The Death of Pretty

January 22, 2012 11 Comments

Lord Somber, an artist in his own right, sends an article by Pat Archbold on the “death of pretty”.

We’re not a society of brilliant peacocks and dull peahens, we’re not a society where the men sartorially strut their stuff and the women hide away in burqas with pillarbox slits for their eyes, we’re a society where the male plays the aesthetic straight man to the exquisite woman.

Woman is the arbiter of style and she defines style for any decade but she’s far more than that in society. She plays so many roles.

Quietly, without fanfare, she goes about being everything – this arbiter of style, the conscience of the nation, the upholder of its moral compass, the mother, housewife, lover, friend, the home administrator, voice of reason, voice of compassion. Woman is vastly more important than many men give her credit for and I, for one, do not see her as the weaker sex. The woman, operating properly, runs the society and as the post on infidelity showed, when she ceases to fulfil her role, unpleasant and destructive consequences follow.

When she attempts to be the man and do the things men do, she loses much of herself. When the worst aspects of Woman run the society, instead of the best, e.g. compassion turned to PCism, then we get what we have today – a mess and an open invitation for the state to come in and take over. When the best aspects of Woman quietly run the society as they should, regulate the nooky, praise when appropriate, manipulate positively, when men and women work together – then the society prospers and grows.

‘Pretty’ is certainly about women and girls but it’s also about art, architecture, even city planning and it has been destroyed in so many ways from everything from PoMo to porn. It can be sheeted home to the Frankfurt monsters quite unquestionably and the results are a Sharkeyesque dystopia [Lord of the Rings] and sheer Eminesque ugliness [ar Trace].


Pat Archbold:

This post is intended as a lament of sorts, a lament for something in the culture that is dying and may never been seen again. Pretty, pretty is dying.

People will define pretty differently. For the purposes of this piece, I define pretty as a mutually enriching balanced combination of beauty and projected innocence. Once upon a time, women wanted to project an innocence. I am not idealizing another age and I have no illusions about the virtues of our grandparents, concupiscence being what it is. But some things were different back then.

First and foremost, many beautiful women, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue. And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as pretty. By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it.

Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot. Hotness is something altogether different. When women want to be hot instead of pretty, they must view themselves in a certain way and consequently men view them differently as well. As I said, pretty inspires men’s nobler instincts to protect and defend. Pretty is cherished. Hotness, on the other hand, is a commodity. Its value is temporary and must be used. It is a consumable that consumes as it is consumed but brings no warmth. Nowhere is this pretty deficit more obvious than in our “stars,” the people we elevate as the “ideal.”

It is ironic that 40 years of women’s liberation has succeeded only in turning women into a commodity. Something to be used up and thrown out. Of course men play a role in this as well, but women should know better and they once did.


You get the general idea. Now, I don’t wish to see women return to a mythical state of Lillian Gish ingenue-ity, nor would I condemn women to live in a Mills and Boonish world of Italian stallions and Mr. Darcys.

Yesterday, I was unfortunate enough to suffer a Mills and Boon attack, i.e. someone put a revolving rack of Mills and Boons and other such like beside the till and so, in the spare moments, I looked at the titles and some of the blurbs. I wrote them down and quoted some to the ladies, just to see how they’d react. Whatever you think of M&B, there’s obviously a market for it, so what do you make of:

# Reforming the Rake
# Rake beyond Redemption [LOL].
# Forbidden Lady
# Adventurous Bride
# Virgin Slave – Barbarian King [for how long a virgin?]
# Billionaire Boss’s Innocent Bride
# His Poor Little Rich Girl
# Rescued by the Brooding Tycoon
# The Prince’s Virgin Wife
# Revealed – his Secret Child
# The Forbidden Innocent
# One Illicit Night
# The Conqueror’s Lady
# Stranger in my Bed
# Forbidden Pleasure
# Surrender to Seduction
# The Seduction Game
# Her Moment in the Spotlight
# A Treacherous Seduction
# In Bed with a Stranger
# Lover by Deception
# Showdown with the Sheriff [bit different to Liberty Vallance]

Just who writes this stuff – is it women or men?

The one which really took the biscuit and had me in stitches was Stranded, Seduced and Pregnant, from which I handwrote the blurb on a bit of paper [annotated in lighter grey]:

From Pure to Pregnant!

Lovely Neve Macleod’s life [redheaded Scot – significant?] is shrouded by scandal. The tabloids delight in branding her a scarlet widow but in reality, her marriage was for convenience. [Oh, that’s OK then, it’s fine to act the tart if your marriage was rubbish in your eyes.] She’s still a virgin [WTF!] and a caring stepmother – but no one wants to hear the truth. [Supposedly they all call her skank.]

That is, until she finds herself stranded and snowbound with brooding tycoon [LOL – the two motifs] Severo Constanza [the three motifs] – her unlikely saviour. As the magnificent Italian [I BS you not – that’s what was written] comes to her rescue, he knows nothing of her salacious past [as a part-time virgin, presumably] – just that she’s pure at present.

Yep, I think I get it. She wants to be laid, in public, by seven or eight strong hunks, preferably onstage, with everyone admiring her beauty but at the same time, she’s actually virginal and pure, in the best societal tradition. She wants to go animal on her multiple lovers, the number of which shall never be told but also wishes to be respected as a lady and for her mind.

She wants it all, even the contradictions.


Surely there has to be some sort of happy medium where men take a step back to a certain chivalry and women take a step back to a certain inscrutability. Therein lies the true empowerment of both, rather than in this faux, state-enforced abomination we have today.

We need a return to elegant and pretty in all things, from art to fashion and women need to rediscover style while men need to rediscover panache. Nowhere is this so obviously lost than in the very way the modern person walks and talks. It was blindingly obvious in Downton Abbey and similar where the women were dressed up as ladies but just the way they moved gave them away – a product of our age.

In the promo pic for The Artist, there was one darkhaired actress who stood with poise and style, one other who was loud, in-your-face and boorish, supposedly a male trait – she would call it “having character” – and another older lady who didn’t stand with much deportment at all.

Deliver us from this age we’ve inflicted on ourselves.



11 Responses to The Death of Pretty

  1. January 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    From your list of M&B titles:

    Good point, that, about Downton Abbey. Though appropriate movement is emphasised in drama education, it is extremely difficult to teach today’s young – boys as well as girls – how to walk or sit in period costume.

    For an illustration of just how far things have gone, those with a strong stomach might like to peruse this from the Mail

    perhaps in conjuction withthis from the incomparable Fascinating Aida

  2. January 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Stranded, Seduced and Pregnant

    link to

    The readers review it positively although it only averages three roses. It’s their dollar.

    Yep, I think I get it. She wants to be laid, in public, by seven or eight strong hunks, preferably onstage

    I couldn’t see that in the set up. I could see a variation on the past coming back to haunt the present, which is a staple of genre fiction. I could see the careful stipulation that the reality of the character was at odds with the tarnished public character. I can see that I’m the only wierdo who immediately gets caught up in queries about the legality of marriages of convenience.

    She wants to go animal on her multiple lovers, the number of which shall never be told ….

    Couldn’t see that either.

  3. January 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    From JD:

    In a similar vein, Bruce Charlton makes a good point.

    She wants to go animal on her multiple lovers, the number of which shall never be told ….

    Couldn’t see that either.

    50% apparently can though, you, of course being of the other 50% WoaR.

    • January 22, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      M&B is not normally subject to literary analysis and certainly not the cover blurb, but if it is going to be quoted it is owed the courtesy of being analysed on the basis of what is in the text or the subtext, not someone’s wishful thinking.

      It’s only 80+ words, so there is very little room for text. There’s not much breathing space for subtext, and such as there is, it is a mainstream M&B “finding Mr Right” product – as are the majority of their publications.

      Where precisely in this text is the evidence for:
      She wants to be laid, in public, by seven or eight strong hunks, preferably onstage
      She wants to go animal on her multiple lovers, the number of which shall never be told

      • January 23, 2012 at 8:18 am

        Sincere apologies for any offence I might have inadvertently caused, WoaR. 😉

  4. Mudplugger
    January 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Sincere thanks for the image of Audrey Hepburn – ‘pretty’ doesn’t come close.

  5. January 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    “Just who writes this stuff – is it women or men?”

    Mostly women, but there are men who write under a female pseudonym. I’ve been told that some M&B writers are able to churn out three or four books a year.

    • January 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      I looked at one of them and think I could get one out in about a week – follow the formula, change the names. Wondered what would happen if we took the sliding scale between literature and M&B and pitch it halfway.

      • Chuckles
        January 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm

        ‘Wondered what would happen if we took the sliding scale between literature and M&B and pitch it halfway.’

        You would lose your bodice.

  6. Able
    January 23, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Interesting perspective. Your ‘pretty’ is I suspect my ‘ladylike’ or ‘feminine’. Neither of those precludes strength, capability or self-reliance. I too feel that in debasing those traits the feminist movement has ‘thrown the baby out with the bath-water’.

    Let’s not forget that the family, as it is traditionally structured, and therefore much of society, is a construct which, if not exclusively formed by women, is primarily beneficial to women and child-bearing. If the foundations on which societies are based are so fundamentally changed (by removing the rationale for a male to act to protect and provide) then it doesn’t bode well for it’s survival.

    I am more hopeful than that though. Most women are still feminine and ladylike (although there have obviously been changes in the extent that that covers). Likewise, whilst chivalry is not as prevalent as it may have been, I believe most men (despite being portrayed as violent rapists and pedophiles) still act in a manner protective towards women and children. That there are ever increasing numbers of louts and ladettes is worrying, but it’s not yet at a level to cause alarm (choosing a self-selecting group like actors and the publicity seeking trouble making minority is not indicative of a majority).

    As for M&B, never having even glanced at one (I have a macho image to sustain here, you know) I shall refrain from commenting, but if you look at the plots and characters in most male fiction you’d assume we were all rampant homicidal schizophrenics (all dropping witty one liners and with good hair too?) faithful but sleeping with every women who drops her drawers after a raised eyebrow.

    My take is there are still pretty ladies out there. How can you tell the difference? I like the quote:

    “Not all women like chivalry. Just the ones worth dying for!”

    • January 23, 2012 at 8:22 am

      Neither of those precludes strength, capability or self-reliance. I too feel that in debasing those traits the feminist movement has ‘thrown the baby out with the bath-water’.

      Absolutely – strong and feminine are two words which go very well together. WN2 of mine had some plumbing work done and I couldn’t get over how strong and resilient she was. Women have an amazing capacity to soak up the untoward and still function. As species, women, dolphins, whales, big cats and eagles are my personal favourites. Don’t know about you.

      “Not all women like chivalry. Just the ones worth dying for!”

      Another brilliant one. It’s so true. And the woman worth dying for does such good things for us, gets us in order, gets our thinking clearer – all sorts of manliness can emerge from its slumber.


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