Starlets Need to Stop Dressing Up Like Other Starlets for Photo Shoots

For next month's Harper's Bazaar cover, Jennifer Aniston makes like a drag queen and imitates Barbra Streisand. Between this and Lindsay Lohan's incessant Marilyn Monroe impression, the starlets-imitating-starlets trend has officially gone too far.

The celebrity fashion editorial has evolved as a medium of its own: Child stars use it as a sexual rite of passage, Lindsay Lohan to cry for help, and aging grand dames to defiantly announce sexual availability. But building complicated, career-related messages from camera angles and tricks of lighting is hard—which is why the shortcut, imitating someone else whose career you intend to imitate, is taking over.

This trend of infinite iterations starts and ends with Marilyn Monroe, the dead starlet that every living starlet wants to imitate. As Lynn Hirschberg notes in a profile of Megan Fox (who has a Marilyn tattoo on her forearm), "Monroe was her own brand before branding existed." What better way to send a career-branding message, then, than to channel the original tortured personal branding bombshell? Or so the logic goes.

Starlets Need to Stop Dressing Up Like Other Starlets for Photo Shoots

But the Marilyn kabuki act rarely works as intended. Every time I see Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn, I question the troubled starlet's mental health. Every time I see Megan Fox as Marilyn, I wonder if she's not just an Angelina imitator, but a LiLo imitator, too. When Nicole Kidman did Marilyn, she looked old. When Scarlett did Marilyn—well, that was actually pretty good. But when Jessica Simpson did Marilyn (via famed Marilyn lookalike Virna Lisi, making hers an imitation of an imitation) it was an unmitigated disaster, lifeless and awkward.

Starlets Need to Stop Dressing Up Like Other Starlets for Photo Shoots

The most obvious problem with starlet imitations is that they invite too literal a comparison to an original photograph, moment, or movie that will be impossible to live up to. A favorable comparison can play to your advantage, but when you're heavy-handed in your push for one, you end up inviting a bunch of "...and you, sir, are no Jack Kennedy" jabs.

But there are other problems, too. For instance: Once the trend gets going, editors and publicists start pushing for unexpected—and ill-fitting—comparisons, like Jennifer Aniston as Barbra Streisand. Since Barbra's most iconic images show her singing, we have a bunch of pictures of Jennifer Aniston with her eyes shut, lips parted, and face awkwardly—embarrassingly—contorted. Jennifer Aniston doesn't sing. Why do we need pictures of her fake-singing? Especially when Jen's great career crisis is that, entering her middle age, she lacks a voice—she can't break out of her blandly desirable rom-com persona. She has nothing to say to us, and these literally voiceless Barbra Streisand imitations only highlight it.

Starlets Need to Stop Dressing Up Like Other Starlets for Photo Shoots

Voicelessness is, ultimately, the biggest problem with the starlets-imitating-starlets trend. If all starlets imitate starlets of yore, then who will future starlets look to for inspiration? Oh, look, here's Superbad's Emma Stone, in the 70th anniversary issue of Glamour:

Starlets Need to Stop Dressing Up Like Other Starlets for Photo Shoots

This is what the future will look like if we don't kill the starlets-imitating-starlets trend now. Starlets, stylists, editors: Start cultivating your own iconic looks. Do something original! Surprise us! Otherwise we'll all be spinning in tutus in the rain for the decades to come, and between the Monroe imitators flipping their skirts up on the sidewalk, and the Mary Tyler Moore imitators spinning with shopping bags, the streets are crowded enough with pantomimes, already.

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