April 18, 2006

I'm glad to see that Robin Givhan won a Pulitzer Prize.

Here's the report in her newspaper, The Washington Post. The category is Criticism. Criticize all you want, but she's my favorite bloggable columnist. There was that column on Condoleezza Rice's stiletto boots:
As Rice walked out to greet the troops, the coat blew open in a rather swashbuckling way to reveal the top of a pair of knee-high boots. The boots had a high, slender heel that is not particularly practical. But it is a popular silhouette because it tends to elongate and flatter the leg. In short, the boots are sexy.
Blogged here:
Robin Givhan... heavy-breathes about the sexuality of Rice's clothes, even though all we're really talking about here is that the outfit was all black ("The darkness lends an air of mystery and foreboding"), that the boots had high heels ("Heels … alter her posture in myriad enticing ways, all of which are politically incorrect to discuss"), and that women often dress much less attractively ("She was not wearing a bland suit with a loose-fitting skirt and short boxy jacket with a pair of sensible pumps").

Women with power easily unleash ideation about sex -- and sex and power. If the woman can't be contained by the thought that her powerfulness has removed her sexuality altogether, then the thought becomes that her sexuality has merged with her power. In the case of Condoleezza Rice, who has a high position of power and is distinctly attractive, she seems to become a strange new being -- a superhero – like Neo in "The Matrix"!

Is it wrong to talk about powerful women this way? I say no. Image, fashion, and beauty are all important. And we certainly didn't refrain from talking about how the male candidates for President looked in 2004. We obsessed over their ties, their hair and their makeup, and the bulges under their clothes. So go ahead and spout your theories about the meaning of Condoleezza Rice's high-heeled boots.

Mine is: these boots are made for running for President.

There was the one about John Bolton:
The fulsome silhouette of the mustache makes for a particularly dreary distraction and seems to pull his whole face downward. It makes Bolton, who is only 56, look hoary and dour. For a man who has shown little evidence of a capacity to charm -- an ability that can come in handy for an ambassador -- the mustache makes him appear unwelcoming. For all of the testimony about his spiteful dealings with both colleagues and underlings, and his denials of such behavior, he managed to look mean.
Blogged here:
Well, that goes along with my longtime opinion of mustaches: they make men look mean. Charlie Chaplin might be the only exception. Please men! Let us see your philtrum! Nothing makes a man more adorable than a well-shaped philtrum. And nothing uglifies like a mustache!
There was the one about what Judith Miller and Li'l Kim wore for their sentencing walks:
The women seemed acutely aware that the sentencing walk -- like its predecessor, the perp walk -- defines them in the public's mind. In its execution, it is not enough to stand straight and hold one's head high. This is a powerful visual image capable of conveying subtleties and broad strokes. Both women were playing to their fans.
Blogged here:
Givhan goes on to describe the effect serving time will have on the two women's careers. Since Li'l Kim is a rap artist, according to Givhan, it can only help. For rap fans: "The prison term seems less an ordeal than a right of passage." Well, you can argue about whether that's politically incorrect, but it sure is a usage error. Where are the WaPo proofreaders?

There was the one blogged here:
"Why dress in 'ho gear' and risk being treated like a hooker?"

Oh, come on. You're not going to blog every single essay Robin Givhan writes, are you?

Well, I don't know, maybe I should. You know she does ask some pretty tantalizing questions:
If clothes function as semiotics, where does the power lie -- with the sender or the receiver? And what happens when the sender is purposefully offering up misinformation?

Yeah, you find those questions tantalizing?

Uh, no, I guess not. Now that you mention it.
There was the one about Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish:
All of ["The Comeback"]'s nuances are reflected in Cherish's most distinctive physical characteristic, her long red hair with its painstakingly organized curls that have been flipped back and away from her face. That hair is gloriously thick and the waves fall with an unnatural precision. The hair appears Breck Girl clean, devoid of the styling products now used to give hair an informal, slightly messy appearance. Hers is hair meant to be tossed in slow motion during the opening montage of "Baywatch."

In constructing the character, Kudrow has said that Cherish's hair color was a calculated decision. In Cherish's mind, "blond is dumb comedy, red hair is smart, sexy comedy." And, presumably, brunette isn't funny at all.
Blogged here:
Givhan doesn't mention it, but red hair and comedy are indelibly associated with Lucille Ball. But of course, Cherish is wrong about a lot of things, so Kudrow's analysis of how Cherish thinks must be understood in that light. But I have a feeling Lisa loves Lucy....

Why is red hair so meaningful?
There was the one blogged here:

"Standing alone, Mrs. Bush looked lovely."

"But next to Camilla, whose Robinson Valentino blazer and skirt made her look like a large rectangle, the first lady reminded one of a radiant bride shining brightly next to a dutifully bland bridesmaid." That's the description from WaPo's Robin Givhan, who also takes note of the President: "The president looked handsome in his tuxedo. For once he didn't have the body language of a kid with a bad sunburn forced to wear a wool suit."
The one blogged here:

Saddam on trial -- in a Western suit with a pocket square but no tie!

Robin Givhan wonders what that means:
The pocket square was a particularly distracting flourish. Paired with a tie, a pocket square tends to make a man look more formally attired. But without that accompaniment, it can look almost jaunty and rakish -- like Sinatra or Dino in Vegas.

Hussein's style choice throws the viewer off balance. Is his modest paean to the Flamingo a simple reflection of his hair-dyeing, gold-leaf-loving, frightful vanity? Or has he decided to beat the "occupiers" from within their own system? Take it over, or mock it?
There was the infamous slam at the Alitos, as blogged here:

"They often looked as though they had coordinated their ensembles in the manner of a family heading off to the Sears photo studio."

WaPo's Robin Givhan analyzes the Alitos from the fashion standpoint:
He and his wife of almost 21 years wore similar wire-rimmed glasses. His were only slightly more angular than hers. They both have short-cropped brown hair....On the first day of hearings, her red suit with its contrasting piping matched his red tie. On the second day, she echoed his pale blue shirt with her blue sweater, which fell discreetly to mid-thigh. On the fourth day, her white jacket over a red dress mirrored his white shirt and red tie.

Givhan skirts very close to sneering, but in the end, she seems rather admiring. Or is that patronizing?
Earlier she'd written about the more perfectly dressed John Roberts family, in a column called "An Image a Little Too Carefully Coordinated":
Dressing appropriately is a somewhat selfless act. It's not about catering to personal comfort. One can't give in fully to private aesthetic preferences. Instead, one asks what would make other people feel respected? What would mark the occasion as noteworthy? What signifies that the moment is bigger than the individual?

But the Roberts family went too far. In announcing John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, the president inextricably linked the individual -- and his family -- to the sweep of tradition. In their attire, there was nothing too informal; there was nothing immodest. There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it.
Reading about the Pulitzer Prize reminded me first of that column, which I was suprised to see I didn't blog about. Didn't everyone blog about that one? Looking back at my blog from that time, I can see why I didn't get to it. I was incredibly busy dealing with the nomination itself.

Givhan put down Hillary Clinton too:
After eight years as first lady wearing innumerable skirt suits that did little to flatter her physique, she now wears pants almost exclusively. As a matter of personal style, this is a good thing. The senator looks more streamlined and elegant.
Oh, don't say that's not a putdown. No woman wants to hear a compliment like that! Blogged here (getting to the subject of men in skirts).

Most recently, she caught my eye with this one about the way they dress on "American Idol," blogged here.

So congratulations to Robin Givhan! Keep up the richly bloggable work.


The Drill SGT said...

I think you also blogged on her assassination of Mrs Roberts and the Kids in their "Sunday Best" White House Appearance.

Ann Althouse said...

Sgt: I looked for it, but it doesn't look as though I did. Maybe I was writing on Instapundit or GlennReynolds.com at the time. I did a hasty Google and didn't find it.

Thorley Winston said...

Put this in the column of “Why the MSM deserves so little respect” for giving a Pulitzer to a fashion critic. How soon before Joan Rivers receives an Oscar for her work on E!?

Ann Althouse said...

Thorley: I strongly disagree. Fashion is an important field for criticism. It has a significant and nuanced place in culture and politics.

I note that they didn't even give an award for Drama this year. Yet you probably think a drama critic, spending time on that impoverished area of culture, deserves respect.

There's much more going on in fashion.

Maxine Weiss said...

I like her a lot. Very schmaltzy. Very saucy.

"Fashion is an important field for criticism"

That's true but now that all these "stylists" are making everyone look tasteful, sanitized, and homogenized.......no originality/individuality....at least according to Carol Burnett

.....I'm afraid there might not be anything to criticize anymore.

.....Still, the genius of Robin is that no matter how seemingly benign...she can always find something to dissect and rip apart!

Delicious, good fun.

Peace, Maxine

Gaius Arbo said...

THAT was one long post! I linked it.

Betsy Newmark had the best line I've seen yet on this year's Pulitzers, and this post really puts it in perspective.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pancho said...

He and his wife of almost 21 years

Does this mean that his wife is only 20 or that they have been married for 21 years. Great if the former is true, sympathy if the later is the case.

knoxgirl said...

SippicanCottage said...
I saw forty five column inches of cut and paste text , and immediately my corroded mind prodded me:

Quxxo must be guest blogging


And I don't use that one lightly!

Jeff said...

Hmm, I notice you didn't quote Givhan's column that merited criticism from the Post's ombudsman Michael Getler (and in his debut column!).

Givhan: "At this moment that so desperately needs diplomacy, understatement and calm, one wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan one-upmanship."

"Her skin had been plastered and powdered to the texture of pre-war walls...[S]he looked as if she were wearing a mask...The American public doesn't like falsehoods, and Harris is clearly presenting herself in a fake manner...Why should anyone trust her?"

The ombudsman's column "Mascara Smear" can be found here