- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

‘Lizzie’ lifestyle

“Sitting atop Disney’s big rock-candy mountain is the ubiquitous, irrepressible, unstoppable Hilary Duff … known to her kazillion fans as the adorable teenage klutz of ‘Lizzie McGuire’ and its screen spin-off, ‘The Lizzie McGuire Movie.’ …

“‘Lizzie McGuire’ is more than a character; she’s a commodity about to be converted into a girlie way of life. … ‘The “Lizzie” phenomenon has been a badly needed success story for Disney,’ reported the Wall Street Journal on May 6, ‘a multimedia powerhouse that has encompassed not just the series and the movie but also books, “Lizzie” merchandise, soundtrack albums and, later this year, DVDs. Ms. Duff, meanwhile, has become a heroine for the “tween” girls who have bestowed upon her a white-hot celebrity status.’

“The article described how Duff and her mother are seeking to parlay the Lizzie McGuire image into a separate brand identity.”

Krista Smith, writing on “Teen Engines,” in the July issue of Vanity Fair

Plastic men

“Results of a new survey on the demand for plastic surgery read like a Fodor’s guide to the fountain of youth. … The most significant development … is the upsurge in male demand. The manly ideal of indifference to matters of appearance has given way to the urgent desire for a nip here and a tuck there.

“American men have always been encouraged to forge their own realities in the fertile land of upward mobility and ready capital. … The new data on plastic surgery indicates that men have started to realize that their bodies are no more rigid than social class, and that they … can craft reality on both fronts.

“Plastic surgery, of course, lacks the social acceptability of more traditional forms of self-improvement. Weight loss is admirable, rhinoplasty is ‘inauthentic.’ Slim Fast — good. Botox — bad. The most powerful argument against carving your way to a better body is that such behavior supports normative standards of beauty. This argument doesn’t really differentiate between surgery and other forms of beautification — shaving and nail-clipping also support socially acceptable norms. And placing the blame for repugnant norms on the technology that enables them is like placing the blame for bad writing directly on Gutenberg. If the norms are problematic, plastic surgery at least allows some people to escape the humiliation that results from static ideas of perfection.”

Kerry Howley, writing on “Girlymen, Unite” Thursday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

Rocking for art

“These are difficult days for traditional arts advocates. In the wake of major budget deficits some state arts agencies have been cut back substantially (more than 60 percent in both California and Massachusetts) or been targeted by legislators for elimination (Arizona, Colorado, Missouri and New Jersey). The very existence of cultural activity in many states and regions has been threatened by these state budgetary shortfalls. … What is new … is the greater interest among politicians in developing ways of increasing public support of the arts that do not include direct appropriations. …

“There is an art tax on gambling in Deadwood, S.D.; on vanity license plates in California and Florida; on a round of golf in Tucson, Ariz.; on late fees in paying utility bills in Wilson, N.C.; and on tickets to sports events, theater and movies in Chicago. …

“Alternative funding vehicles work … because the public wants arts activities and institutions to receive the money they need to continue. Two New Jersey state legislators … are looking to put that notion to the test, offering a plan for a donation fund for the state’s Council for the Arts. New Jersey rock singers Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi have been asked to hold benefit concerts.

“Sounds like a pretty good deal: Continued arts funding and a night with the Boss.”

Daniel Grant, writing on “Culture Funding in Lean Times,” Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal

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