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plastic ain’t so fantastic

Over the course of the weekend, I strayed from my traditional toilet-time reading pile (which usually consists of Lawrence’s works or Donne poetry) for reasons that are still unbeknownst to me, and found myself instead reading what can only be described as ‘chick lit’. The toilet seemed to me to indeed be the only appropriate place for this style of writing to be read…

After a perusal of the communal family bookshelf, I found myself curled up on the couch reading Sinners by Jackie Collins, who, according to my mother, was quite a scandalous author in the 1980s. I’ll give you the general gist of the text: Collins explores the ups and downs, and the ins and outs of several fictional Hollywood actresses and actors, some of whom are veterans, as well as some new shining stars.

Oh, and there’s sex. A lot of sex. Not that I am a prude or a nun or anything (who doesn’t love a good sexual innuendo? I did mention before that I am a Lawrence fan. And he’s all about the obscured phallic symbol) but Collins has seemingly attempted to hide an erotic fictional tale beneath the thin guise of popular fiction. Upon further perusal of the bookshelf, it seems that Ms Collins has written quite a number of books, all with other creative and compelling titles such as ‘Hollywood Wives’ and ‘Lucky Star’ which, amazingly, are also about Hollywood actors and actresses. Where oh where does Collins’s versatility end?

I read several of these books, and to be brutally honest, they made me feel a bit funny inside. Again, not because of all the sex. What seriously put me off these harmless raunchy tales was Collins’s descriptions of her central female characters. It seems everyone was either ‘blonde, buxom and beautiful’, or ‘an exotic beauty with a wide sensual mouth’ or ‘a fiery red head with a body to die for’ etc. And there’s nothing wrong with this. In fact it was to be expected, this being a book based in Hollywood in the 1980s.

But then I picked up the next book, and the same women appeared again. And again in the next text. Here, I stopped reading in a fit of anger. I mean, the breadth of Collin’s writings is apparently quite limited, but does she really believe that all women fit into these categories? Blonde/brunette, buxom and beautiful?

At the end of Sinners, the protagonist Sunday Simmons, a poor girl from the slums of Rio who climbed her way into the hearts of all Americans and the beds of several veteran actors, rode off happily into the sunset and into ecstasy with her new handsome lover Charlie Brick, while the overweight and underworked Maria with red hair eats poisoned chocolates and dies.

What made my stomach churn into a maelstrom of disgust was that in this author’s (limited) imagination is that all the slim, beautiful women with large breasts live happily ever after with their handsome partners, while the fat, ugly and unsightly succumb to death by chocolate. Is this purely a twisted reality of Ms Collins being brought to life through her writings, or does this accurately reflect our reality?

We are aware of current issues surrounding girls suffering from diseases such as bulimia and anorexia, and the apparent heavy influence of today’s media on people. Everywhere we look, there are frail, waif-like women on television and in our magazines. No wonder our perception of reality is distorted.

If life was actually like a Jackie Collins book, I would probably be lying dead by now in a pile of un-eaten poisoned chocolates. I don’t have big breasts. I am not blonde, nor do I have a ‘wide, sensual mouth’, whatever that is. My legs do not go on forever. I don’t have sex to further my career. I don’t wear false lashes. And I don’t find sexist, chauvinistic men attractive. At all. If life was Sinners, I would be Maria and Miranda Kerr would be Sunday. I would be fat and dead and she would be glamourous and alive. That’s quite a difference.

In all honesty though, I think I’d rather be a Maria than a Sunday. Because there are also a lot of unfaithful husbands and wives in those books of Collins’. There are drugs, murder, and plastic surgery gone wrong. There are wife swappers and rapes, dreams smashed and broken by oily 50-year-old men who date 19-year-old girls. And while you have to be beautiful to be successful, just what is the cost of your success? A cheating husband, strangers’ hands groping you in the cinema, unhappiness? And while those aren’t always mutually exclusive with being beautiful in real life, they certainly seem to be in the world of Jackie Collins.

I’d be much happier lining up in Safeway with my jeans and old woollen jumper and my hair up in a scrunchy and just be myself as opposed to getting all dolled up and feeling uncomfortable in shorts (even in winter), a skimpy t-shirt and lethal lashings of mascara. Hey, we all know which one is going to get hit on by that sleazy 20-year-old with the awful piercings. And that’s fine with me. Because plastic ain’t so fantastic.

By Made Stuchbery

(Image credit: 1.)

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