Sophia Loren, the friendly goddess

Since I have been recently criticizing the way women dress today, both the sleazy, skin-tight, midriff-bearing, lower-then-a-whore look that is de rigueur for many young women, and Ann Coulter’s minimalist, too revealing outfit on the cover of Godless that looks more like a tank top to be worn in a gym than something becoming to the form and beauty of a woman, I would like to share with VFR readers this photograph of Sophia Loren, taken in Cannes, France, in 1959.

Sophia Loren in Canne 1959.jpeg

What is great about this picture is that Loren is glamorous and perfectly turned out like a true movie star, and yet, at the same time, friendly and accessible in the best twentieth century sense. There is none of the narcissism of today’s stars and other public personalities. Her smile is not directed at herself, but at us. She shares her beauty with the world, a delight to be admired and enjoyed by all. The photo is not just about her, it’s about her as a part of something larger than herself. That something larger is the order of society, the order of existence, which was trashed and denied by the post-1960 Revolution.

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Stephen T. writes:

What a great picture!

I think of how often illegal Hispanic immigrants to this country are equated with European immigrants of the last century—particularly, you will note, the Italians. I think its because many Mexicans want to claim that Italians, due to their Latin blood and olive skin, were somehow kindred immigrants from a similar background. But of course, Italy—even when in the grip of hard times that drove the migration—was not the Mexico of 1900, a perennial backwater with no history of civilized accomplishment. It was one of the foundations of Western Civilization, a center of mathematics, astronomy, and art.

Take a photo of today’s idealized Hispanic star Jennifer Lopez and put it next to yours of Miss Loren.

The difference is striking and telling. Lopez—a frequent consort of rap stars and ex-felons—displays that perpetually arrogant, sullen look, often slightly surly: “The Proud, Angry Hispanic.” But it’s the kind of overblown, aggressive “pride” that is simply pride for pride’s sake with nothing in culture or history, personal or collective, to account for it.

Also, she takes herself and “her people” so seriously, and emanates a vaguely menacing vibe that others better do so as well, that she seems devoid of any sparkle or humor. Sophia Loren, on the other hand, looks intelligent, welcoming and embracing.

Makes me want to buy a ticket for Italy and take a stroll down the avenues—and that I would feel welcome there if I should. Lopez, as contrast, often flashes the classic gangbanger glare/pout/scowl. The uneducated Hispanic’s default territorial mode: the instinct to bolster a deficient identity through intimidation and posturing.

Charleton writes:

Your point about Ms. Loren in that particular photograph was well made.

However, she did appear in other photos like these… [attached was a cheesecake photo of Miss Loren.]

LA replies:

That is a very atypical shot of her.

In any case, the point is not Sophia Loren as a person, the point is the culture that produced such a woman and such a photograph.

Charleton replies:

Yes, the sense of style and grace that our parent’s generation of women had was unmistakable. I think their sexual allure was all the greater for it. They didn’t have to flaunt anything to be highly desirable. One look and you were hooked.

Maureen writes:

I love your knightly romanticism but it is misplaced in regards to Sophia. Sophia’s vulgarity solidly trumps Ann’s little black cocktail dress. I picked up her biography once in a bookstore and skimmed the story of her rampant admitted infidelities with her costars.

For more pictures of the crude, dress-dropping Sophia—the Madonna of her day—it is only necessary to visit her website and look at the photo gallery—or look at the two photos I appended. [attached were two photos, one with Sophia in a kind of prostitute’s get-up, and which, I believe, came from a movie part she was playing.]

LA replies:

First, I cannot see how Loren was remotely the “Madonna of her day.” Madonna is a post-modern nihilist who made aggressive whoredom the central aspect of her songs and persona and promoted that for young women. There was nothing like that in Loren’s career or persona.

However, even if for the sake of argument we supposed that Loren had been a tramp (I’m not suggesting at all that she was), the fact that she appeared in such a way in such as photo as the above would show that the culture of that time was such that everyone, even a tramp, was raised up by it. And that’s my point.

Vincent writes:

While it is obvious that Signora Loren was a developing beauty in the 1959 photo, and free from the narcissism that afflicts today’s celebrities, I’m not too sure that you would say the same about her today.

I’ve lived in Italy, as well as visited for long stays for the last decade, and, truth be told, I’ve marveled at Loren’s lasting beauty, which, she claims, did not come at the hand of a plastic surgeon’s knife; just pasta and olive oil. Still, to see her today would lead you to believe that she, too, has surrendered to the zeitgeist, with very revealing décolletage a part of her wardrobe.

True, self-modesty and an appreciation of the value and importance of others were more important in ‘59 than today, but the disappearance of these virtues is not confined to these United States, but a worldwide phenomenon. In that sense, the liberal ethos rules the world.

LA writes:

Again, this is not about Sophia Loren as a person. It’s about the state of our culture in 1959 compared to the way it is now. To deny the value of the photo by referring to Sophia Loren’s supposed personal flaws or moral defects is to miss the point entirely .

Dennis Mangan writes:

I suppose that it’s no coincidence that you posted the photo of Sophia Loren (which is much appreciated). To my knowledge, she’s one of only three beautiful women mentioned by name by Bob Dylan:

Well, my telephone rang it would not stop
It was President Kennedy callin’ me up.
He said, “My friend, Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?”
I said, “My friend, John, “Brigitte Bardot [guitar strums] …
Anita Ekberg [guitar strums] …
Sophia Loren [guitar strums] …
Country’ll grow.”

(Bob Dylan, “I Shall Be Free,” 1963.)

Russell writes:

Putting the various ethnic distinctions raised by Stephen aside for a moment, there is enough to contrast in merely comparing the implicit messages about sexuality between someone like, say, Jennifer Lopez and Sophia Loren.

The thing that is most striking to me about modern “pin-ups,” “sex objects,” “poster girls,” etc is that their sexuality is something that is almost explicitly angry. It’s an adversarial assertion of power over and hostility to males—the sexuality of a dominatrix who aims to subjugate through inspiring slavish devotion. See, here, for instance.

I believe these are the works which feminism has wrought. Women are taught to emulate the sexual aggressiveness of men, the predatory nature of (untamed/uncivilized) male sexuality. Being charming, pleasant and demure (all the things exemplified in that Loren photo) would be seen as making oneself a female Uncle Tom.

Vincent writes:

Another aspect of Loren’s allure, at least from my vantage point, is that, unlike Ann Coulter and the countless movie stars of today, Loren in ‘59 had the attributes of…how to say it politely… a fully developed woman. While I am in agreement with many of the observations recorded here about comparisons to specific entertainment personalities, what struck me the first time I saw the photo was Loren’s noticeable derriere. No movie celebrity today would be so configured. To make my case, see the recent movie, Match Point. The major female cast members, aside from their pulchritude, or lack of it, are devoid of femininity: from the back they could easily be men. No so, Loren.

It has been more than 40 years since Luigi Barzini wrote The Italians. Around page 50 (some comparisons are unforgettable), Barzini makes the trenchant observation that many an Italian woman’s posterior most closely resembles the back of a mandolin. I thought of that in viewing La Loren, as she is known in Italy.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 03, 2006 11:58 PM | Send

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