Female Icons – Fawcett and Bourke-White on film
With the passing of Farrah Fawcett, known for her iconic role in ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and to some known for her starring role in the Schiller movie “Bourke-White”, it’s important to reflect how female icons are nested in our culture. For those who are not aware, Fawcett, who was 62 and a common staple for boys to men looking for a poster pin up in the 70s, became an icon for mostly the sexy and stunning persona she displayed in front of the camera. She was the blonde bombshell that was incredibly sexy, tall and shapely.
Of course, the persona that she gained from Charlie’s Angels made it difficult for the audience to see her in other roles. After she left the series, she starred on Broadway, other made-for-TV productions, and Hollywood films including the biography of photographer, Margaret Bourke-White, who was the first photographer for FORTUNE Magazine and one of the first four photographers of LIFE Magazine.
While the film was less than a blockbuster, it is one of the few that attempted to do two leading ladies justice related to their careers. By casting Fawcett as the “Mother of Modern Photojournalism”, the actress was effectively finding a way out of her stereotypical style that the 70s had cast her to. One scene from the movie actually featured Bourke-White (Fawcett) shooting the historic photographs of Gandhi as he protested British power in India and the cast system. While educational and mildly entertaining, the film ultimately did not break the grip that culture had for Fawcett.
Fortunately so. Fawcett became the “mother” of pop-culture inspiration that change flat hair into big, put Texas women on the map and left an indelible mark in trades like Playboy. No she was not the first female to pose twice for career changing publications but she was the strength out of political malaise and daze found in the 70s and 80s. Fawcett became your locker inspiration or the inspiration for the girl standing next to you in school to use a blow dryer. Fawcett became the style consultant for most big hair photographs found in the 70s. Farrah Fawcett, while not accepted as an intelligent actress (similar to Anna Nicole, Marilyn, Pam and others), gave most women a subtle kick to be amazing in their own right. Bourke-White would have enjoyed shooting Fawcett.
She is survived by her son, Redmond, born in 1985; her long-time
companion, Ryan O’Neal.