for 12 September 1996. Updated every THURSDAY.

 

 

Teen Heat

 
 
She was voted the Number One Rookie
of the Year by Entertainment Weekly,
one of the Ten Freshest Faces by
People magazine, and one of the
Thirty Most Powerful
Twentysomethings by Swing magazine.
She was recently featured on the
cover of Vanity Fair and signed a $7
million two-movie deal with Sony.
She's the answer to menacingly
independent sex symbols like Sharon
Stone, Susan Sarandon, and Cher -
confident, almost swaggering, older,
these women could induce impotency
just by looking at a man the wrong
way. But not our leading lady - she
revives that quality of vulnerable
sexuality America hasn't seen since
Marilyn Monroe. She's a woman for
the '90s... or she would be, if she
weren't still a teenager.
 
She's Alicia Silverstone, perhaps the
most hyped teenager since Brooke
Shields claimed that nothing came
between her and her Calvins. As
Calvin himself knows all too well,
the scolding may be a little louder
than it was in the '80s, but
Americans have by no means lost
their taste for prematurely
sexualized nymphettes. The
controversy surrounding such figures
just generates bonus PR.
 
Alicia is, of course, best known for
her role in Clueless, and her
idealistic-to-the-point-of-being-
gullible ingenue is perfectly poised
to fill Meg Ryan's spot in the
romantic comedies of the '90s. Where
Meg's klutzy, lactose-intolerant
heroine wears Ann Taylor suits and
kicks cutely until she gets the
stainproof carpets and espresso
machines she deserves, Alicia's
Versace-by-way-of-The-Merry-Go-Round
mall pixie traipses lightheartedly
through a series of zany capers
until all that she ever (secretly,
of course) wanted falls effortlessly
into her lap. While Meg's annoying
habits and blatant sense of
entitlement assured the neurotic
boomer that it's A-OK to be petty
and mediocre, Alicia convinces the
so-called Gen-Xer that it's not just
acceptable, but preferable to be
clueless - in a more-Zen-than-Pooh
way - as long as your boobs are
adequately perky.
 
While Meg was likeable because her
mediocrity was utterly believable,
Alicia's appeal lies in her total
separation from the average adult
woman. Star appeal is, after all,
inherently, gloriously artificial,
and depends on carefully constructed
postures that have absolutely
nothing to do with reality - in
fact, the more unrealistic, the
better. Alicia Silverstone is a
clever trick, the sensuality of a
woman with the frothy banter of a
little girl.
 
 
But people who like tricks are
ultimately tricking themselves. For
example, men who think they like
strong women, but actually don't,
worship Demi Moore. Demi has a
scratchy voice, Demi seems to kick
ass, and Demi also rips her shirt
off with unbridled enthusiasm (uh,
to feed her kids, of course). Then
Demi talks proudly about how
empowering it is to gyrate in front
of horny men. Pretty tricky, eh?
 
Men who think they like strong women,
but are actually threatened by them,
like Alicia Silverstone. Unlike
Demi, whose last two movies' themes
were "Stripping Is Fun" and "Men Get
Sexually Harassed, Too, You Know,"
Alicia's not threatening to men or
women. To women, Meg Ryan and Julia
Roberts are whiny and bony, but
Alicia is utterly agreeable and
soft. And as for men, where Madonna
and Courtney Love suggest that
strong women will eat men alive,
Alicia puts on cotton-candy-colored
short-shorts and looks good enough
to eat. Just compare Sharon Stone's
boastful self-descriptions with
Alicia's ("a klutz and a goofball").
As we all know far too well (but
still perhaps not well enough),
self-deprecation sells in the
self-conscious '90s.
 
 
Like Brooke, she's so innocent: "I
was a very good girl. We didn't kiss
until six months after we met."
She's so down to earth, she doesn't
even really want to be a star: "I
really love what I'm doing on this
movie, but, at the same time, I'd
rather be married and have beautiful
babies and millions of animals and
eat delicious food and get as fat as
I want..." And if men
(realistically) assume that gals
like Pamela Anderson Lee won't
settle for less than a rock star,
they'll take comfort in knowing that
Alicia's just the kind of girl who
frolics with the geek next door. In
fact, she's dying to go on a date
with you: "I don't really date. It's
not that I don't want to, it's just
that no one really ever asks me."
 
She's the ultimate dream for untold
numbers of closet pedophiles and
backlashers alike, because unlike
baser, more instinctual women,
Alicia holds no hostility towards
men whatsoever: "I'm the complete
opposite of those [tough girl]
characters. Sure there's a side of
me that wants to kill men, because
they can be such silly little boys,
but in reality, I'm insecure and I
can freak out just like anybody
else." Such affectionate apologist
purring, such graceful vulnerability -
you'd think she had a speechwriter
for this stuff.
 
But unlike Demi, who really has no
excuse for her lame poses, Alicia's
only 19. She's also said that she
thinks fine chocolate is "for sure,
better than sex" and that "sex is
overrated anyway." She's right - at
19, men are silly little boys and
chocolate is, for sure, better than
sex - sex with 19-year-olds, that
is.
 
There's certainly hope for Alicia
yet. She's eminently likeable, and
not a bad actress, really. It's her
fans that we're really concerned
about. Those who claim to be "in
love" with Alicia Silverstone have a
problem with reality. Clearly the
silver screen provides a form of
escapism, but why should the
farthest from real always seem the
most attractive? This is not a real
woman. This is a teenager, one who
poses with little bunny rabbits
between her legs. Can you say
"Welcome Back [Misogynist] Fodder"?
 
But then, phenomena like Alicia
Silverstone, Liv Tyler, and Kate
Moss make perfect sense, in light of
the rise of outspoken ballbusters
like Courtney Love, Roseanne,
Janeane Garofalo. Men are scared,
and the women who reassure them are
getting PR bonus points. Look no
further than Alanis Morissette's
remarks at the MTV Music Awards,
explaining that, though it's the
year of the woman, "we still love
you men." Kiss-ass poses like these
make us long for more ruthless
ballbusters, tantalizingly
disheveled, spitting out vitriolic,
thoroughly unlovable statements and
fucking shit up.
 
 

[Zero Baud Archive]

Courtesy of
Polly Esther