Two things I was fairly certain I would never do: say "You should all read this thing in Marie Claire!" and comment on the death of Don Cornelius. Having already done the former this week, let's go ahead and knock out the latter.
The famous Soul Train host died on Wednesday, leading to many topical Facebook posts and shared video clips. I remember the show well from childhood – it followed Saturday morning cartoons and was also popular on Sunday evenings – but it is hardly an integral part of my life or memories. It has been a good 25 years since I watched or thought about it. But this clip, of the much-loved "line dance" portion of the show, caught my eye:
A lot of things have changed in 30-plus years, obviously, but it is striking how much different these people look than the ones we see on TV today (or would see if Soul Train was still on the air). They look like real people. No fake hair, fake boobs, fake nails, fake collagen-pumped lips, fake eyelashes, or fake smiles. The women don't look like porn stars and the men don't look like steroid addled He-Men with abs like cheese graters and zeppelin arms. They're all dressed loudly but quite differently. And they look like they're having actual fun rather than wearing fake, practiced personalities for the camera.
Nothing's easier than idealizing the past – usually unjustifiably – so I'm trying to tread lightly here. It's just surprising to me in a way that has probably already occurred to older readers to see how the idealized image of cool people listening to cool music has become so overwhelmingly fake and detached from reality in a relatively short period of time. Would any of these women make it on an MTV-type program today without a boob job and/or lipo? Would any of those guys be trying to make it in Hollywood today without hitting the gym until they looked like UFC fighters? And we wonder why kids transition to adulthood with such horribly distorted self images these days. I'm sure the pressure to be thin and pretty has been around forever, but it would be nice if Hollywood suggested that you could look like an actual human being and still be cool.