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Dennis J. McKenna
With a natural photogenic poise and a vivaciously innocent risqué flair, there never was a pinup model like Bettie Page. Through Page's own words and interviews with her closest associates, we explore her extraordinary life growing up in a troubled childhood until she found a wild career as the Queen of the Pin-up Girls. In doing so, Page would challenge the paranoid sexual repression of the 1950s with uncommon grace until she walked away at the peak of her career. We also follow her quiet troubled later years struggling with unhappy marriages and mental illness that threaten to consume her even as she found a higher faith. Despite those challenges, Page's popularity would rise again in a more accepting time to become a celebrated icon of fearless sexuality and beauty. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
If it sounds like I have a crush, it's because I do
If I could change one social norm in American society it would likely be that we stop viewing sex as a topic that needs to remain unexplored and unspoken. America, over recent years, has gotten much better at acknowledging that sex exists, sometimes in raunchy and sometimes grotesque forms, but I still see a disturbing rush of uncomfortable feelings loom over a person when one person (cough, cough myself) brings up the topic for discussion. I talk about quite a bit with my friends at school, or just in public, and I've gotten in serious trouble for being open about sexual topics; I've never been reprimanded for mentioning something with grotesque violence, such as school shootings, torture, or even openly talking The Passion of the Christ.
Nearly everybody watches pornography, thinks about sex on a regular basis, consciously or subconsciously considers sleeping with another person, engages in masturbation, has elaborate sexual fantasies, possesses fetishes/sexual preferences, and enjoys feeling intimate pleasure. If you said "not me" to any of those, I fear for the future of our current or potentially-brewing relationship. Expressing and embracing sexual pleasure is one of the most fulfilling and satisfying things a human can experience, so why have we repressed these perfectly natural, often desired feelings and instead think of gratuitous and unnatural violence as more of a socially acceptable topic? A person who challenged America's prudish views on sexuality was not a die-hard feminist, a liberal/conservative activist, somebody with an agenda, a corporate/organizational mouthpiece, or a group of high school/college kids who shouted "we're not gonna take it anymore" from the rooftops of their schools. It was an intelligent, charismatic pin-up girl from the 1950's by the name of Bettie Page, who, arguably, didn't even think of defying norms when she was posing for several photographers and magazines in her prime. She just wanted to show off her inherently beautiful figure, infectious smile, and unbelievably arousing poses.
Mark Mori's Bettie Page Reveals All attempts to piece together the life of the pin-up model, who went from the humblest of beginnings, several relationship ups and downs, an explosion of popularity, the owner of the title "America's raciest sweetheart," to complete obscurity, to an unpredictable resurgence, to her death in 2008. Mori and his filmmakers were fortunate enough to obtain a large amount of audio of Page speaking one-on-one to the filmmakers about her life and her career before her death, which makes the film worth seeing for one reason. This is likely the last piece of information we'll ever get from Page that was not just authorized by her but involved her in person.
With that being said, it's only a shame that the film isn't a bit stronger. The film presents itself in the most basic documentary quality, mirroring a project created with the utilities of Windows Movie Maker and a video-to-MP3 downloading service, as about seventy percent of the film is compiled of a slideshow presentation with the remaining thirty percent catering to talking heads, some who knew Page and some who are just big advocators and supporters of her work.
Immediately, that creates an imbalance in the film's narrative. At times, it wants just Page to tell her story, but its inclusion of outsider opinion shows that it wants a crowd-sourced view on her as a person, a pin-up girl, and an icon of sexual liberation. Mori attempts to mold both together, but, in doing so, he shortchanges some of Page's crucial elements to her story (mainly her proclaimed sexual abuse that she endured by her father, which was experienced by her sisters in an even more grotesque manner). It's almost shocking how casually it is introduced and dismissed.
Nonetheless, this documentary is inherently interesting and works as a great classroom companion for sociology/gender studies courses in the high school and college courses "brave" enough to show it. Sixty years ago (not that long ago when one thinks about it), Betty Page lifting her legs in the air with fishnets covering them, lacey pantyhose draping her buttocks, a bare-midriff visible, and a seductive, lipstick-soaked smile was considered "lewd" and "provocative." Now, Katy Perry can sit on her stomach, completely naked on a cloud in the music video for her smash hit "California Gurls," with the camera angles and background intrusions just barely covering up her no-no areas. My how far we've come.
Furthermore, one model goes on to admit how girls should look up to Page as a contradiction to what "society" and "imaging" tells us now about how women should look, which I'd like to affirm if I may. Page appeared full and complete in the areas males so often desired, and her incredibly vibrant smile and radiant poses and facial expressions only further expressed her beauty and illuminating figure. Page had everything in moderation and exhibits a grand form of beauty girls would be better off admiring than the paper-thin models in the industry today. If it sounds like I have a crush on the young Betty Page, it's because I do.
Bettie Page Reveals All is a title with two different meanings, both of which one could probably infer. One is the more obvious one (depending on the type of person you are), which denotes that Page herself will tell her story and reveal all the burning questions and details you want to know. The other one may need a few moments to develop upon hearing the title (again, heavily depending on the type of person you are), denoting the idea that Page bears all her female figure in the open for us to take as we will. Both accurately define a woman who had nothing to hide, physically and intellectually and forever changed an American social norm. At least she gets a moderately enjoyable film, which is more that can be said about some other heroes.
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