America Loves Boobs: A Sydney Sweeney Story

Yes, it’s an attention-grabbing title, but should we pretend it’s not true? Of course not; that would make us Hollywood. Well, sort of, but I’ll get to that. First, let’s talk about Sydney Sweeney. (I’ll assume I don’t have to cajole you.)  She is most assuredly having a moment right now, where America and the world at large are discovering her stunning good looks. And ironically, it’s all because of a movie that, among the many staggeringly inept things it does, tries to hide her beauty. If you see Madame Web – which I only recommend you do at a theater with a bar – you’ll notice that Sydney Sweeney is the latest gorgeous actress in a movie that dowdies her up to mask her physical attributes.

This is something Hollywood has done for a long time; the difference is that there used to be a point to it, with the starlet eventually revealing to the world and her gob-smacked paramour that she is actually a goddess. In the 90s, they used to put the main girl in a teen movie behind a pair of glasses, which was code for “frumpy nerd,” until the night of the prom, when she’d take her glasses off and, like Clark Kent before her, become the physical ideal of her sex. For a much earlier example, think of It’s a Wonderful Life, where Donna Reed’s beauty is on full display until George Bailey’s nightmarish alternate universe, where she’s hidden behind – the 90s would be proud – a pair of glasses, dour clothing, and a hunched gait, all her confidence and radiance gone because there was no George Bailey to bring it out of her. When George returns to reality, she’s back, as beautiful as she always was. The point is that while Hollywood sometimes undermined a woman’s physical beauty, it was always with an understanding and, ultimately, a celebration of it.

So, what changed? On one level, nothing has; we are what we always were, men and women who appreciate physical beauty and want to see it in the fantasies into which we seek to escape. Men want to see Sydney Sweeney in form-fitting clothes, flashing a radiant smile and making a joke or two, just as women want to see Chris Hemsworth take off his shirt and flex his muscles with a charming wink at the camera. And to really throw people who pretend not to understand this for a loop, both are fine with the other; women like looking at beautiful ladies in a movie, while men wonder if they could get their bodies in the same realm as Thor’s with enough work (but minus the big paycheck). It is human nature to want to look upon beauty and appreciate it to whatever degree your particular urges entail.

What has changed is the entertainment media (as well as news media and all other forms of the Beast) diving into the festering swamp of social engineering. They’re telling you these natural inclinations are wrong… but only for one side of the equation. Chris Hemsworth still takes his shirt off – and more – in Thor: Love and Thunder while the women on-screen and, presumably, off fawn over him. But Black Widow has gone from the seductive sex appeal of her early appearances to a sort of mother hen in the later Marvel films, with all of her sexuality burned away (as much as that’s possible for Scarlett Johansson, at least). Her possible romance with Bruce Banner isn’t even mentioned in Avengers: Endgame, her final appearance, lest the audience think she’s weak for wanting love with a man.

And that’s the root of it; this is the era of “Strong Female Characters,” registered trademark, and for some reason, the agreed-upon formula for that (as if strength is a one-size-fits-all algorithm) involves jettisoning any hint of sexuality, including love. And, to bring it back to the title, that also involves boobs (or whatever your preferred term; I’m partial to “tits” myself, though I can fall back to my appreciation for Married… with Children and compromise with “hooters” or the more limiting “big ‘uns”), and the rest of the female form. You see, a “Strong Female Character,” registered trademark, is more than her physical beauty or romantic and sexual feelings for a man, and the Hollywood elite are here to take us to school on that one.

Yes, female characters should be more than those things… but they always were. Look at older movies, and you’ll find many gorgeous women who are more than – forgiveness, please – the sum of their parts. My favorite example of this is the very one opponents of the idea would use to make their point (because they’re ignorant): James Bond. How often have you heard the term “Bond Girl” used disparagingly to refer to a woman in a movie that’s only present to look good and have sex with the hero? But Bond Girls never were that; as far back as Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder in Dr. No, they were multifaceted characters with their own arcs and desires independent of Bond (although they’d also end up desiring Bond). Virginia and I wrote a series of articles detailing each Bond Girl to demonstrate how they’re much more interesting and complex than people who’ve probably never seen a Bond movie before 2006 say they are. Those films, which the enlightened of our time deride as sexist and whatever-else-ist, are full of women who are spies, scientists, assassins, pilots, heiresses, and, in one case, a deadly avenger of her loved ones. Is all of this negated because they were beautiful, attracted to a masculine man, and didn’t mind running around in a bikini from time to time? Do they have to be joyless bores to be valid characters?

To illustrate that point (the answer to which is “no,” by the way), let’s jump back to Marvel and the God of Thunder. In Thor, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is not an overly sexy character; she doesn’t show any skin or wear tight leather outfits like Black Widow. But she is a sexual character in that she has a demonstrable sex drive, which we see through her attraction to Thor. She gets tongue-tied and flustered when he’s around, and it’s charming and makes her likable and relatable. Unsurprisingly, there were complaints from the usual killjoys about how this undermined her character, and Thor: The Dark World fixed this by making her an abrasive, phony tough girl who slaps Thor and punches Loki. (It amuses me that she demonstrates how tough she is by hitting people she knows won’t hit her back, Thor because he wouldn’t do that and Loki because she’s being protected by a half-dozen gods; what a strong, independent woman.) But this is a step backward. In Thor, she is a multifaceted woman who doesn’t fit into a box; she is a brilliant astrophysicist who makes historic breakthroughs in the study of space, the universe, and all the other… physics that are astro. (I’m not a scientist.) But she’s also a woman who has the hots for the hunky guy that just fell into her world, literally and figuratively. These things do not negate each other; they complement each other. In Thor, she’s a human being; in Thor: The Dark World, she’s a type. (And this is coming from someone who thinks Thor: The Dark World is possibly the most underrated MCU movie.)

Okay, back to boobs and Sydney Sweeney. Sweeney, as I said, is the latest beautiful woman to have her looks hidden in a piece of entertainment. For other examples, watch the trailers for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire and weep for poor Rebecca Hall, or look at the form-covering gold outfit from Wonder Woman 1984 that was used to advertise the film, or consider Marvel’s decision to forgo Carol Danvers’ sexy old Ms. Marvel outfit for the militaristic one she lifted from her male Captain Marvel predecessor in the MCU. All of these are designed to “de-sexualize” beautiful women under the mistaken belief that if a woman is sexual, she is only sexual. The logical endpoint of this line of thinking is that beautiful women must cover up or be nothing but their looks.

And that’s what makes Sydney Sweeney so fascinating. She’s pushing back on this reductive idiocy, and it appears she’s galvanized the public to push back with her. Look at her appearance on Saturday Night Live this weekend. Normally, I’d never encourage people to watch modern SNL (although I highly recommend you seek out clips and episodes from its first 35 or so years, when it was a comedy show), but Sweeney did the seemingly impossible and made SNL funny again. And she did it by leaning into her sex appeal with humor and a knowing wink. In her opening monologue – during which she wears a revealing dress, God bless her – she mentions her physical attributes as the punchline to a joke about her quest for stardom, and it’s hilarious because we know it’s true, she knows it’s true, and she and we agree that there’s nothing wrong with it. See it below:

Later, she appears in a sketch where she works at Hooters and reaps thousands of dollars in tips while her less-endowed co-workers get scraps. There’s even a joke about a man working there that points out the absurdity of forcing a male waiter into a restaurant like Hooters. (I didn’t think SNL was capable of this type of humor anymore; they’re mostly good little doggies nowadays.) Again, Sweeney is leaning into her devastatingly beautiful body, and her good humor and terrific delivery make it funny. The sketch only falters when the three SNL regulars at the table prove why this show generally sucks now. Aside from Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, where she had a bit part as a dirty hippie, Madame Web is the only thing I’ve seen Sydney Sweeney in, but after those sketches, I tend to think she could be a good actress.

But it isn’t all Sydney Sweeney; Saturday Night Live had to have okayed the sketch and monologue that embraced her beauty. Now, I don’t like to call these things, especially in the modern era where the carrot is so quickly snatched away by an entertainment industry that refuses to learn the right lessons from abject failure, but could the tide be turning on this? Is Hollywood ready to quit trying to burn the sex out of us and embrace feminine beauty and – gasp! – the male gaze once again? I don’t know, but they’re idiots if they don’t capitalize on Sydney Sweeney’s sudden popularity. And, to reiterate, that doesn’t mean don’t write her good roles with rich characterizations that challenge her as an actress; it means you don’t have to throw a barrel over her boobs to do it.

Addendum: When I was looking up the SNL videos for this article, an ad for Kérastase hair care products played before one of them. Sydney Sweeney was in it; she did not look like she did in Madame Web.

Comments (7)

March 5, 2024 at 11:32 pm

Ahhh the “Big ‘uns”, “Married With Children” is a classic

    March 7, 2024 at 4:56 pm

    Al Bundy is one of America’s greatest heroes.

    April 22, 2024 at 11:05 pm

    Dante Rage one of our nation’s greatest publications :D

    Right up there with one of the greatest accomplishments in all of football XD

March 7, 2024 at 10:53 am

Yeah, she’s stunning. More of her and more of that. Bring back the pin-ups and the bombshells.

    March 7, 2024 at 4:57 pm

    Hopefully, she’s leading the charge and they’re about to come marching in. In slow motion. While it’s still chilly outside.

March 7, 2024 at 2:27 pm

“raises hand” I like boobs. I don’t care what anyone thinks.

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