- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

‘B-list Barbies’

“In their competing reality shows, Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton have resonated through the culture blending wealth, sex appeal, and the twist that has catapulted them from B-list Barbies to national phenomena: marketing themselves on the absurdities that spill from out of the mouths of babes. …

“Simpson enjoyed a middling pop career before MTV began to chronicle her life with her beefcake husband, boy-band heartthrob Nick Lachey, on their show ‘Newlyweds.’ The network sells the show to viewers almost exclusively on the pretense of what airhead admission Simpson will make next. …

“Before ‘The Simple Life,’ which this season follows Hilton and friend Nicole Richie on a road trip through rural America, Hilton was a frisky girl seducing paparazzi on the red carpet, mildly famous for her skimpy clothing and dating life, but hardly a household name. …

“When Paris Hilton suggests she has never heard of Wal-Mart, she’s reminding her viewers that she has never needed to buy cheap clothing off the rack of a linoleum floored warehouse where the rest of the population shops. … Jessica Simpson may not have grown up at the Waldorf-Astoria like the Hilton sisters, but her ignorance of one of the most popular brands of tuna fish mainly demonstrates that she will never need to eat out of a can, nor will she ever have to serve up buffalo wings for measly tips, like so many singers whose greatest fantasy is a shot at a singing career like hers.”

Lauren Sandler, writing on “Double Platinum,” Thursday in the New Republic Online at www.tnr.com

Love and hate

“The liberation of women in Western societies and especially the U.S. is a part of modernity detested in the Arab-Islamic world. They also associate it with hedonism, decadence and pornography. The autonomy of women flies in the face of [Islamic] traditions. …

“Many people around the world crave modernity but once it becomes clear that some of its fruits or byproducts are problematic, they turn on the U.S. — the major representative of modernity. …

“The major contradiction is that millions of people want and try to come to this much vilified country from every corner of the world. At the same time few of the most embittered domestic critics would consider moving abroad to get away from all this evil, as they see it.”

Author Paul Hollander, interviewed by Jamie Glazov, Thursday in Front Page at www.frontpagemag.com

Cinderella forever

“The past few months alone have given us three movies riffing on the Cinderella theme, stories about girls striving to channel their inner princess: Martha Coolidge’s ‘The Prince and Me,’ starring Julia Stiles as a no-nonsense American college student who falls for the European prince who’s attending her school incognito; Mark Rosman’s ‘A Cinderella Story,’ in which Hilary Duff plays a modern-day San Fernando cinder girl … and Garry Marshall’s ‘The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,’ in which Anne Hathaway … needs to find a royal mate in order to ascend the throne of the country she was born to rule. …

“The big problem with the current spate of Cinderella movies … is not that they encourage unrealistically high romantic expectations in girls, but that they’re barely romantic at all. Instead, even beneath their frothy, seemingly fun surfaces, there’s something numbingly instructive about them.”

Stephanie Zacharek, writing on “Pretenders to the Throne,” Thursday in Salon at www.salon.com

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