Stock photography is one of my favorite things about the internet. It’s so corny and mysterious and strangely telling—like this weird mirror universe where everyone wears the same camisole and eats yogurt all day with confused white babies. It’s like a window into Heaven for the most boring person in the world.
Because stock photos trade in generalities, specificity is financial suicide. And without specificity, people can’t be people—we can only be groups. Women can’t work on cars without being either sexy or stupid. Fat people can only do fat-related things, like be frustrated about shopping, or not fit into a pair of jeans. In stock photography, there can’t be any backstory required, because if the photo comes with its own story it’s useless in the marketplace. A photo needs to be as vague as possible, and play into the stories that people already know. Unfortunately, the stories that most people know are the old, fucked-up ones, which means that stock photos tend to reinforce some not-awesome cultural norms (and invent some totally bananas new ones). Hilarity ensues.
I decided to dig around and find out what stock photography has to say about me, the modern woman. I learned so much about myself, you guys! Mainly I learned that I need to cut out this blogging shit and GO DO SOME YOGA RIGHT NOW.
Journalist Caitlin Moran has bagged a clutch of awards for her witty takes on womanhood. She tells Julia Molony why she hated being a teen television presenter, the joys of having seven siblings and the perils of wearing the same pair of tights for three days.
I like watching people fall in love onscreen so much that I can suspend my disbelief in the contrived situations that occur only in the heightened world of romantic comedies. I have come to enjoy the moment when the male lead, say, slips and falls right on top of the expensive wedding cake. I actually feel robbed when the female lead’s dress doesn’t get torn open at a baseball game while the JumboTron camera is on her. I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible. They’re all participating in a similar level of fakey razzle-dazzle, and I enjoy every second of it.
It makes sense, then, that in the romantic-comedy world there are many specimens of women who—like Vulcans or Mothra—do not exist in real life. Here are some examples:
When a beautiful actress is cast in a movie, executives rack their brains to find some kind of flaw in the character she plays that will still allow her to be palatable. She can’t be overweight or not perfect-looking, because who would pay to see that? A female who is not one hundred per cent perfect-looking in every way? You might as well film a dead squid decaying on a beach somewhere for two hours.
So they make her a Klutz.
The hundred-per-cent-perfect-looking female is perfect in every way except that she constantly bonks her head on things. She trips and falls and spills soup on her affable date (Josh Lucas. Is that his name? I know it’s two first names. Josh George? Brad Mike? Fred Tom? Yes, it’s Fred Tom). The Klutz clangs into stop signs while riding her bike and knocks over giant displays of fine china in department stores. Despite being five feet nine and weighing a hundred and ten pounds, she is basically like a drunk buffalo who has never been a part of human society. But Fred Tom loves her anyway.