A Page in History*
The Ryerson Theatre was a bad venue for last night's (Toronto International Film Festival) picture The Notorious Bettie Page though, ultimately, I did leave the theatre feeling like I'd seen and done something worthwhile. The well constructed movie depicted the historical icon and pin-up girl Bettie Page (played by Gretchen Mol) as an innocent and somewhat naive woman. I'd been unaware until reading the movie synopsis that Bettie's modelling career had led her to do some bondage photos with other female models, and that the issue had arose in the US supreme court in 1955, ultimately leading to a ban on the photos and their subsequent burning. Suppose in a way that Bettie was the original Madonna. 50 years later there's not much difference in how Western, and especially American, culture reacts to fetish and bondage images. Some of Madonna's videos won't see any airplay in this country either, understandably, since TV is seen by the masses, but there was still quite a coup over her "scandalous" images in the pictorial book SEX. Admitly, I thought her overly staged shots just made her look like a sad celebrity overindulging in her rauncyiness; with all respect, however, to a woman who knows how to push and play with society's morays.
Gretchen, who ran by me 3 times wearing fantastic heels the girls I was with were dying for, did a beautiful job as Bettie Page, the icon who loved her body and enjoyed showing it. At the end of the day however I felt the film didn't leave anything for me to take away, to ponder, except perhaps where a sense of shame comes from. Once people told Bettie what she was doing was wrong she began to feel ashamed of her "sins". She turned to God and dropped out of sight. Perhaps she just needed Madonna's "cojones", a better group of friends, and should have moved to Paris to live the good life with her shameless peers Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Josephine Baker in a place where nobody gave a damn about a naked nipple or some leather boots. *(Added note as at September 22) - Bettie Page wasn't coerced into dressing up in "special costumes" and reportedly admitted having fun playing dress-up. This blog in no way condones harm to others in any way or form. It does condone loosening up a little.)