Well done Colin Firth for winning the Oscar last night for his performance as George VI (Bertie) in the wonderful King’s Speech.
The film is about how Britain’s future king comes to terms with his awful stammer. I can’t imagine how dreadful it must have been for him to have made those speeches. Courage is an understatement. But it’s the relationship between Bertie and his eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue that brings the film to life. Bertie had someone batting on his team. Someone who brought out the very best in him. It’s this that brought tears to my eyes.
These days such stories tend to get drowned out. Rather, we live in a celebrity-obsessed and age-denying culture, which promotes how we look rather than who we are.
Bella Blissett’s Sunday Times Style Magazine article Body Politics (only available to those who subscribe to Times On-line) illustrates how drastically society’s attitude to what it means to be human has changed in the last half-century. Today, it’s not about valour, gallantry, or daring. It’s about defying nature.
According to Blissett, we need injectable body fillers (hyaluronic acid, apparently) to feel happy and fulfilled. In fact, so effective are these treatments, we’re told, they can be ‘passed off as the benefits of a new superfood diet or Pilates classes.’
Bertie would be turning in his grave, and I can’t imagine Colin Firth signing up to this either.
In her article, Blissett interviews several cosmetic doctors who sound as if they are providing a great service to us all. Dr Laurence Kirwan, for example, says he equates having body fillers to ‘a personal investment.’
Would Dr Kirwan be batting on my side I wondered if I needed help? I doubt it. He charges £100,000 for a one-week-long treatment.
Fine for those of us who can afford the luxury, but this is not just about the kind of looks to which we might aspire.
Psychotherapist Susie Orbach argued on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this morning how these keep-beautiful-at-all-costs images are teaching girls and women to hate their bodies. Susie is so concerned that she has launched The Endangered Species International Summit, which promotes an international campaign for body confidence.
But I think it’s much more than just body confidence that’s at stake here. As Lionel Logue tells Bertie in the King’s Speech, it’s also learning to understand who we really are inside.
It’s worth, here, taking a look at the origins of the word Hu-man.
In secular cultures, the word ‘Hu’ is linked to the concept of God. For example, Sufis believe that the mystery of Hu is revealed during a journey of spiritual initiation. In this context, ‘Hu’ means truth or God.
Try as I might, I can’t equate body fillers with spiritual initiation or connecting to your inner self. Okay, maybe there’s a passing satisfaction after a treatment. But it is passing. Body fillers need a lot of topping up, and emptying of purses and wallets.
What’s more, putting on my psychotherapist’s hat, this one-dimensional approach to life means that increasing numbers of people are feeling confused, empty, and unfulfilled. So, they look for something to fix it. And, because there is a spiritual vacuum in their life, guess what, we’re back to body fillers.
Modern society is embroiled in an addictive, vicious cycle, reflected in how we are mindlessly using up the planet’s resources, and devastating the environment. The only way back to our hu-maness is to explore how we can bring the very best out of ourselves, and start batting on each other’s teams.
We all need a spot of glamour to brighten up dull grey February days, and thanks to the Oscars for that.
But we must take responsibility for what really matters. As many women I interviewed for Sex, Meaning and the Menopause have already done, this means having the courage to say NO to living a one-dimensional life.