It’s Your Duty to Be Beautiful: The beautiful and the thin

Julie Andrews StarTracy Mitchell had another take on Annie Lennox’s song, “It’s Your Duty to Be Beautiful” in our ongoing class discussion.

Written by Tracy Mitchell, April 21, 2008 9:48 PM, CC-BY-SA Licensed

Before Anne Lennox belted out this tune, it was actually sung in a movie titled, Roman Scandals, in 1933 [“Keep Young and Beautiful”, music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, performed by Eddie Cantor with chorus]. It was one of those flashy, splashy, inane, musicals of the era that was meant to make people forget for a spell, that nasty event consuming everyone at that time – the Great Depression. How better to forget their desperate lives, than by watching Hollywood show the masses a musical of the naughty ancient Romans. Who were decadent, vain, self-obsessed, longing for beauty, passion, and power – and did anything to hold onto it.

Flash forward to now. Hollywood = Ancient Rome. Has anything really changed other than the fact that plastic surgery is within anyone’s reach now? I do have to wonder if Paris Hilton and her crew grew up chanting the lyrics to this song. It is rather fitting. But do we love and value them? We love to bash them – at least I do. Value? Dunno… She (they) have value in what not to strive for.

In my mind, the non-skinny and non-pretty woman must mean average. Is the average woman socially shunned? No. Do they face discrimination? Well… yes. IF they are in an area (Hollywood, etc.) that places value on what the skin and skeletal structure looks like and be damned if there are worms and vermin crawling underneath.

However on the upside, if there is some horrible natural disaster and mankind is forced to adapt and survive, the average woman will undoubtedly survive and the beautiful and thin (aka: unhealthy) will be pretty much toast. But in the mean time, we can only hope that the young women out there can become comfortable and happy in the skin that they possess in the amount of time that the “average” beautiful and thin woman can skate out of a DUI sentence.

Another thing to consider… since these lyrics were written in 1933, how did the women then deal with this? These women were your grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers. They did not have the media onslaught that we do, but the pressure was there.

Thanks for the information about the song. I didn’t know that.

Mentioning that, it reminds me of Thoroughly Modern Millie set in 1922 where Millie (Julie Andrews) “modernizes” herself (enjoy the scene on YouTube). It’s really funny to watch, but it is very similar to this song, too.

Your comments about a natural disaster wiping out all the Paris Hiltons of the world cracked me up. 🙂

While our grandmothers did not have the same type of mass media we have today, the likes of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were highly influential in everyday life. Moreover, for ladies, magazines like Harper’s Bazaar were practically the Bible of fashion in the 1930s and even back in the late 1800s. You’re right, the pressure surely was there.

—Will

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