January 8, 2005


Who decided -- in this age of scientific lip plumping -- that the female should ideally have the top lip much larger than the bottom lip and the male should have the bottom lip much larger than than the top? If you don't believe me that a decision has been reached, examine this poster. It was not always so. Greta Garbo, long the standard of perfect beauty, had a notably larger lower lip. Ingrid Bergman, the actress with the most beautiful lips, had a much larger lower lip. And look at Sophia Loren's lips. (I mean it. Look at her lips.) Look at Catherine Deneuve, famously the most beautiful woman in the world in the 1960s, at the time of "Belle de Jour." Have I proved my point?

You might say, all of those beautiful women had a larger lower lip because nearly everyone does, and that the new look exists now simply because it has become possible through technology, but I would say that the great beauties of the past had unusually large lower lips in proportion to their upper lips. Why am I obsessing about lips? Because that "Closer" poster has been bugging me! Presumably, they want it to drive you a bit nuts. We see only one eye of each of the four actors, and those eyes are almost -- but not quite -- lined up. The image is supposed to be disconcerting, to go along with the movie's tag line, "If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking." But it's the eyes that you should feel compelled to "never stop looking" at, and it should be because you are contemplating the characters. I find myself staring at the lips and thinking about collagen injections.

UPDATE: An emailer writes:
I think the full upper lip trend springs from Angelina Jolie. While it certainly works for her, I can't think of many others for whom it does. Generally the person appears as if they took a "poke" in the mouth -- very sexy!
Well, here is a topic that has spawned many a feminist essay! Who was the first to write that beauty standards imposed on women create the look an assault victim, thus demonstrating the immense problem we have with eroticizing violence? I can't think how many times I've read that blue eyeshadow resembles bruising. And that high heels excite men because they disable the woman from running away. And those oversized lips are the boxer's "fat lip."

The classic way to refer to puffy women's lips, is "bee-stung," which sounds more painful than collagen injections. I think the original beautiful puffy lips woman is Brigitte Bardot. (What a perfect early sixties look! Do you know how hard it is to tease -- torment! -- your hair to get it that big?)

Here are the annals of collagen abuse, for your amusement and to serve as a warning.

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