Tuesday 21 May 2019

WHAT was she wearing?

I love watching Fashion Police. There’s something about the ability of the fashion critics, led by the acid-tongued but extremely funny Joan Rivers, to voice what I think about what celebrities choose to wear. Can they be bitchy? Yes, certainly.

Do I thank God I am not the person who is at the receiving end of their appraisal? Oh yes, definitely.

Let’s face it, we have all at one time or another worn completely the wrong clothes and made our share of fashion mistakes – but for someone to flash a picture of us on the screen and tear us to pieces for the amusement of others would be mortifying.

But public figures, for better or worse, have to put up with being analysed and criticized, and when it comes to our annual bitch-fest, also known as the Song for Europe, viewers are inevitably going to zero in on the appearance of the female singers more than the actual singing. It’s not fair, but there it is. Male singers are also criticized, but they are not subject to such relentless, unflinching scrutiny from head to toe. After all, how much can you say about a flashy suit except that you hate it?

The fact is that once you get up on a stage or put yourself somehow in the public eye, you better gird your loins and be able to expect the probability that you will be judged. You have to toughen up and develop a thick skin and even a sense of humour. When Joan Rivers has been incredibly, but incredibly nasty, I have seen actresses and entertainers turn the whole thing round by coming on the show and “confronting” her good-naturedly.

Each year, without fail, the Song for Europe manages to unleash everyone’s inner Fashion Police bitch as FB comes alive with (mostly female) wagging tongues.

Whether we like to admit it or not, it is mostly women who relish picking apart how other women look – and the reasons for this are various. If we want to be scrupulously honest, we need to own up that yes, we are mentally comparing ourselves to the women in the public eye, either in order to see whether we measure up, or in order to make ourselves feel better by nitpicking at flaws and indirectly hinting at our own superior taste and style (“WHAT was she wearing? I would never wear something like THAT!”).

This competitive streak between women when it comes to appearance is partly due to social conditioning; as young girls we are raised in a society which encourages this kind of rivalry in order to “catch a man”. Attractiveness to the opposite sex is everything. In a household where there are several sisters you can often see this at play; it is like watching a microcosm of what goes on within society in general. Notice, for example, how the Kardashian sisters warily eye each other, often talking spitefully about each other’s appearance, and you will know what I mean.

The problem, of course, is that Malta isn’t Hollywood, and Joan Rivers’ cutting witticisms on national TV are not quite the equivalent of our Facebook, which people seem to treat as their own living rooms, forgetting that no matter how private you think your group is, it’s still a public platform.

In Malta, you can be sure that everyone knows someone who knows someone, who is somehow connected to one of the singers. Even if it’s your third cousin twice removed, you would still not like seeing her physical flaws mocked online where it will be there, indelibly etched, for all to see, forever.  So, of course, the inevitable happens – I can be as nasty as I like about all the other singers, but when it’s someone I know, hey, then hands off!  I saw comments to the effect that “people have feelings you know” which is all very true, but deciding whose feelings are being hurt with what comment is a tricky thing. You cannot be selective in these things and arbitrarily decide that “oh my god she looks hideous” is incredibly hurtful, but then comparing another singer to a hippo, is hysterically funny.

So where do you draw the line at these types of comments? Should a line be drawn? Who is to say what is “acceptable” bitching or not? In short, can Maltese celebrities (and their families, and their friends, and their acquaintances) handle the no-holds-barred truth?

Answers on a post-it please.

And now for the good news…

Well done to PBS for perhaps one of the best productions of the festival ever. Moira Delia was perfect and Ira and Gianluca (and his siblings) gave impeccable performances. Thank God we were spared the usual sight of presenters who tried to be funny with light-hearted banter, while failing abysmally.

I could have done without the Gorg and Pawlu bit where the dancers were given masks of politicians (why was this necessary? Don’t we see enough of them as it is?), and those little kids behind Gaia looked eerily spooky with their little red riding hood capes.

Apart from that, it was an excellent show. Pity my favourite song Pin the Middle didn’t win even though I was shamelessly lobbying for Dee Bee. Next time I might just have to invest in a billboard and stick it up at the airport for when the foreign judges arrive.




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