Friday, April 25, 2008

A childhood skin-deep

Completely missed this – apparently little Shirley Temple turned 80 a couple of days ago! Via the Bright Lights blog, here’s an excerpt from Graham Greene’s controversial review of the Temple-starrer Wee Willie Winkie from 1937:
Infancy is her disguise, her appeal is more secret and more adult...she wore trousers with the mature suggestiveness of a Dietrich: her neat and well-developed rump twisted in the tap-dance; her eyes had a sidelong searching coquetry...Watch the way she measures a man with agile studio eyes, with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of love and grief glissade across the mask of childhood, a childhood skin-deep.
Full piece here. It was written more than seven decades ago, to describe the carefully cultivated, "sexualised" screen persona of a specific child star, but I think it’s just as relevant to all the little boys and girls who appear on TV reality shows like Boogie Woogie today, enthusiastically simulating the dance movements of adult Bollywood heroes and heroines, while their parents watch fondly in the audience. In the age of 15 minutes of fame, you don't have to be a Hollywood superstar to grow up too fast.


  1. but I think it’s just as relevant to all the little boys and girls who appear on TV reality shows like Boogie Woogie today

    Well said! One big hypocritical nation ours is. People talk about our values, culture blah blah and support kids doing item numbers with garish costumes on the TV.

    Even kids who act oversmart in films and soaps are a big put-off.

  2. Quick, Funny Man - write the Sreesanth piece fast! I'm already cracking up at the thought of what Ponting, Symonds, Hayden, et al are thinking about for the next time Sreesanth goes to Australia. Fascinating possibilities, no?

  3. What happened to Sreesanth? No idea - haven't been following IPL at all.

  4. Hola! Stunning!

    Also, the girl who acted as Lolita in Kubrick's Lolita was quite beyond her age... Perfect casting!

  5. 'a line of thought'
    right you are...We first tell our kids to behave with propriety and then we take them to movies where this whole thing is being normalized. I once went to see the Tamil movie 'BOYS' while in Madras. While i was gone getting tickets, my wife (now) was buttpinched....twice. Realising that i could get phurious or philosophical, I chose the latter because there was no point to the former. Of course we know there is never any point in the latter anyways. After i saw the movie, I realised that a lot of behavior that gets passed off as normal, even funny in the reel is not something we would excuse in real life. I found even the women folk in the theatre giggle at buttpinching, groping and trysts with prostitutes. How do we expect the disgruntled male in India to not appropriate reel behavior into real behavior when we condone it on a very sublime level. Goes to show the immense power that media can exercise over our life, and the havoc it can actually wreak given enough time and stimulus.

    Okay, I rant :-P

  6. Quite a hard hitting piece, more so because of the truth in it. Yes every day we get to see kids gyrating to the most ludicrous song possible and getting applauded for it. Even in singing competitions kids lisp songs like “Bheetar bheetar aag jale” or “Beedi jalile” from the movie Omkara and so called moralistic judges like Javed Akhtar commend their performances. While on the other hand people rave and rant about the damage being caused to our cultural fabric by the cheerleaders of the IPL matches.

    Welcome to India, land of morals, culture, beedis and not to forget hypocrites.