Look, Brigitte Bardot was stunning and all, and represented a certain kind of liberation. But, um, isn't she a little more complicated than that?
A strange piece on Bardot at 75 purports to celebrate the actress as an "existentialist icon" and a feminist figure. Emblematic of a free new sexuality, an overtly sensual demeanor and an attitude of not giving a toss, Bardot, says Agnès Poirier, was a model for the new woman.
And yet, Bardot was, like Marilyn before her, first a sex symbol. She was someone who was defined by the gaze and perceptions and fantasies of others. Yes, she was gorgeous and naturally sexy. But the things people praise in this piece and in the accompanying video- her "typical Frenchness" and "joie de vivre" and "modern beauty" - are surface impressions, as facile as those of the men who adopted her as a sex symbol at the time. Says one scholar in the film, Bardot was "a vivid, standing, invitation to experience and inhabit and acknowledge ones one lust, the sexual side of one's nature, because she is an amalga, the sort of perfect shape of an attractive, erotic, desirable female."
They all talk about Bardot like she's dead. When in fact she's inconveniently alive. Since her retirement at 39, while it's certainly true that she doesn't seem to give a damn what people think, she hasn't always hewn to the roles of either "sex symbol" or "feminist icon," much as the author would have us believe she does.
She would only leave her home to protest about animal rights and make some ill-advised comments about immigration. She was once linked to Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front but has never been a member or even a sympathiser. In fact, to this day, she has never stopped being herself: plain-speaking and natural. She has never resorted to any cosmetic surgery, whereas so many of her contemporaries including Sophia Loren, who also turns 75 this week, put their hopes of immortal beauty in the surgeon's knife. Bardot has retained her authenticity. Her story is that of a refusal not only of hypocrisy and moral grudges, but also of caution, calculation and premeditation.
What? Bardot has been repeatedly charged with "inciting racial hatred" for making public statements against "foreign over-population" and, spurred by the ritual slaughter of sheep during Eid-al-Kabir,a letter to government officials in 2004 in which she described Muslims as "this population that leads us around by the nose, [and] which destroys our country." In a book, she wrote that "...my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims." And she may not have been a member of Le Pen's party? But she was married to one of his most active supporters. Don't try to toss that in with no plastic surgery as some kind of free-spirited foible.
I find it ironic that those so eager to claim her as an icon of liberated womanhood are so insistent on looking only at that image that was created to appeal to men, and on ignoring the actual woman she is. She was an "icon," it's true - but not for who she was, or even who she wanted to be. Bardot has been vocally critical of her own film work and of a youth devoted to men. But we won't talk about that: it's so much easier when we can just objectify women and make them what we want.
Happy birthday, Brigitte Bardot [Guardian]
Brigitte Bardot at 75: 'She Represents The Power Of Woman' [Guardian]
Is Brigitte Bardot Bashing Islam? [Time]