Pretty babies:from Drawing Room to the rabbit hole

The shadows of celebrity shows all the reflections of a flickering candle.The shadows are the flip side of the spotlight. They are unpredictable and turn in usual paths and shapes at times..Its always been a battle between the trickle down and trickle up the social ladders. ..The age of celebrity has coincided with sociological examiners like Maslow, Weber et al. who, all noticed a concern with man’s perplexing refusal to behave rationally in what seemed his own best interest. Its claimed that the word celebrity began its long run with the invention of photography, but the rails had been greased beforehand by the romantic poets like Byron and wild performances of a Paganini and Liszt and Berlioz. But before, in the early stages of the Industrial age, in the more genteel drawing rooms…

Kristine Harmon:A dozen press agents working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit. —Cecil B. DeMille, playing himself in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) Academic inquiry into celebrity culture has traditionally exhibited a bit of terror: the sheer power of celebrities to move and change the world, current events, political votes, and fundraising campaigns makes scholars and cultural watchdogs nervous. The technological and media changes that have occurred so quickly with such force, that have given birth to our celebrity culture in a relatively short period of time, are for many disheartening.

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…Despite efforts to establish a career on a more respectable and artistic level,  Brooke Shields has had difficulty in dealing with contradictory and seemingly antagonistic  poses in which the demands of competing archetypes create a coherent juxtaposition which fully enclose the equal contradictions of  American society. She found herself in the unusual but not unique position of  being idolized as a 1970’s post hippie-era archetype of adolescent, heartland style wholesome virginal innocence meets young urban sophisticate.  She was being  photographed in manners that pushed the boundaries of child pornography through an implied suggestiveness .Directly, the blame  of her mother Teri Shields, ,the classic stage mother is obvious; though she was simply acting within the system that was available to her; and she was shrewd enough to use it better than most. The Garry Gross photographs were not an isolated incident, but part of a sequence that was inevitable. But where did this all begin?…

In the drawing-room culture of the late-eighteenth century, sentimentality and sensibility loomed large. The cult of sensibility prescribed a code of conduct, particularly with regard to individuals’ reactions to art and culture. Displaying the correct normative sentiment in response to the contemplation of art displayed taste, upbringing and and a more or less noble birth.Quickly however, emotions became frozen into a limited range of mannerisms; education was commodified in the possession of art and art knowledge and art itself was commodified in kitsch and caricaturized.

"Shields captured the essence of the virgin-whore, as she famously proclaimed "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins", yet filmed commercials warning teen girls against the perils of too-early sex. In 1980's Blue Lagoon, the movie for which the teenage Shields is probably most famous, her hair was reportedly glued to her breasts to prevent them from showing. In her autobiography, On My Own -- written at 16 -- Shields stated her intention to abstain from premarital sex. Reportedly her contract with her publisher required her to remain a virgin for a specified number of years after publication of the book Only in America..."

In the ambiguous space of the chintzy and the kitschy is what could be termed the fertile insemination ground of pop culture; a void in which a grab-bag  of both  heightened and deadened emotions can be represented and created  without worry, for the most part,  of the resulting consequences they could cause: a free zone  safe indulgence that eventually become the norm.  This early pop industry based on the dilettante and active spectator of the arts was linked to the drawing rooms of Europe. Music making as well as painting was the beginning of what was considered safe, socially acceptable “loisirs” or artistic hobbies of women in the drawing room, of which the boudoir became a derivative extension. Brooke Shields as a ten year old in a bubble bath was the shadowy backroom of the Salon culture.

Harmon:There is nothing new about fame. As Braudy’s momentous Frenzy of Renown argues, while current celebrity culture is a new phenomenon, fame itself has always been manifest in Western society. Braudy charts the many ways in which fame has legitimated actions, persons, or values over 2,000 years, and what such legitimation reveals about a society’s particular understandings of “what a person was or could be”---

The low level in which the general population reacts is a calculated stratagen of those in the celebrity business. The appeal   of the sensationalist press and what was then a new phenomenon of avid interest in spectator sports from horse racing, to hangings and the guillotine were disturbing from the beginning, but a force to be reckoned with in understanding the social psychology that triggers such mass consumption and its relation to desires, needs and wants.

“His name was well-known, even if it is whispered with muted distaste in photography and copyrights circles. His body of work is unknown, eclipsed by a single pictorial he undertook for American socialite Teri Shields. In 1975, Garry Gross scribbled his name into a dubious footnote in the history of photography by photographing a nude 10-year-old Brooke Shields. The photos of bejeweled soon-to-be-child-actress, in thick makeup and in a steaming, ornate bathtub, however, wouldn’t become known outside the arts community for another three years.”

Daily Mail:I'm starting them young to try to instil in them the sense that there's something more to life than what's on the outside.' All this, of course, is a far cry from Brooke's own childhood: her showbiz-obsessed, alcoholic mother, Teri, allowed Brooke to pose naked when she was just ten. At 12, she played a child prostitute in Louis Malle's film Pretty Baby. At 14, she was on the cover of Vogue. In 1978, when Brooke was just 13, her mother said, 'Like any beautiful painting, I think the world should enjoy Brooke and view her.' After suffering depression for years, becoming older and wiser is something Brooke relishes, 'I feel older when I look in the mirror, but not aged,' she says. Read more:

hields-Dont-let-ruin-kids.html#ixzz1AyiC08m3 photo:

After seeing the photos Louis Malle cast Brooke Shields as a child prostitute in Pretty Baby, his acclaimed movie set during the last months of legal prostitution in New Orleans. The rest was history — and a rancorous one as that. Some two decades after New York’s highest court ruled that the photos are not “sexually suggestive, provocative or pornographic” and are distributable as long as they are not included in pornographic publications, the public remains as divided as ever before on the issue…..

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Today, the underlying cruelty of the celebrity and quasi-celebrity haute monde is further explored in the predominance of reality television, celebrity obsession and a certain erosion of reliable news and information; sometimes filtered for better. On the other hand, the world in which Brooke Shields was spawned into tells a great deal about ourselves:In the concluding episodes, of the Soprano’s, the psychologist becomes conscious that Tony Soprano is just using her to refine and justify his rationalizations for his sociopathic tendencies and she acts by returning him to the general population. Similarly, the Seinfeld gang, at the end of its run, is no better than the Soprano family. though the Soprano’s experience tragedy , the audience is left believing that the characters have not evolved, and won’t change their behaviors because in the larger world that is even more grotesque than the Sopranos, their sense of  values mix and blur… Shields is a sensitive and intelligent person who drags a weight of suffering with her. As in the film Rabbit Hole when the mother asks: “Does it ever go away?,” …”No. But it changes the weight of it. It turns into something you can carry around, like a brick in your pocket.”


"There is no getting around the fact that I literally cannot believe that someone signed off on the ad copy or the pic. No, someone came up with the idea and some other group of people agreed via committee that this was a go. But, seriously folks, if you were not a fan of the cinematic tour de force that was Brooke Shields in “Pretty Baby,” don’t click further.---

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“The sociological views stars and the mechanisms that create and promote them as the phenomenon; their work is secondary and inconsequential. The semiotic reverses this, and draws on linguistic theories to read celebrities through the meanings and significations attached to their work.” ( Harmon )

Aspasia Karras:Its a tricky thing – on the one hand the image is an art work that highlights the subtitle of the Pop Life exhibition “Art in a Material World”. Brook’s mum it appears was happy to exploit the naked image of her nubile daughter and sold it without qualm to Playboy press. The photograph of the photograph however is an act that distances itself from the original material intent and lays bare the venal motives behind the naked photography of a child. As such it should be in the exhibition, precisely because it is so uncomfortable. Hundreds of thousands of children are victims of the child pornography and trafficking industries. A picture of a naked picture of a vulnerable and exploited child star disturbs us precisely because there is a problem and not even Brook could be sheilded from it....


Nina Teicholz:Meanwhile, Gross was recently kicked off eBay for auctioning posters of the original photos for $75 to $200 apiece. "They were deemed potentially pornographic," he sighs, adding that his intentions for the Shields photos were always artistic. Originally, he had hoped to include them in a photographic book about the continuum between girls and women. But the Shields lawsuit devastated his career. And when Prince's lawyer called him up in 1992, almost a decade after the appropriation, to say that Prince planned to hang his photo in a Whitney Museum retrospective, Gross was too broke for another lawsuit. This was lucky for Prince, because "the courts would not have viewed such an exact copy favorably," says art lawyer John Koegel. Instead, they settled for $2,000, and Prince agreed to include Gross's name on the label whenever Spiritual America was displayed at the Whitney. To date, Prince has failed to comply. The museum, caught apparently unawares, scrambled to change the label last month when Gross called to complain. As payback, Gross went to the Whitney two weeks ago and took a photo of Prince's photo ....

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