No Holds Barred: It’s all about the “optics”

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Remember when words meant something?  Now in our Instagram world it is all about the “optics.”  After all, a picture says a thousand words.  And unfortunately, I still do judge a book by its cover. Sadly, who reads anymore?  We are all too busy swiping to the next image.

My 97-year-old mom is hard of hearing, and gets her news from TV with closed captions.  But lately she told me “to hell with closed caption, I knew James Comey was a fraud just by his face and his stance…”  She even knew that Iranian General Soleimani was a real deal demon just by the scary look in his eyes. Pictures hold the power.  

Now that the Kardashians are really mainstream (though, remember Paris Hilton started it all with her sex tape) we now have 28-year-old model/influencer Emily Ratajkowski who is known for her “perfectly round boobs, taut high butt and pouty come-hither lips.”  That’s enough to make you #1 in optics — nothing else matters.  And now she is promoting titillation as “empowerment.”

Recently Ratajkowski went viral with “Fuck Harvey” scrawled on her upper inner arm in a typical hypersexual pose (clothes on).  Apparently, she is using her attention seeking format to sell her form of feminism. Not even #MeToo can compete with this visual message.

As she says, “I’m positive that many of the ways I continue to be “sexy” are heavily influenced by misogyny. But it feels good to me, and it’s my damn choice, right?  Isn’t that what feminism is about?  Choice?”  

So take that Gloria Steinem.  Actually, Gloria did take it and came back with “It’s completely foolhardy to think that taking your clothes off with no content is empowering.”

So how does JLo explain her “Ass Time” (Halftime) show at the recent Super Bowl?  Performing a pole dance in a thong and twerking it out with Shakira and then strutting a Puerto Rican flag coat that reversed to an American flag brought the house down.  Why not?  It is the Super Bowl, who hasn’t brought the house down?  She also called her performance “empowering.”  Empowering who exactly?

Jeesus!? No, JLo!

Apparently, many women and fashion critics felt that since JLo was 50, she could flaunt her “golden physicality.” It was all so extraordinary — especially in a culture so obsessed by youth.  But wait a minute… isn’t 50 the new 30?  And aren’t music and film stars all about nips and tucks and lifts and implants and injections? You too can pay for a body and a routine like that! Is empowerment about silicone and tits and ass? So, if you lost an Oscar nod do you get to hoist your spray tanned body on a stripper pole for a highly rated 8 minutes?

At the same time, I find it so hard to believe that many women felt “personally judged by JLo’s body” (so wrote New York Times writer Jennifer Weiner). Are we still fighting that old “Hollywood vs reality” visual? Aren’t we past that?  By the way, the controversial stripper half time was perfect for the predominantly male audience that watches the Super Bowl. But seemingly awkward for the large amount of kids who also tuned in for the spectacle.  While I’m sure kids have seen stripper poles and thongs in their daily swipe checks, what is it with the NFL and their great cultural calls?

The DM — always with the skinny.

I loved the Daily Mail’s answer to the JLo “Fifty and Hot” topic.  The day after Super Bowl they showed the “stripped back star” strolling around her Florida back yard with a giant red sweatshirt and matching sloppy huge pants – no makeup and a straggly top knot.  This was a far cry from the sleek golden caramel face and torso JLo exhibited 24 hours previously. And it was reported by her “lead” makeup man (one of the makeup “team”) that it took 10 hours to prepare her face and body for her 15-minute halftime appearance.  Just saying — the new fifty takes a village and a “crew” to pull it all off.  Now maybe that’s the “empowerment” message — the glam squad preparation and not the political statement of being a self-confident, free spirited Latina woman!

On the other hand … we have the optics of credibility with Jane Fonda killing it at the Oscars at the age of 82 wearing the Ellie Saab body-molded, ruby embroidered, floor length sheath that  she wore in 2014. She also sported a new short “Klute”-like  silver haircut. Now Jane is a real “movie star.” All her plastic surgery, joint replacements, and confessed bouts of bulimia and anorexia have paid off. And her glam squad reported it only took them 7 hours. 

And speaking of the power of the photo — how bored are we of seeing the sad coverage of  poor lost Harry trailing after his Meghan all over Canada.  I think they need Kris Jenner to direct them to fame and fortune. Now we hear Meghan has insisted Harry get his bald spot plugged, and that’s just the beginning of the Harry makeover produced by Meghan. A perfect reality show.

I would say running second to the H&M optics are Jeff Bezos and his new gal pal Lauren Sanchez. Lauren is also leading the way in the Bezos transforming.  She literally has him by his hand in most photos. Wearing look-alike outfits on vacations, smooching it up at Wimbledon, and body bulging for ”step and turn” photos.

Now there is a lurid back story on all of this; Recently Bezos accused the Saudis of leaking his and Lauren’s private sex messages and dick pics to the National Enquirer.  Then he dumped that idea and accused Lauren’s brother Michael of forwarding those tantalizing correspondences from Lauren instead.  Michael has denied it and counter sued Bezos for defamation (are you still following all this?  Do you care?). Now Bezos is dumping all charges and announcing his and Lauren’s engagement instead.  This lunacy makes one wonder if it wasn’t Lauren or Jeff himself who leaked all this — to present a new well-hung feature to his billion-dollar image.

Sexy empowerment mode — CHECK!
Credit: Prodip Guha/Getty Images Entertainment.

As a dear writer friend of mine described the Bezos dick pick lawsuit mess; “Jeff may be the richest guy in the world — but now the world knows him as that pervy nerd with too many penis selfies in hot tub trysts.”

Interestingly, since Bezos romance started 2 years ago with the never-ending optics everywhere, he too has changed his visual.  It is clear that Sanchez herself has had much lip and boob “work” done and now Jeff is sporting a cleaner bald head, “Popeye” steroidal arms and much bulging below the belt. At times, they both resembled cross dressers. Obviously, Jeff wanted to take his Amazon Prime to Hollywood and so he found Lauren (a known “operator” in Tinsel Town) to induct him into real optical sexy empowerment mode.

How does the cost of all this “hot stuff” upgrade work sit with the Amazon warehouse employees who have been complaining of dreadful working conditions and the overwrought delivery people who are raging for saner schedules?  It makes me wonder… would Bill Gates and Warren Buffet ever feel the need to go down this road of sexed-up imagery?

And lastly, we have the political optics emerging.  No one is looking at the Democratic debates (or even the Oscars and red carpets or even a fashion week anywhere).  We all have moved on — after all, that is the optical rhythm of the social media churn.  Also, optics have to be hot-off-the-griddle to catch an eye. And since politics is stalemated and hateful with the same cast — it makes it hard to really watch.  Although we did have “Nancy the Ripper” getting off on her State of the Union shred-and-run photo which will follow her as the lead photo in her obituary.  And Trump calling “bullshit” in his East Room acquittal victory lap. That word alone seems to encompass the majority of politics of late.

But the major election optic is yet to happen as people are already watching out for a Bloomberg vs. Trump debate.  The fight has already begun with Mike calling Donald “fat” and Donald calling Mike “Mini Mike.” The visual alone is going to determine the final tally in that debate. So far, Bernie is too old, and Buttigieg is too young, and Amy doesn’t have any charisma at all. Just remember Richard Nixon’s sweaty upper lip destroyed his chance for a win against Kennedy.

It could be a landslide if pre-election merchandise is any indication!

And by the looks of the pre-election online merchandise, it could be a landslide.  You have a vast abundance of Trump, (both positive and negative) with “bobbleheads” and memorabilia ranging from Trump tweeting on the toilet, to him standing Presidential with a MAGA hat, to one of him with his middle finger raised screaming “Keep America Great.” Not to mention the Trump stress squeeze balls and “Baby Trump” balloons.

Lonely Bloomberg Bobble.

On the other side, nothing but t-shirts have arrived for any of the Dem candidates and Bloomberg is the only one with a boring bobblehead that makes him look like a smaller Tom Ewell.

So, we have 9 optical months to go. Keep your eyes peeled — how can you not? Because in the end, what you see is what you get!

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