Are people who don't quite look like us as talented? As pretty? As interesting? Perfect questions for some weekend rumination, and today's Times Sunday Styles doesn't disappoint. The lead story, "Trying to Crack The Hot 100" asks the eternal question of why there aren't more Asians in American pop music. Probably, it's racism! But wait—it turns out America is right to rebuff the would-be star Asians, because Asian faces are so totally last year.
There are Asian-American stars in sports, movies, television and classical music. But the "Asian thing" is what Mr. Lee and many other aspiring Asian-American singers say largely accounts for the lack of Asian-American pop stars. People in the music industry, including some executives, have no ready explanation, but Asian-American artists and scholars argue that the racial stereotypes that hobble them as a group — the image of the studious geek, the perception that someone who looks Asian must be a foreigner — clash with the coolness and born-in-the-U.S.A. authenticity required for American pop stardom.
At least the Times is doing its part, right? Well, actually there might be something to that whole phrenology craze after all. Over on page 12, Guy Trebay's Fashion Diary sings the praises of current runway it-girl Catherine McNeil. What sets the 17-year-old Australian apart from all those lesser strutters? Her beauty is classical, says Mr. Trebay, one that would be appreciated by old Pythagoras, inventor of the right angle (or something along those lines):
A forehead should be as high as the nose is long. The space between nostrils and upper lip should be a third the length of the nose. And so on.
But, aren't all models kind of purty? Perhaps, but for the last decade or so, the catwalk has been dominated by girls who demonstrate "pretty starkly how notions of what constitutes beauty are tweaked and how much those alterations are subject to all kinds of shifts in which direction the cultural winds blow." Namely, there's been lots of blank-stared East Asians and Slavs on the catwalk, not that we can really call them beautiful in the same way:
It has been a while since women whose beauty was closer to the Pythagorean, or anyway the old-fashioned Hollywood, ideals have been seen around the business. Why? There are a lot of reasons. Mostly, though, designers did not want supermodel faces distracting from their clothes.
So self-serving couturiers have been depriving us of Aryan hotness just because they doubt their own talent? Bastards! Luckily, with real ladies like McNeil back on the scene, the tide might finally be turning against the savagery of interchangeable, emaciated third-world girls. And not a moment too soon, agree the experts:
"We've been so used to seeing the vacant, plain, colorless girls, and now here is this utterly gorgeous girl, an old-school-type beauty who reads as a woman," James Scully, a seasoned casting director, said backstage at Stella McCartney's show Thursday.... "She's so different from the Russians," Ms. Wolf of Harper's Bazaar said. "She's tall, for one thing, and at the moment there's a tall girl trend".... There is something else and it involves one what you might call a paragon shift.
"When you do her up, she's got this quality that's almost like movie-star glamour," Ms. Wolf said.
That is, she is beautiful in a way that people used to be.
Case closed on the difference thing, then. Society must be defended.