Friday, April 8, 2011

Saved by the Belle: In Praise of Audrey Hepburn

Addie Swartz, founder of B*tween Productions, started the Beacon Street Girls book series as a response to what she calls “oversexualized media.”(1) Originally conceived as a series of books to help pre-teen girls navigate the challenges of growing up, Beacon Street Girls has evolved into an award-winning “consumer/entertainment brand committed to the health and well being of girls ages 9-13.”(2)

Unfortunately, my daughter was a bit too old by the time the first book was released in 2004. She grew up in the early Britney years; “. . .Baby One More Time” went platinum in 1998, followed by “(You Drive Me) Crazy” in 1999 and “Oops, I Did it Again” in 2000. Britney as a role model was impossible to avoid.

Our search for an alternative media role model began in earnest that February with the arrival of her camp newsletter. The camp theme for summer 2000 was to be “Reach for the Stars” and all 100 girls were to pick their favorite star and bring a costume to model down the runway at the annual camp party. Rebecca became concerned that she would have to pretend to be a sexy star like Britney and almost despaired.

That’s when Audrey Hepburn came to the rescue. Many people had remarked that Rebecca, who had danced since the age of two, had the grace and carriage of Hepburn. We decided to watch selected Hepburn films together to discover if she was a star worthy of emulation. Eliza Doolittle showed us that poise and manners can take you through challenging social situations. Roman Holiday taught us that even though princesses need to have fun, they also have to fulfill their duty. From Sabrina we learned that choosing a mate is about more than physical attraction. In Funny Face we saw how unique beauty of face and character is often overlooked and how new experiences can help us understand ourselves and grow. The Children’s Hour and Breakfast at Tiffany’s gave us the chance to talk about the damage lies can cause and how some people cope with being unhappy. Inspired by Audrey’s strength, character, and beauty, Rebecca put together an elegant costume and packed it carefully into the footlocker bound for camp.

I wish I could tell you that Rebecca won the trophy for best costume that summer, but Britney and her contemporaries were better represented – and better recognized on the runway. Still, I’m grateful to Audrey for bringing my daughter and me together in our quest for a role model. She’ll always be our fair lady. — by Jan Hames

Notes: (1) Collins, Clayton. Pitches to Tweens Target Parents, Too / The Christian Science Monitor - The Christian Science Monitor - 28 Apr. 2006. Web. 04 Apr. 2011.

(2) Beacon Street Girls Provides Positive Messages for Tween Girls - Beacon Street Girls. Home - Beacon Street Girls. Web. 04 Apr. 2011.

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