Topic: Society

Ashlee Simpson in "The Twilight Zone"

Ashlee Simpson, Jessica’s little and even less talented sister, could easily qualify as a repeat winner in the Liar of the Month category, having gotten the nod back in 2004 with her string of absurd explanations of why she was caught lip-synching on the supposedly “live” Saturday Night Live. This time, however, her lie is both more substantive and more culturally significant.

As Pink pointed out in her terrific satirical music video “Stupid Girls,” pop stars like Simpson do influence the attitudes of their mostly female teen and ‘tween fans, and too often send messages that make them dumb, self-absorbed, insecure or sick. Ashlee Simpson would be just one of the pack, a B-lister compared to the more influential and popular “pop tarts” like Lindsay Lohan, Hillary Duff, and Christine Aguilara, if her particular contribution were not so hypocritical and unsettling. Simpson, you see, followed her lip-sync debacle by becoming the herald of imperfection, proclaiming that she had made mistakes, that she wasn’t perfect, and that it was important for people to be comfortable with themselves and to not seek some unattainable ideal. Sincere or not, it was a good message, and one that was eagerly embraced by the young female fans that scream at her live concerts, only marginally less musically than the manner in which their idol “sings.” Ashlee’s “love me for me” mantra extended to her personal appearance as well, as the pretty enough but average-looking singer proclaimed herself to be at peace with her somewhat long and bumped nose, her pointed chin, and her lack of the kind of head-turning curves that have made her sister the latest blonde sex symbol.

Then Simpson disappeared for a few weeks, and returned with a short, straight nose, a reduced chin, and a generically beautiful face that made her indistinguishable from about twenty other All-Purpose Hollywood Blondes. (One magazine matched shots of the new Ashlee with photos of five other blonde stars, like Hillary Duff and Sarah Michelle Gellar, challenging readers to pick her out.) Perfect for skin cleanser commercials. Perfect for magazine covers. Which one are you, again? Simpson decided that those imperfections she professed to love were a career impediment, and so used her record sales to get a major cosmetic overhaul. She is now the embodiment of the media-created ideal for feminine beauty, absolutely lacking any non-conforming feature. Can Jessica-style mega-breast implants be far behind? Don’t bet against it.

Incredibly, despite the dramatic changes in her appearance, Simpson refuses to admit that she visited the plastic surgeon. [An aside: is it not bizarre that the media, which seldom hesitates to leap to conclusions in important matters, persists in writing that Ashlee has “allegedly” had a nose job? The woman has a completely different nose! What other explanation is there? If she went into the hospital and came out with only one leg but refused to confirm that it was missing, would the Washington Post still write that she had “allegedly had her leg amputated”? Apparently so.] And she still is telling her fans that she’s learned that “you don’t have to be perfect.” How does this message and the lyrics of such Simpson classics as “I Am Me” square with her surgically enhanced face? They don’t, of course. Her conduct and appearance mock her words. The real message: the way to success and happiness, kids, is to get as conventionally beautiful as you can, and individuality be damned.

Once again, the mind races back to a particularly upsetting episode of “The Twilight Zone,” entitled “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” The story involved a young girl in a future society being pressured to undergo a standard procedure that would transform her face and form into one of several perfect templates mandated by the state. She resisted, declaring that it would rob her of her individuality, but ultimately ended up as a blandly beautiful voluptuous teen who appeared to be a clone of her vacuous best friend. “And the best part is, I look just like you!” she giggles, admiring herself in the mirror.

Ashlee Simpson, by betraying the trust of her fans, has done her part to bring “The Twilight Zone” one step closer to reality.

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