Gentlemen prefer them. They do have more fun. Bimbos, screen
goddesses, sexy sirens or pure angels - just what is about blondes?
Though it's been in and out of fashion, yellow hair has provoked a
profound reaction in man since ancient times, and women have gone
to enormous (and sometimes painful) lengths to be blonde. Until
now, however, little serious study has been devoted to the blonde
through history. Filling this void, Joanna Pitman, photography
critic for The Times, surveys the impact, appreciation and
representation of the blonde from classical Greece to the present
day. Pitman was inspired to research this, her first book, by her
own experience as a pseudo-blonde. When her hair was bleached by
the sun in Africa she was hailed as something of an angel, and was
thought to have healing powers. Later, she dyed her hair blonde and
observed the effect on others, which was indeed dramatic. Here she
casts her intelligent eye at women of power from Aphrodite, the
Virgin Mary, Petrarch's Laura and Queen Elizabeth I, to courtesans
of various ages, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. How blondes
have been perceived by the creators of literature, art, myth and
film - who are predominantly male - is chronicled in lucid detail.
Blondes emerge as dangerous, youthful, sexual, corrupting, pure,
powerful, alluring, by turns tawdry and innocent, but above all
attractive. Pitman's chronological survey is readable and erudite,
taking in blonde archetypes from Eve to Madonna, and will be
enjoyed by everyone puzzled by this powerful cultural motif.
In art and literature, in history and popular culture, blonde has
never been a mere colour. For two-and-a-half thousand years, it has
been a blazing signal in code, signifying beauty, power and status.
To feed this obsession entire industries have developed,
influential trends set. From Greek prostitutes mimicking the
golden-haired Aphrodite, to the Californian beach babe; from
pigeon-dung and saffron dyes to L'Oreal - because you're worth it -
we see the lengths to which women will go to become blonde. The
power and duality of the blonde as either erotic symbol or saintly
virgin waxes and wanes but never disappears. By looking at the
world through the prism of what it is to be blonde, or make oneself
blonde, we are drawn into an intriguing portrait of the world. Why
is it that blondes rose to prominence in Hollywood and Nazi Germany
at the same time? Why do young Japanese women today want to be
blonde? Weaving a story rich in anecdote, history and high
intrigue, Joanna Pitman effortlessly combines the wealth of her
knowledge with a sharp and clear-sighted view of the power of the
blonde throughout the ages.
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