Among the the other bits of television fare that I got to view while visiting the parental units in the land of my birth, I tuned in for the VH-1 opus Centerfold Babylon. Ostensibly a documentary about the process by which one becomes a Playboy or Penthouse centerfold and what comes after for those who make it and those who try, it is mostly an opportunity for VH-1 to show a lot of pretty flesh in the form of censored pictures and interviews with a lot of current and former centerfolds. For this, I suppose they should be ashamed.
This is VH-1 though. I think they should be ashamed for even announcing Behind The Music: Britney Spears. The woman is only 23(?) years old! What has she done with her life that we haven't heard about already?
The one thing I suppose I did take away from Centerfold Babylon is how hard and rather tawdry it is to be a woman trying to live solely on your looks. They paint a picture of young, beautiful women with dreams of fame as centerfolds and not too much else going for them other than their looks. Some start as strippers. Others start as aspiring models. Nearly none of them seem to have too clear an idea where being a centerfold will take them.
Some, it seems, want to do it just because it leads to higher priced stripping gigs. Others want to chase the fleeting dream of being the next Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Shannon Tweed, Julie Strain, or Jenny McCarthy and join the celebrity elite.
It seems to turn out to be something unexpected for nearly every one of them. Those that don't have the flexibility (centerfold poses turn out to be yoga-like and generally painful) or the concentration (to ignore the pain and keep that sexy look going through a very tedious centerfold shoot) can end up going back to stripping or moving into low grade porn if they still want to live on their looks. Those who do succeed get a quick burst of fame and introduction into a late night world of celebrity, drugs, and rock'n'roll, but, even they fall hard. The centerfold business is an assembly line, and there is always new product coming out. Stripping gigs evidently dry up quickly. After that, it seems that a fair number of centerfolds drift into the escort business, and, a few pay the bills with high profile hard core porn. Few make the jump to "straight" Hollywood media in the form of TV or movies; the rest are left with only bills and memories.
It makes me marvel on how marevelous and fleeting beauty is. It is something that we almost universally desire and can richly augment life when used in combination with other attributes -- studies show that more handsome or beautiful people make more money and have more sex than the rest of us. At the same time, it is a horribly fragile quality all by itself. It really can't pay bills except through forms of commerce that society seems to intellectually or morally eschew (even by simply marrying money.) How can something that poets, artists, and photographers have immortalized (sometimes for thousands of years) be something that can end up being so tawdry?
The classic Judeo-Christian response, of course, is to make the descrimination that this is beauty of the "lowest" form -- beauty in the basest, purest physical sense. I don't buy that, though I think that they were striking in the right direction. It seems to me that all forms of lasting achievement require a combination of ambition, luck, and self-discipline. To simply rely on beauty alone requires little of any of these qualities.
I suppose that is what bothers me the most about it all is the waste of human potential. Yet, that sort of thing occurs all the time. The captain of my high school's State Champion football team and president of my high school graduating class is a 300 lb night security guard. Other acquaintances have succumbed to suicide from depression, or settled into lives that hover barely above poverty. Choosing to try to become a centerfold, that seems like just another way to try play the hand you're dealt in life... though perhaps not the smartest.
on 2003-10-17 at 12:52 p.m.
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