Friday, 25 November 2011

Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)

Vintage movie soundtrack devotees of yesteryear (I’m doing my best to work my way around the phrase ‘people who are a little bit old’) will remember the track which defined the summer of 1997 –Baz Lurhman’s ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’.

For those still relentlessly sipping at the fontain of youth, I’ll elaborate – The track involves a marvellously malefluous, wise-sounding American type addresses the ‘ladies and gentlemen of the class of nine-y-n-dee seyveeen’ at a graduation ceremony. He implores them, most persuasively to wear sunscreen and then goes on to dispense a series of nuggets of advice, which have “no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience’. As you would expect, despite the lack of empirical evidence, the wisdom he imparts is more than a little amazeballs. (And this is all set against the background of Prince’s ‘When Dove’s Cry’ as sung by the soulful young Choirboy character from Romeo & Juliet – Which is just one reason why Lurhman is a bit of a genius).

Two lines stick in my mind, in particular. The first is:

“Do one thing every day that scares you”.

I’m fairly sure he doesn’t mean sticking your head out of a moving car window or setting fire to your own knickers. He is referring, I believe, to bravery – The kind which propels you to take an opportunity, or strike up a conversation, or trust your own instinct.

The second is:

“In years to come, you’ll look back on photos of yourself now and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how fabulous you really looked. You are NOT as fat as you think you are”.

This is a photo of me which was taken when I was at the height of my very short-lived straight-sized modelling career, which happened to coincide with the time that my eating disorder really got it claws into my too-weary-to-protest brain (around 2003):

My boyfriend of the time had insisted on taking the photograph in a fruitless attempt to demonstrate that I was being an utter dick (hence the expression on my face). I had, minutes previously refused to leave the house convinced I was fat, hideous and that everyone was looking at me, owing to aforementioned fat hideousness.

In the, to put it politely, confused place that was my headspace at that time, I was a troll. Utterly gruesome. I punished my body for my perception of its (fairly minimal, I now realise) flaws on a daily basis.

I look at that photo now and think that I can only dream of an equivocal sort of hotness. If only I had realised it at the time.

(p.s. There’s a moral to this story. But you’re clever, I’ll allow you to extrapolate it by yourself).


  1. Weird how you refer to that song! I was only looking for my vinyl copy of last week amongst my colection of 5000 45s.

    It was a big hit in Canada and the US! Far more than here.

    The song would get nowhere today because our society is even further entrenched in neandithalific attitudes based on an industry steeped in the principle of promoting guilt amongst women, mysoginy, and the brainwashing techniques of the media.

    Tragically, even those enlightened subscribe to the system which states that females need make-up, hair dye, hair extensions, hair straighteners; in order to look in any way presentable.

    Furthermore, just as women are told to never wear the same outfit two days on the run, changing hair styles on a weekly basis is a must!

    All this of course links in pefectly with body image guilt, without which the fashion industry would not be so prolific.

  2. That song is one of the only ones that actually makes me cry (the line about getting to know your parents). Each time we listen to it, my husband tends to prod me at the "don't read beauty magazines, they'll only make you feel ugly" line (and the fat line too).