38 Comments

IRL Hepburn was a tough survivor of famine and a terrible childhood, but her image was definitely managed and manipulated as described. Women in Hollywood do (and did) get slotted into the Madonna/whore thing, because it serves our culture to do so. Great piece, thank you.

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She survived on nettles and tulip bulbs at the end of WWII, and suffered from ill health as a result of that. So maybe it's funny to talk about how thin she was? I don't really see the humor. She also did not write the roles she played, and I never heard any female actress of her era use the word "fuck".

If you hate the roles she played, maybe blame the men who wrote them and the men who directed her in them.

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Audrey Hepburn was the survivor of severe sustained childhood trauma. Nazi-flavor and family flavor. She rose under impossible circumstances through her own talent -and luck. She used her fame in the service of good.

Other people's projections onto her . . . not her responsibility. Nor accurate.

Find a more deserving target. There are so many. One need not feel deprived.

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Since I deleted my IG and Facebook I’m stuck on Substack, which I thought would be insulated from the kind of posts that made me quit those other platforms.

I’ll say this, though: the internet proves to me all the time people will hate ANYONE and ANYTHING. Particularly if that “anyone” is a woman. AH was a survivor of Nazi terror, made it in Hollywood, didn’t write the roles for which this piece is bashing her, and spent decades advocating for poor children globally as a UNICEF ambassador. But I guess she’ll be blamed for what the writer perceives to be shoddy writing and styling in her films (??). I don’t think anyone watched AH films thinking of her as a sex symbol. She was more about being funny, wry, light-hearted, playful. And as others noted, why should she be blamed for not saying “fuck” on camera when no one else in her era did? We really will craft out of NOTHING novel ways to bash women. Because…feminism?

Before I watched AH I had a similar view of her — maybe fake and anodyne? And then I watched her films and saw how subtle, funny, intelligent, and yes — good-hearted, she very apparently was. How weird our world is that people think bashing a genuinely good woman is a good use of anyone’s time. There are people who spend their lives in rapacious anti-humane activity. A lot of men do — which we all just gloss over, all the time, every day, while concocting reasons to hate whatever random woman is our target that day, in an unironic move to prove how “feminist” we are.

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Her father left when she was 6. At 10, Belgian-born Audrey was sent to the Netherlands. She spent the entirety of WWII in Nazi-occupied Holland. Audrey's uncle Otto was imprisoned and executed by the Nazis. She and her mother (along with the rest of the population) during the war became so hungry they resorted to eating tulip bulbs. She was a volunteer nurse in a hospital treating wounded Allied soldiers. She was a courier for the Resistance, helping families hide Jews. She survived the Battle of Arnhem.

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At the risk of kindling your wrath eternal, I did like “The Nun”…

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Apr 11Liked by Cintra Wilson

Well, this wasn’t for a man to say, but perhaps a man could applaud it. She is indirectly responsible for the proliferation of manic pixie dream girls on screen. The cornish game hen line is perfect, and I’ve also heard a similar experience described as riding an English bicycle across railroad ties.

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"Manic pixie dream girls"?

Omfg!

Yes.

When we've had our daily fill of bemoaning the ongoing ceaseless horror of man's inhumanity to man, it's them manic pixie dream girls that invade our minds to so disturbingly distress us, do they not?

The horror, the horror.

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Let’s be clear: this essay simultaneously IS and IS NOT about Audrey Hepburn—A.H. (Ahh!! for short). Biographical details notwithstanding, the minute A.H. is equated with Jon-Benet, we enter the wacky world of arbitrary signifiers. Regardless of A.H.’s trauma-turned-charity, like any celebrity she became a cultural symbol—this time one of fetishized virginal femininity. AudreyBenet Hep-Ramsey morphs into a saccharine, animatronic Katie Holmes / Sleeping Beauty whose robotic programming is designed to conquer Earth one coquettish wink at a time.

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author

YEAH!! What SHE said! Dr. Steward swoops in and saves the day. Love you girl!

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It doesn’t take a Taos Medicine Woman to know that my soul flies beside yours, celebrating your victories, vanquishing your enemies, in providing a bit of clarity now and then when called for. My love for you is for you is fierce, fabulous, forever, and always alliterative.

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I would have more fun reading this rollickingly funny and pointed piece if somewhere or other Cintra noted explicitly that what she condemns here is not the actual historical being known as Audrey Hepburn but elements of the image projected in the art in which Audrey Hepburn appeared and the disturbing attitudes toward and role projection for women to which those elements contributed. As other commenters have noted, Audrey Hepburn was a heroic survivor of extreme poverty and Nazi terror who fought for human beings and their fundamental rights both early and late in her life, often at enormous risk and cost to herself. I, too, squirm at the narrowness of the box in which women are urged to shrink themselves to fit, but I can't bring myself to throw shade on that brave and caring woman. There are so many other people more worthy to throw shade on--people who not only model FemBot Life but actively advocate for policies that oppress people.

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I so appreciate your points here, and the Pat Nixon rant is priceless. Audrey Hepburn has always struck me as someone women love (not men). To me, the best use of her image/acting is when Gap clothing company paired her dance moves with ACDC’s Back in Black, for a commercial in the 90s, I think? Literally just the other day I thought to myself, “Shouldn’t I or someone pay for my nieces to attend a self-defence course?” (Of course, first you have to ascertain the teacher is not a pedophile! I recall, back in the ‘90s in Texas, being sickened to learn that of the 2,000 applicants for a local popular park-related job, the majority were convicted child molesters.) Republicans do hate women and it sucks that Republican-men-loving women are often supportive of the laws that keep them disempowered. I read online that Tura Satana was raped by a group of men in her hometown and I believe she exacted revenge on every one of them over time?

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author

Holy shit cakes!!!! She did??? OMG! It sounds like brilliant PR for her indelible image, anyway.

I miss you Courtney!!

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I believe Quentin Tarantino is a fan of her and I feel like this is how I heard about her legend! I miss YOU!!!

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Apr 11Liked by Cintra Wilson

As a fan of both Audrey Hepburn and Kill Pussycat, Kill Kill! I enjoyed every word of this essay.

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Apr 11Liked by Cintra Wilson

I like Charade, for that matter. Look out if you go to Japan, though, she’s bigger there than the Virgin Mary is in Mexico. Amazing when you think of it, though with Mickey Rooney playing that rots of ruck Japaneser in Breakfast/Tiffany’s. Makes Sean Connery turning Japanese* in You Only Live Twice look like Naruse!

* everyone knows why that song is called that, yes?

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Apr 11Liked by Cintra Wilson

On behalf of my mother the jock and my adolescent self, I approve this message. Faberge tetherball, hahahahaHA!

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Apr 11Liked by Cintra Wilson

I loved this!!

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Apr 11Liked by Cintra Wilson

I often wonder if Audrey played the game before "making it". I presume so. It's cheap money. Especially if you have a type. Like being a *real* engenue.

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At the end of The Nun's Story, she leaves the convent and joins the Resistance.

As did the real life person who wrote the autobiographical book on which the film is based.

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Hi Cintra, not sure I agree. For one thing, I'm not sure she was even responsible for how she was cast on costumed, but if you've actually read Breakfast at Tiffany's, you will probably agree Marilyn Monroe would have made a better choice. Her clothes were always elegant and stylist, if not provocative, certainly better than the chaste dowdiness of many women in comedies of that era, especially on TV. And didn't she devote her later life to charity work?

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did you ever watch her in "War and Peace"....i happened to a few months ago trolling Amazon (the winters are looooooong even in south) and her Natasha or Natalia or whatever is no angel in fact her budding sexuality in that film makes up for so much of the other goody 2 shoes you rightfully slice and dice downright annoying in "Breakfast at Tiffanys" too much talking but "Charade" with Cary Grant is a romantic bait and switch that still might coax tears from a hmmmmmm battle-weary pussycat ha but yes even there she carves out her autonomy in a certain flirtatious version of the "fundie voice"

ps when did they start using the term "kinder-whore" its appalling but very funny

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