Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why was she smiling?

Some biographers claim Amelia's smile was calculating, not a matter of personality but vanity. She wanted to hide her teeth, so she never smiled fully. Was she vain? A funny question when you consider how she dressed, button down men's shirts and slacks, a leather jacket, and often enough a leather flying cap. She looked like a boy and one of the boys. Yet, of course that made her quite unique. And she always smiled to and for the camera. Amelia calculated her progress, she may not have predicted or planned her fame, but she clearly enjoyed it. It gave her the opportunity to do what she wanted. And be who she wanted.

Our views of her have changed, at first much was made of her husband Putnam's part in molding her and promoting her. It seems odd to me that anyone ever doubted she had the upper hand. All you had to do was read the contract she drew up with him when she married him to see that she was in charge."You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations but have no heart to look ahead. On our life together I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly... Please let us not interfere with the others' work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements." Back then, the world didn't have to know, there was no twenty four hour news cycle, no long lens bearing paparazzi. Amelia got to control her image. How powerful that must be, to show the world only what you want . . . to be able to pretend to be exactly who you want to be and have millions of fans believing it.

No wonder she was always smiling.

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