The Value of Beauty

by Kiko Matsing

Kim Novak: Mysterious Beauty in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo

My favorite director is, of course, Alfred Hitchcock… He has been notoriously pilloried as a misogynist by feminists, whereas I think he’s got it right [about women]. From my perspective… I really think that Hitchcock had an eye for beautiful women’s [or] sexy women’s relationship to their bodies, to costume, to self-presentation. There was a kind of glamorous, sexual woman that feminism has never taken seriously, [and] has always attacked as being merely a pawn of male fantasy. And that’s not what I say at all…

I do worship the beautiful, glamorous woman. Time conquers all. Beauty fades. Beauty is transient. That is why we value it. This is what the ancient Greeks knew about beautiful boys, and beautiful, perfect, athletic bodies. To me, feminism’s failure to acknowledge that beauty is a value in itself… That even if a woman manages to achieve it for a particular moment, she has contributed something to the culture. And thank heavens for photography, and for movies that preserve forever the beauty of certain women at their absolute peak, whether it’s Catherine Deneuve or Elizabeth Taylor, or the great stars of the 1930s, Jean Harlow, Rita Hayworth at her peak. So my entire frame of reference is closer to that of the mass audience that goes to movies than it is to that of feminist theorists.

(from Camille Paglia, interview for The Munk Debates)

Another gem from my favorite pop critic. The sheer energy in her admiration of glamorous women is infectious. That fan excitement is what is missing in all that ponderous “theorizing” that passes for scholarship in the humanities.