01 Jun 2006

Then and Now

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LA Times film critic Carina Chocano contemplates changes in American society and the cinema.

The contrast between what is glamorous now and what was glamorous in the days of Cary Grant and Norma Shearer says much about how American society has changed. Glamour used to present an idealized version of adulthood. Now it presents an idealized version of adolescence. In the old days, glamour was all about unattainability, i.e., fantasy projection. These days, it has become unthinkable that a major Hollywood director might echo Cecil B. DeMille, who instructed Edith Head’s department at Paramount to make clothes “that make people gasp when they see them. Don’t design anything anybody could possibly buy in a store.”

Today glamour is tied to the idea of shopping to maintain the illusion that you are (a) kind of famous, or (b) on your way to being famous, or (c) essentially the same as famous people, because you share the same taste in home furnishings, core values and dog shampoo.

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