Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Can FrankenGirl Exist?

After Sven wrote a generous post relating to my pseudonym, I have reflected back on why I chose “FrankenGirl.”

I know that larger tragedies loom in this world, but I believe I'm duty-bound, as FrankenGirl, to remind us that we suffer dreadfully from a dearth of friendly female monsters.

For empathetic male "monstrosities," we need look no further than Frankenstein's unnamed monster, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Elephant Man, Cyrano de Bergerac, Beauty's Beast, among others.

These creatures are off-putting, but evoke our sympathies, and ultimately, move us with their stories. We learn that truth and beauty hide beneath their surface.

But if a young girl longs to be simultaneously Repugnant and Appealing, whom should she emulate? If she turns to Fairy tales, she may conclude that her ugliness is most likely a sign of inner evil, and she should do whatever it takes to stay away from herself.

I've witnessed a few failed attempts at creating an iconic "ugly" heroine. Sleeping Ugly, a well-intentioned story by Jane Yolen, left me disappointed: the pictured girl is far from hideous. The film, The Truth about Cats & Dogs, is a female take on the Cyrano story, but since Janeane Garofalo is cast as "Cyrano" and Uma Thurman as her friend, this story could be called: "The Tragedy of Being Attractive, but Not as Glamorous as Uma Thurman."

The real life Lucy Grealy, who suffered from cancer of the face, did stir hearts in her memoir, Autobiography of a Face, but later, when she underwent surgery after surgery to look less like an oddity, many found her growing addiction to surgery (and pain-killers) less seemly than her face. She was criticized (upon her death) for failing to give us hope that beauty didn't matter, because clearly, in her life (and world), beauty did matter.

If we turn to a few high-profile female politicians: Eleanor Roosevelt; Madeleine Albright; Janet Reno, such women are frequently mocked for their very "lack of beauty." However, at the same time, they have wielded significant power. Beautiful girls were distracted by boys—a successful woman once noted—we ugly girls had plenty of time for study.

Yet, our literature, film and media seem to continuously omit any advantages of "ugliness" in women, and we are given no renown female "monsters" with whom we may identify.

53 repartee:

Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

I've wondered about your pseudonym as well Frankengirl..but didn't know how to ask ;)
Thanks for the clarification :D!

Bertha in JE is one a lot of women could identify with..not to mention inclusion of the theme of Imperialism and Colonization.

3/15/2006 1:47 PM  
Anonymous PE wrote...

The one culture that seemed not afraid to portray women as fierce monsters were the ancient greeks. There were women who were giants, who were part lion or half goats, and, of course, there was Medussa and then there were the Harpies. While the term "harpie" is often used these days as a derisive term, the original harpies were fierce, filthy, winged monsters. (There now is a Women Ice Hockey team called the Houston Harpies. Don't mess with them!)

3/15/2006 2:06 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hello, mysticgypsy!

It's so interesting that you bring up Bertha - because it strikes me that Charlotte Bronte portrays her so unsympathetically in Jane Eyre. A dirty, despicable, demented creature who tries to stab our very own hero!

Yet, how right you are! Bertha herself has been the subject of so much intense interest and writing by women (i.e. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys).

Is it because we have so few repellent madwomen to consider - that we desire to deepen and re-imagine Bertha's story?

Of course, it also makes sense that our view of Bertha would transform as we grow more enlightened and sympathetic toward mental illness itself.

3/15/2006 2:20 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

PE -

Hehe – You have forced me to go look up a bit of Greek Mythology! Thanks a lot - :P

Yes, it's ripe with fierce women, but I'm not sure they're entirely sympathetic!

Medusa seems very complicated. I believe she's portrayed as more fearsome than sympathetic. After she's raped, her hair is turned into snakes and she can transform people into stone with her eyes. She's ultimately banished and beheaded, but at this point, she's portrayed as “evil” so I'm not sure she garners much sympathy? I sense she's more an icon of the wrath of the wronged woman – someone who evokes fear not empathy. (But please, anyone, feel free to correct me!!!) And Harpies were originally very beautiful female thieves - later, they became filthy, but still – not so nice - :)

Yay - for the Houston Harpies! Maybe like Witch/Bitch, Medusa/Harpy are symbols of female power - which women are reclaiming for themselves?

3/15/2006 3:04 PM  
Blogger Cristina wrote...

Yes, sometimes society shows how it's got its values all wrong. We live in a world where 16 year old girls are getting breast implants for the birthdays and left to be totally empty inside instead. So sad.

Charlotte Brontë, however, intended Jane to be plain right from the start. I don't think she uses Bertha's ugliness as poignantly as she could have done had Jane herself been a beauty.

3/15/2006 3:07 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi Cristina -

Yes, so tragic about sweet-sixteen implants! On so many levels. Tragic that self-esteem and breast-size are linked at all.

"Charlotte Brontë, however, intended Jane to be plain right from the start. I don't think she uses Bertha's ugliness as poignantly as she could have done had Jane herself been a beauty."

I like how you put this. We sympathize with Jane because she’s not a beauty, and we are reminded by Rochester that Bertha was once a beauty (a bewitching one, I think). Thus, for me, Bertha's ugliness seems to symbolize her inner deterioration - of mind and soul.

3/15/2006 3:47 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

"Is it because we have so few repellent madwomen to consider - that we desire to deepen and re-imagine Bertha's story?

Of course, it also makes sense that our view of Bertha would transform as we grow more enlightened and sympathetic toward mental illness itself. "

Why should we be drawn to mad women in the first place?

Are we drawn to Bertha because she represents rebellion?

Or Are we drawn to Bertha because she represents our rebellion?

As in are we drawn towards her because she is similar to us? Or because she is different? And what does that say about human nature?

I like how you relate interest in Bertha to mental health. The nineteenth century had asylums full of "female hysterics", the "madwoman in the house" was not uncommon in middle-class homes. Some women were simply perceived as mad. It is not surprising since there is a limit to how much repression any woman could endure.

3/15/2006 7:01 PM  
Blogger actonbell wrote...

Another wonderful post. It's true--there aren't enough categories of female role models. And not enough categories of beauty, either.

I haven't read Autobiography of a Face, but I heard about it. It is so hard, in this world, to be so disfigured, and it certainly points out how people feel about their own faces and the attitudes they have about others' faces and appearance, in general.

3/15/2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

mysticgypsy – ah, such excellent question and analysis!

I really like how you note that we may be drawn to “mad women” or Bertha, in this case, because she represents our own secret or inner desire for rebellion (especially in more repressed segments of female society). Bertha doesn’t care about her looks. She doesn’t care about propriety. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She’s “free” to say or do exactly what she wants (albeit she’s locked up for it!).

And because “madness” was, as you say, so misdiagnosed among so-called hysterical women in her era - should we wonder (outside the realm of novel) if Bertha, too, could have been misdiagnosed? And is there a reevaluation of her now by female scholars - due to this?

I suspect many are drawn to the Hunchback or Elephant Man or Frankenstein’s monster - for both reasons you state: (1) curiosity at their peculiarity and (2) the revelation of their similarity.

At once, they seem strange and also the same as us. They may symbolically represent our own invisible lumps that we lug about with us. And moments in our lives when we might have felt alone or abandoned. If any of these “monsters” were women, I believe it would break some “beauty barriers” for women.

But I don’t know - does Bertha represent the rebellion we desire/hide in our hearts or the rebellion of women all over the world who are crying out for justice and change?

OR is she just mad, after all! - :P

3/15/2006 8:51 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

actonbell – yes, how true, beauty does not have enough “categories” but seems forced into one mold.

I saw Lucy Grealy up-close; passed her at a reading in NYC, and I thought she was beautiful. Sure, her face was slightly lopsided, but that didn’t stop her from being beautiful.

You make a good point about how we feel about our own faces vs. other people’s faces. I always assume women are harder on themselves than others, but then again, so many fashion magazines tell us what beauty is/is not; who is/is not; and we may be seduced by pictures and make quick judgments.

3/15/2006 9:04 PM  
Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

I remember years ago reading Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk about a girl who loses her lower Jaw in an accident and becomes and "Invisible monster". The concept that she is no longer "fit" for regular society, all her beautiful friend shunning her and forcing her to look at how shallow her friends and life was.

3/16/2006 5:09 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Thanks for the book recommendation, Golgotha! :)

I suspect there are other novels out there centered around the “undesirable” heroine, but they don’t seem to reach iconic status in our pop culture.

3/16/2006 8:57 AM  
Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

When she loses her lower jaw they are unable to re-attach it as it's picked at by buzzards and it has the best line (don't have the book so can't quote exactly) that goes something like.

and whenever someone asks what happened to me I can say "birds ate my face"

I found it a really attractive read without pulling at the heart too much, it's almost an exorcism of the resentment you feel for those "beautiful people" as you realise, this girls not nice, she's a bit of a cow actually and the only reason she got away with it is she was beautiful.

It's from the guy who wrote Fight Club so it's quite gritty and dark.

3/16/2006 9:53 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi again, Golgotha!

Hehe! This doesn’t exactly sound like an early morning read to me - a bit twisted and juicy!

One thing though - from your description, I sense that the heroine is basically being punished for her former beauty??? (please correct me, if I've misinterpreted!)

Women being punished for beauty is a much more common theme in lit. Cinderella’s sisters get their eyes pecked out or something equally disturbing in the original Grimm story. The lesson is still for the girl, not the boy.

(Beauty is good, but vanity is bad. You're not supposed to notice that you're beautiful and the affect it has on the world!)

3/16/2006 10:13 AM  
Blogger Cristina wrote...

Hello, this might be totally unconnected to the discussion but I just came across this and thought it fitted here:

"The perpetual hunger to be beautiful and that thirst to be loved which is the real curse of Eve." (from 'Illusion' in The Left Bank, 1927, by Jean Rhys)

Isn't it funny the way you pick up a topic and then I keep coming across things related to it? It's not the first time it's happened!

3/16/2006 12:49 PM  
Blogger Sven wrote...

For two days I've been racking my brain trying to come up with a sympathetic female monster that would fit your scenario. I can't do it.

If your looking for "real life" female villain you might try reading The Blood Countess, by Andrei Codrescu. It is a novelized tale of the 16th century Countess Elizabeth Bathory. It too is not an early morning read, and she is far from a sympathetic character, but she is believed to have done some truly monsterous things.

But then again it keeps coming back to the same theme. Beauty.

3/16/2006 12:50 PM  
Blogger Sven wrote...

"Isn't it funny the way you pick up a topic and then I keep coming across things related to it?"

I call that the green truck theory. After I bought a green truck several years ago I couldn't believe how many green trucks there were on the road. Now that I own a Subaru it seems everyone drives one.

3/16/2006 1:09 PM  
Blogger UltimateWriter wrote...

I think people would like to see ugliness represented more in the entertainment media because you already have a 'real' quality to the character right away.

3/16/2006 1:25 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Cristina – It’s synchronicity!!! - :D
(Or else, Sven’s more amusing “Green Truck Theory.”)

Thanks a lot for the Jean Rhys quote. I think it fits perfectly here. Others may take away more, but immediately, for me, it speaks to the myth that beauty will reap love.

(I also think many girls may believe beauty reaps power. But does it lead to significant personal or political power? It would seem to hold only a transient power, not because beauty is transient, but because eventually, one must speak and have something to say.)

Sven – Hehe - do I dole out too much homework? - :)

Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Codrescu on NPR. But, er, the Countess is called pathological (and apparently she kills a bunch of girls!). Definitely not getting my sympathies, right off the bat!!!

Oh, btw, don’t you know you’re a trendsetter?! Once I heard, I had to get a green truck and a Subaru, too. It’s very hard keeping pace with you - :P


Yes! I suppose that’s a big part of the attraction of reality shows, seeing “real people” instead of models.

Or, well, er, so-called “real people.” - ;)

3/16/2006 2:09 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

"But I don’t know - does Bertha represent the rebellion we desire/hide in our hearts or the rebellion of women all over the world who are crying out for justice and change?

OR is she just mad, after all! - :P

I think what we carry in our hearts translate to that found in the world around us.

Coleridge said "We receive but what we give/And in our life alone does Nature live"

Hence, we are a microcosm symbolic of the Nature (encompassing the world) around us. So our rebellion becomes a Universal struggle for justice.

As for your second question, it is the hardest to know because then one would have to define what is "normal". Perhaps the people who put up with the chaos of this world in their (blissfully) ignorant state are actually "crazy" and Bertha instead, with her struggle for survival and justice, is normal.

3/16/2006 4:50 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

"I think what we carry in our hearts translate to that found in the world around us... our rebellion becomes a Universal struggle for justice."

MysticGypsy - that's truly lovely, perfect, thank you.

And I agree with you on the second part, too - :)

P.S. I really appreciate your astute observations and explorations of Bertha's character and psyche, because I confess I've never given her this much consideration before. I believe I've slighted her in thinking that she was mostly the "MacGuffin" in Jane Eyre.

3/16/2006 6:15 PM  
Blogger simmi wrote...

goodevening handsome people

Beauty is such a complex issue.
Sometimes I feel that such terms as 'ugly' and 'beautyful', are limiting, narrow, shallow and and buys into the stereotypical.

I believe that there is a great lack of representation, on how diverse women are.

I find hollywood and fashion the worst source of any kind of representation on women.

I believe that female and male characters have a bit more nuance in European cinema...and that is not due to their uglyness, but due to not presenting an absurd plastic polish topped with highgloss varnish, and speckled with sugar times the bloody disney animations have more 'flesh' on the characters than the 'real' movies.

These are some of the issues that I feel need further interrogation:

1. 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder'; which means that the concept of beauty differs from culture to culture.

2.Living within a globalized world, with some cultures being quite dominantly ethnocentric, one again has to question who determines the universal concepts and Ideals of beauty.

2. Why are words such as 'real' and 'authentic' attached to 'ugliness'?

3.Women who posses/own themselves, who are too intelligent or too attractive, and take up too much space have always been labelled with madness, or accused of witchcraft. A woman must never be too complex, or too demanding, too pretty, or too ugly or she will be branded 'Witch', 'Bitch' or 'Madwoman',

Ahh, such terms of endearment, sigh.......

3/18/2006 3:29 PM  
Blogger Hale McKay wrote...

Was Bonnie Parker a monster, or was she just seduced by the dangerous aura of Clyde Barrow?
...Perhaps, Ma Barker?
...In film, Thelma & Louise?
...In mythology, the Medusa?

I don't think any of the above fit your criterion.

Excellent post, as were all the comments. It was great reading.

3/19/2006 12:30 AM  
Blogger Sophia wrote...

Frankengirl, why don't you write the great female monster novel? We need it!

3/19/2006 10:04 AM  
Blogger simmi wrote...

The great 'female' novel?
Feminism is about recognising the diverse multiplicity of the multiple facest of feminism...from bell hooks to Spivak, to (the anti christ of feminism): C. Paglia.......
We cannot submit ourselves to the (modernist)canon of patriarchal eternety; of the fixed, rigid destination, derrieved from one single source...women are individual beings; with a million stories yet to tell and fill the public amnesia of womens contribution to civilization.

3/19/2006 3:04 PM  
Blogger Sophia wrote...

Hey, I was just giving Frankengirl a compliment. And the emphasis was on "female monster".

3/19/2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger simmi wrote...

I must apologise for being so harsh, I actually came across your blog today, and your story on chocolate was quite was not my intention to attack you.
"female Monsters' only exists as a one-dimensional superfluous entity, but she resides in us all, with all our complex Im getting all carried away and making to many asumptions on a blog which belongs to someone else...and.................................................................................................................................................................

3/19/2006 6:05 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Simmi - Your questions are excellent! Thank you! It’s absolutely essential that you remind us to think globally and culturally.

“who determines the universal concepts and Ideals of beauty”

Yes! Who?! I think we must constantly question the “ideals” put before us, and how they’re often unhealthy and unnatural to a “real” woman. So many pictures are unreal (touched-up) and we’re being presented an impossibility - in a sense, a Beauty-Frankenstein, because it’s crafted by technology and surgery, not by nature.

Companies want to sell us products. And just think how delighted the CEOs are that we’ll never reach the unattainable “perfection” – otherwise, there would be nothing else for us to buy! - ;)

“I believe that female and male characters have a bit more nuance in European cinema”

I’ve found the same and hope globalization doesn’t change this. Some of this has to do with camera lens. How soft or glossy the lens presents the world to us. Hollywood actors are not “really” more lustrous than others – but Hollywood gives us rose-colored glasses (via lens). I love your description: “plastic polish topped with high-gloss varnish, and speckled with sugar frosting” - Wow, that's great.

“A woman must never be too complex, or too demanding, too pretty, or too ugly or she will be branded 'Witch', 'Bitch' or 'Madwoman'”

I just want to add that I’m so glad you included “too pretty” here!

“Sometimes I feel that such terms as 'ugly' and 'beautiful', are limiting, narrow, shallow and buys into the stereotypical.”

Yes. I wish I knew how to get around this. We use stereotypes in writing because it can be a quick, cheap way to reach an audience. And I think many of us feel a very strong desire to make the world seem more manageable and controllable than it is! Thus, we may search for something definitive and orderly: labels; categories. Compare/Contrast. Good/Bad. Black/White. Beautiful/Ugly. This can give us a false sense of security and predictability in what can be a frighteningly chaotic world. I’m certainly not immune to this.

A theme that often arises here seems to be how words trigger different responses in all of us. And so we must allow for a variety of expressions as we contemplate complex issues. So thank you for your apology to Sophia and *please* be generous to yourself as well. We will all of us misinterpret each other at times. (I misunderstand myself all the time :P) It’s inevitable. In the end, none of us looks at anything in exactly the same way, which is a big part of what this is all about - :D

I really appreciate the passion you bring to these issues.

3/19/2006 8:41 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hale –

You bring up some fascinating women for us to consider!

btw, you’re the second one who has mentioned Medusa to me. So I’m growing more and more curious to read up on her!

Thank you for stopping by - :)

3/19/2006 8:43 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Sophia –

Welcome! :)

I agree that we need a "great female monster novel." If men get Elephant Man, why can't we have Elephant Woman?

When I was young, I started a script called “Big Nose” with a female in the lead. Hmm, what play do you think I was plagiarizing? - ;)

Thanks for your support!

3/19/2006 8:49 PM  
Blogger Sophia wrote...

Apology accepted, and thanks for the welcome!

I like what Frankengirl said about allowing for a variety of expressions. My writing usually ends up being "lite" and funny, but there's a lot of pain and sadness at the core of it, as is often the case with comedians and comic writers. I have a serious side too, but I don't often share it. What I find most therapeutic is taking my pain and creating smiles out of it, whether it's a song parody, a short story, or now, a blog.

Frankengirl: your title "Big Nose" made me think of one of my favorite movies "Funny Girl". She ignored those who told her she wasn't beautiful enough to be a star by believing in herself and her talent. An empowering, true story, and Barbra Streisand's best performance ever, in my opinion.

By the way, it's nice to know you're out there! This is like having imaginary friends who actually talk back! :)

3/20/2006 5:06 AM  
Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

Back again, I see where Sophia is going with the "funny girl" idea (one of my favs too) but the film did sugar the pill. Again If you wee pictures of Fanny Brice she really wasn't a looker yet Barbra Streisand doesn't look that shabby.

Again the film industry is focusing on "Hollywood Ugly" there are so few Actresses who are by all accounts "nothing special" the best I can think of is Joan Cusak, but I still find her attractive.

We are taught by Hollywood that anyone who isn't stunning is only scripted as "fat chick", "retainer girl" or "ugly stalker."

3/20/2006 5:45 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...


Thanks for sharing with us about your writing style. I know that I can switch from super-serious to super-silly very quickly, and sometimes, that throws people off!

Hehe - Barbra Streisand probably would have been cast as the Lead in “Big Nose” (had it gone to Hollywood!), despite her obvious beauty! I know Barbra herself has been self-conscious about her nose and has attempted to confront the issue of beauty in film (albeit not with a lot of success).

“This is like having imaginary friends who actually talk back!”

I never thought of it that way! – so sweet - :)


Always a delight to have you back! :)

Yes! If actresses, like Joan Cusak, don’t perfectly fit the mold, they are often relegated to “comic” roles. But I love your categories even better, hehe! "fat chick", "retainer girl" or "ugly stalker."

And you’re so right about “Hollywood Ugly!” For me, it goes back to the Janeane Garofalo vs. Uma Thurman measurement in The Truth About Cats & Dogs”. They both are beautiful in their own right. But we are supposed to believe that Uma is superior (tall buxom blond). Not only is this an insult to women, it’s also an insult to men (Aren’t they individuals with individual tastes? Why do we assume men all see with the same eye?)

What also amazes me - when I hear that a 40-year old actress is told that she’s too old to play the wife of a 50-year old actor! Er, what?!

3/20/2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

Speaking of monsters, I was wondering how one draws the line between good and evil.
If monsters are supppoed to be evil, then why do we sympathize with them? Why do we want to be them in some respects?

Considering that everything is multi-dimensional, perhaps we sympathize with the pathos of the monster while condemning its evil propensity. But if this were true, why not choose an angel (or anything else for that matter) to emulate since it too has its share of shades of character?

I believe there is attraction in vice (or what is deemed "vice"). Whether this attraction is a good thing or not is quite another matter...

3/20/2006 1:03 PM  
Blogger The Poodle's Friend wrote...

Oh, wow. Too much brainpower here. I feel dizzy, not to mention guilty for waiting so long to comment. The thing is, I've been thinking about a monster woman to mention, but alas, I have failed. All women in fiction are pretty, and if they're not, nobody cares about them. Which is exactly what you say in your post, Frankengirl.
The thing is, the concept of female beauty is so ingrained in the human consciousness that I think it's really hard, if not impossible, for this attitude to change. I'm sure being pretty played some role in evolution. I can just see cavewomen fighting over their promiscuous male companions.
'I be less hairy! I get man!'
'I have little nose! Man likes little nose!'
Or perhaps the opposite. You never know with cavemen (or should I say, cavepeople? See how politically correct I am?)
The point of this inane interlude is that women are biologically designed as receptacles, however terrible that sounds. It is therefore their 'duty' to be pretty. Who would want an ugly receptacle when they can have a pretty one?
Of course, as human beings develop into beings with a sense of equality and freedom etc., reason dictates that beauty should be less important compared to other faculties such as intelligence and kindness. However, biology fails to catch up with reason and we have a substantial lack of ugly heroines.
However, on a more optimistic note, I think it's a good thing that male uglies at least are mentioned in fiction. I'm sure it was just as important for cavemen to be sexy, the better to, um, spread their seed, so it's a step forward that they can be depicted as ugly in fiction and still become icons. It's a small step, but it's a step.
That said, I can now see the subtlety in your pseudonym. Beautiful.
OH! I found an ugly heroine. Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair is not exactly pretty, so she uses her wits and... no, wait, she's blonde and gracious, and sings well, so she doesn't qualify as ugly. Oops. (didn't you know? All blondes who can sing are pretty!=)) Besides, she ends up committing implied murder so, um, no, she's not pretty enough to get what she wants without being a murderous slut (excuse the term).
OK, I'll stop now.

3/20/2006 1:15 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

MysticGypsy – Monster & Angels, oh my!

Do angels have shades of character? (I think you may know more than I do! - :D)

”Considering that everything is multi-dimensional, perhaps we sympathize with the pathos of the monster while condemning its evil propensity.”

Yes – this is how I feel about my so-called “friendly monsters,” such as Frankenstein’s monster. I believe I’m looking at someone whose outward appearance damns all his good intentions. His natural desire for understanding and connection causes catastrophe because he does not talk/look/behave “properly.” And since many of us, at some time, have not fit perfectly into a given setting, we may sympathize. Here, “monster” becomes almost synonymous with “outcast” to me.

“If monsters are supposed to be evil, then why do we sympathize with them? Why do we want to be them in some respects?” … “I believe there is attraction in vice (or what is deemed "vice").”

For me, it’s the shades you mention and the layers of monsters that attract and repel. Let’s say you believe in Heaven and Hell, let’s say some spirit offers you a choice: you may glimpse Hell for ten seconds or Heaven for ten seconds. Which would you choose?

(Since one may assume she/he is going to see Heaven later, there may be a greater temptation to spy on Hell, hehe!)

Yes, I agree with you – I think there is an intense curiosity about vice. Perhaps because it’s seen as active, not passive? And I hope - because only a few experience it first-hand!!! - ;)

3/20/2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

TPF - Hello! - :)

Wow, what a BRAVE poodle you are! Bringing up biology! You have gads of courage!

“women are biologically designed as receptacles, however terrible that sounds...Who would want an ugly receptacle when they can have a pretty one?”

Okay, let’s think about this a bit. And since I haven’t been in a biology class for ages, I’m going to turn to Art instead of Science. Look at a Renoir nude. The woman is usually fleshy around the middle with substantial hips and buttocks. That used to be the model of beauty and I think it’s a more natural one.

Here are my 2 cents: If men are only biologically drawn to women, they would want a large, sturdy woman (to carry a baby) not a stick-thin model.

Of course, you could argue that baby-making is not at all what you meant by “biology.” But still - why does a man think a modern model is more beautiful than a Renoir model? My guess: society, not biology.

Yes, you’re right about more “male uglies” in fiction, and even they do not get a fair shake in film these days! In The Shipping News, the hero has an “ugly” chin, but Kevin Spacey was given none in the film version of the novel!

Lol! “Cave-people.” How impressively PC!

Thanks for your comments (and bravado)!

3/20/2006 3:45 PM  
Blogger The Poodle's Friend wrote...

What can I say, I am a scientific person. I am also known for my extreme courage. Ahem. =)
I fully agree with your Renoir points. As you said, classical nudes (and nudes in general) often show women with wide hips and fleshy bellies. What does this recall? Fertility, productivity, child-bearing, love handles etc. It therefore makes perfect sense that men would, as you say, be biologically drawn to women like that.
However, about your next point: I don't think it's society as a whole that perceives stick-thin models as beautiful, but just women. Not men, women. I don't go around asking men about their preferences, but from what I've gathered in my limited experience (ie a few editions of Cosmo and wild speculation), men still like the plump woman with full breasts much more than the stick insect version that is so widely proposed nowadays. Thus, the problem, in my opinion, is with women themselves, who somehow have equated slenderness with beauty, even though classical parameters of beauty were the exact opposite. Women seem to play a huge role in furthering the beauty hype. I think it would be productive in this case to try to understand why women think this way, why mentalities have changes soooo much. Clearly, with the current mindset, it will be very difficult to draw women to ugly heroines.
I've never seen The Shipping News but Kevin Spacey is anything but ugly...

3/20/2006 4:41 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Dearest Poodle – You bring up a very important issue here! I think - just as women must take back definitions of ourselves, it seems we must also take back our bodies.

”Thus, the problem, in my opinion, is with women themselves, who somehow have equated slenderness with beauty, even though classical parameters of beauty were the exact opposite.”

It’s true that some of us may assist (involuntarily and voluntarily) in perpetuating the myth of what is beautiful, but I’m going to argue that it is impossible to blame women for starting the beauty myth, cause, er, how many female Film Directors can we name? CEOs? Presidents? The majority of image-makers, celebrity-makers, policy-makers, publishers, filmmakers, etc. in our world were/are white men. (Or was it really those pretty, little poodles who started this - :P)

Women are being sold an image, and yes, many of us “buy” it. But if that is the only image being sold, we’re in a tough spot, aren’t we? - ;) And if a woman wants to be an actress and Hollywood is only accepting a certain “type,” what does she do?

“Women seem to play a huge role in furthering the beauty hype. I think it would be productive in this case to try to understand why women think this way”

Yes!!! I think we should challenge ourselves about our own body image - and encourage each other and ourselves not to buy into the hype.

But now I’m utterly exhausted by all the work that we women must do, and I think it would be better, faster, and much more “beautiful” if the rest of the whole world pitched in, too! - :D

3/20/2006 6:15 PM  
Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

See, I remember from my Fine art class that the fleshy voluptuous women of those portraits were the desirable shape and look of women. Think about it, pale and slightly chubby women in an era of upper and lower class. these women were attractive because by being fat and pale they were showing their breeding. They were rich so had plenty of food to eat and could sit around all day inside, didn't have to work in the hot sun so no tan. These women were reflecting the fashion for decadence. Today's women want to prove that they are rich enough to holiday (fake tan) and can work out all day (thin.) As the fashion for lifestyle changes so does the ideal woman.

3/21/2006 5:37 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Golgotha – Hi! What a superb point about Art and Society and Beauty/Fashion!

"These women were reflecting the fashion for decadence. Today's women want to prove that they are rich enough to holiday (fake tan) and can work out all day (thin.) As the fashion for lifestyle changes so does the ideal woman."

Yes, how true, our fashion is shaped by the wealthy and the powerful. "Beauty" can be a way to show off class, status, power to the world.

And this makes me want to put TPF's (biology) proposal in reverse as well as rethink her question about women.

For centuries, women have been dependent on men (women could not vote or own property and wives became the property of their husbands, etc.). Thus, doesn’t it make sense that women would feel undue pressure to be "attractive" to men in power (as dictated by the fashion of the day) in order to attain safety, a satisfying lifestyle and even power themselves? Has “beauty” been a survival mechanism for women?

TPF – I'm returning to your cave-people scenario for a moment. It makes sense to me that the women herself want to be "beautiful" so that she would be more likely to attract the most "virile" caveman to protect her.

Have these old-age instincts survived long past their usefulness to us? Do women still feel unreasonable pressure to be "beautiful" in order to attract a mate, a lifestyle, etc.?

Wow, this seems so barbaric and archaic to me! - ;) Do I live in an ivory tower?

3/21/2006 7:57 AM  
Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

Dug out an interesting article

This claims that due to a shortage of men women had to stand out more and so developed blonde hair and blue eyes to stand out from the crowd.

Obviously I'm not sure on how accurate this could be but it is incorporating evolution and survival of the fittest into the mix. If we assume on a basic genetic level a woman's function is to find a mate and breed then surely the body would adapt to some extent naturally to serve this purpose, also with the 'new women' breeding more they would be producing more offspring with the same attributes thus changing the appearance of us all?

Pretty interesting thought?

3/21/2006 9:27 AM  
Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

Oh and TPF - I am blonde (naturally) and can sing but am as rough as a badgers arse!

Hope that makes you feel better!


3/21/2006 9:30 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Golgotha – Thanks for the link!

You’re giving us so many goodies to contemplate. I expect I’ll write about “beauty” again – because some of these more recent comments have reminded me how “barbaric” certain things did appear (at times) back in Junior High when so-called ugly/beautiful girls were pitted against each other. There’s a lot to consider here - :)

“badgers arse!”

Lol! Thanks for the warning!

3/21/2006 9:53 AM  
Blogger The Poodle's Friend wrote...

Have these old-age instincts survived long past their usefulness to us?
Yes, that is exactly right, and a horrible thing. But, you know, I'd rather live in an ivory tower than accept the impositions of society. Unfortunately, most people (including too many women) are unwilling to make that 'sacrifice' and end up conforming to and perpetrating the ideal of beauty that is fashionable at a particular time.
Hmm...I didn't know badgers had rough asses. That's a good piece of trivia; it opens up a whole load of inventive insulting opportunities. =)

3/21/2006 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Holly wrote...

Hi Frankengirl--

sorry to be coming so late to the discussion; I've been meaning to leave this comment forever but have never managed to sit down at my computer when I had the book I needed at my disposal. Anyway, Nina Auerbach has written a very interesting piece on Mansfield Park entitled "Feeling as One Ought about Fanny Price." She argues that Fanny is basically "monstrous," like Grendel and Frankenstein's monster:

Fanny's role as counteractive genius and spirit of anti-paly is anomalous in a romantic heroine, but not in a hero-villain. Like Frankenstein and his monster, those spirits of solitude, Fanny is a killjoy, a blighter of ceremonies and divider of families. It is precisely this opposition to the traditional patterns of romantic comedy that lends her her disturbing strength. Her misery amid the bustle of the play is the stigma of her power.

p.s. I once hauled a possum out of a tree by its ass--it was dark, and when I saw something scrambling around in the tree, I thought it was my cat, who had escaped outside. When I realized what I was holding in my hands, I screamed and threw the possum away from me. It just sat on the ground and stared at me, as if to say, "You're the one who pulled me out of a tree by my butt, lady." Anyway, its ass was fairly rough, and I don't recommend that you grab one yourself.

3/21/2006 5:14 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...


I applaud that you refuse to “accept the impositions of society and its “ideal of beauty.” Forgive me for calling you “Poodle,” btw. I realize you are actually the unnamed friend of the Poodle (rather like an unnamed monster I keep mentioning here... ;)


Hellooooo! I actually attempted to post new today, but suddenly felt the need to add a sentence or two. Perhaps, subconsciously, I just couldn’t move out without you - :)

What an interesting take on Fanny Price! I wouldn’t have thought to compare her to Frankenstein’s monster. She seems more Cinderella-ish to me – in the way that the family seems to enjoy having her about to do chores and play extra parts, etc. (Or at least that's what I recall???) Edmond certainly seeks her out, even before he realizes his love for her. Personally, I find Edmond to be a bit of a killjoy (Well, you know I prefer Henry to him, if I must choose a brotherly lover among Austen’s heroes.) But I digress… Thank you!

P.S. Hilarious possum story, btw, and a good morality tale for us all - ;) Not to mention the practical end of it all.

Okay, have we said enough about animals’ asses, everybody? Are we ready to move on now?


Thank you all for adding to this discussion and for making me think and rethink!

3/21/2006 6:59 PM  
Blogger Janet wrote...

This post brings up an excellent point. We blame modern society for putting emphasis on things like female beauty when in actuality, the notion has been there all along.

Thanks for swinging by today...feel free to pop in anytime!:)

3/21/2006 7:40 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Janet – Thank you for reading & commenting - :)


To all, I recommend reading Simmi’s post on Beauty

She makes a fascinating point about how so many Americans consider plastic surgery absolutely respectable while - at the same time – Americans may look down on other cultures for certain body rituals/mutilations.

When things are so “accepted” in a society, it seems we may stop noticing how truly outrageous they can become.

3/21/2006 9:14 PM  
Blogger Homer wrote...

well.. there's always the wicked witch!

3/21/2006 10:25 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, Homer! I think it may be the “Wicked” part of “Wicked Witch” that disqualifies her, heehee!!!

But, yes, indeed, we’ve got Wicked Witches aplenty!

Thank you for pitching in - :)

3/22/2006 7:19 AM  
Blogger OneEar wrote...

I've had a hard time deciphering the implications of your name as well.

In Mary Shelley's work, Frankenstein was the scientist, not the creation. (Although one might ask, "Who was the real monster?" one would stop asking such questions when all the other kids spit spitballs into one's hair).

In the movie sequel, the creature was called, "the Bride of Frankenstein." Now, we've all imagined being an evil scientist and creating a woman for our own purposes, but would we really want to marry her?

So, does Frankengirl imply that you are half-girl and half mad scientist or that you are a real fan of Al Franken?

3/27/2006 12:57 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Welcome, OneEar!

Yes, there is quite a bit of confusion between the scientist and his monster, particularly, as you note, when spitballs are flying in the air, hehe!

“Frankenstein” is so often misused. But in the end, as you remarkably deduce, FrankenGirl is really secret tribute to Al Franken! How ever did you guess! - :)

3/28/2006 7:02 AM  

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