Killer looks: how Dietland confronts the violence of beauty culture

Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture

Based on the hitting fiction by Sarai Walker, the new series tackles the extreme expectations placed on women with rage, retaliation and ultimately murder

Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture

In one of the saddest moments of the new black slapstick series Dietland, the show’s heroine, Plum Kettle, lovingly cooks and decorates a cake. She sings passionately, wholly immersed in her run, which is clearly a true labor of love. When she finishes the final touches, she dabs a bit of frosting on her thumb and takes a tiny savour. For a brief moment, she seems blissfully happy and content, until she realizes that she is not allowed even such small indulgences according to the incredibly restrictive diet she is on in preparation for getting weight loss surgery. A look of horror appears on her face and she immediately runs to the sink to rinse her mouth out.

Scenes like this one show the depths with which Plum has been instructed that she doesn’t deserve pleasure. Throughout the series, Dietland interrogates how our present beauty culture’s emphasis on “perfection” promotes self-harm. This is seen from the opening credits where a cartoon Plum, appearing sad and dejected, starts a journey up a mountain of confectionary treats. As she moves up the mountain, she loses weight and has a makeover with a red dress, capturing the attention of several male admirers, but she keeps climbing and climbing getting skinnier and skinnier, until eventually a skeleton of herself gets to the top and dies.

Dietland’s aesthetic is simultaneously candy-colored and biting, which may, at first glance, seem jarring, but it’s also the style that beauty products are sold to women: one component glossy shine, two parts you better employ this thing, or else. Based on the 2015 novel by Sarai Walker and brought to life onscreen by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Unreal’s Marti Noxon, the series skewers the goal of feminine perfection by exemplifying not only that it is fundamentally unattainable, but also that the pursuit itself is downright frightening. In the opening scene of the first episode, for example, when Plum describes her task as a ghostwriter for an advice column called Dear Kitty, we hear the voices of daughters asking questions about whether forced sexuality is ever that bad, if it’s possible to fix their skin, their hair and their bodies, and what it means that they like to cut themselves. All the while, we consider closeup images of women poking, prodding, weighing, gagging and otherwise taming their bodies into submission using Spanx, hair straighteners and makeup.” I’m ready to kill myself or maybe somebody else ,” one letter writer says, as the scene changes to an image of a man with his hands tied and mouth taped closed, a handgun to his temple.

Dietland doesn’t merely argue that beauty culture is violent, but also asks the unsettling question of whether the violence that females spend inflicting on themselves is actually a coy showing of fury , not at ourselves, but a deep misogynistic culture. Over such courses of the first three episodes, Plum receives herself at various kinds of support groups, each of which extols personal empowerment of various kinds, often through extreme techniques. The weight loss programs emphasize a strict caloric regimen that seems unsafe, the secret women’s groups preach privacy and also exhort a instead vulnerable Plum to give up taking her antidepressants( called ” Y “) in order to stop feeling numb. And we have constant reminders that there is this bizarre “feminist” group called Jennifer that is running around and killing male predators, leaving bodies all over the streets of New York.

In many ways, Dietland’s exploration of femininity feels incredibly fresh. In particular, Joy Nash does a wonderful job playing Plum as equal proportions timid and driven. We understand who Plum is not only through her character’s conveyed supposes, but also through her subtle body language, her manner of speaking, and the way in which she holds her body differently in public and private spaces. It is Plum’s desire to be part of a world that she feels as though she is always on the outskirts of due to her sizing that is ultimately the heart of Dietland.

Julianna - Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture Julianna Margulies in Dietland. Photograph: Patrick Harbron/ AMC

Other characters are less fleshed out, at least at this crossroad. We chiefly assure them through their interest in and interactions with Plum, so it’s sometimes hard to see them as fully developed characters in their own right. In a demonstrated that markets itself about women’s issues, I often wanted to see more interiority in its exploration of how different female characters occupy this image-obsessed world. I also wanted to understand their motivatings beyond their concerns about how they looked. I know, I know: the phase of the series is that we live in a culture where women are often reduced to their bodies and I surely don’t mean to suggest that Dietland shouldn’t focus on the devastating effects of beauty culture. By the same token, I also hope the series eventually allows its female characters to take up space in all sorts of interesting routes that go beyond its own experience of female trauma. In the first few episodes at least, girls are often sad or mad, but not much else, and issues surrounding mental health including with regard to are often steamrolled in the interest of keeping our focus on the ways that beauty culture is toxic.

These issues are surely timely in a culture that seems as though it is finally ready to grapple with female rage, and that’s how the present will certainly be marketed. At the same period, it’s impossible to say that Dietland is really about awareness about any of these issues. After all, who doesn’t know that girls are held to impossible, painful beauty criteria that impact us from birth to death? That message is constant, and the message that we should somehow be able to only magically rise above this toxic culture is just as ubiquitous. There are constant advertising campaign telling us to love ourselves just as we are, all the while hawking us new products.

Dietland is most subversive in its insistence that not giving in to these messages is actually productive rather than futile. In my favorite scene so far, Julia, the head of an underground feminist organization that hopes to dismantle this culture, tells Plum that the” frustration industrial complex” is keeping women tethered to unhappiness, always needing to buy the next best thing to feel good about themselves.” It’s not a conspiracy ,” Plum argues with her,” it’s human nature. People like pretty things .” Julia appears shocked. “You’re not a thing,” she says securely.” You are a woman .”

Dietland depicts in the US on AMC on Mondays and in the UK on Amazon Prime on Tuesdays

Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture
Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture
Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture
Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture
Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture

Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture

Killer Looks: How Dietland Confronts The Violence Of Beauty Culture

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