image by the likes of Howard Hughes, she was a right-wing, "born-again" Christian conservative who later came to regret the blatant use of her voluptuous figure for Hollywood's financial gain.

Before Samantha Jones, Hughes and his ilk had tapped into the provocative power of the female body and its substantial "assets", which he exploited to great effect. Conservatives railed against Russell's ample bosoms, as displayed in The Outlaw and the film's posters, which pictured Russell lying in a haystack (a now iconic image, which gave birth to the Guess girl style of campaign) and asked, "How would you like to tussle with Russell?".

Howard Hawkes, who directed Monroe and Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, created the "Hawksian female archetype" (also played by Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall), a heroine whose fierce intellect, wry humour and/or traditionally "male" traits accompanied her beauty. Lamenting her potential to create great films, Russell said, "'Except for comedy, I went nowhere in the acting department. I was definitely a victim of Hollywood typecasting.''

Russell had other life regrets, such as her divorces (there were two, and three husbands) and an abortion that meant she couldn't have children, which spurred her to create the World Adopting International Fund. If that's not making the most of your perceived personal failures, I don't know what is.

The story in the Bible of Jesus meeting the woman at the well in Samaria comes to mind when I think of Russell. This woman had had five husbands. He asked her for a drink. She said, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samarian woman?". He answered, "You do not know the gift of God. You do not know who asks you for water. If you did, you could ask me. I would give you living water".

This gift satisfies men when water cannot (and here water may represent many things). "Whoever drinks my water will never need more. My water will be like a stream that gives eternal life," he says.

Jesus – always empathetic and compassionate – is able to recount to the woman the facts of her life – her five husbands, and the man she lives with now who is not her husband – and shares with her – a Samarian, a "sinner", a woman! – that he is the messiah. "I have not come to help ‘good’ people. I came to tell sinners to repent," he said in Luke 5: 32.

To me, this tells me that Jesus is prepared to seek us out where we're at, that he ministers to those who are aware of their spiritual deficit (or knocks on the door until we see it), and that when he invests into us, giving us his "living water", the greatest gift one could ask for, we are infinitely more powerful to help others.

Rest in peace, Ms Russell. YSIC*.

And now, the Sex and the City "Hubble" scene, just for "Memories"...

Girl With a Satchel
*That's Christian speak for Your Sister in Christ.

Girl With a Satchel


Jennifer Reid said...

I loved that post! So blessed that we have grace, huh?