'Posing' pays little attention to serious issues

Television

November 05, 1991|By Michael Hill

A CBS movie tonight takes a firm stand for a woman's right to choose. No, no, no, not that kind of right to choose. Advertisers back away from those movies.

No, this sweeps-month special stands up for the freedom to choose to pose naked for Playboy magazine. Apparently advertisers don't balk at a choice like that. Is this a great country, or what?

"Posing," which will be on Channel 11 (WBAL) at 9 o'clock, is frankly a better movie than it has any right to be, well-made and nicely acted. Nonetheless, it delivers its dubious message with little attention paid to important subtexts.

Three women, all unlikely candidates for a spread in Playboy, are the subjects for this based-on-fact film. This is not a trio of breast-implanted starlets trying to jump start their Hollywood careers. No, one's a Chicago stockbroker, one's the editor of Yale's student paper, and one's a Georgia housewife. They tell their innermost motivations in sincere talks to the camera.

Michele Greene plays the stockbroker (For this, she left "L.A. Law"?), a hard-charging, no-makeup, workaholic. When the guys at the office hear that Playboy is going to feature the women of Wall Street, they don't even mention their colleague as a potential candidate, showing what lack of taste they have.

Turns out that our svelte market whiz was a porker back in high school and still thinks of herself as unattractive. She heads to the nearby Playboy offices and is welcomed with open f-stops.

Meanwhile, at Yale, the newspaper editor, played by Amanda Peterson, hears that Playboy is looking for Ivy Leaguers to reveal something other than their SAT scores and immediately takes a firm negative stand in her first editorial.

Turns out that this brain has a sexy non-identical twin sister who knows how to excite a crowd and attract men. For years, our nearly celibate editor has compensated by doing everything right. An interview with a Playboy staffer for a story leads her to decide to do one thing wrong.

And down in Georgia, our third subject, played by Lynda Carter, seems to be happy and content on her 37th birthday, busy raising two kids at home and helping her husband with the family business, a bowling alley.

Turns out that the husband has lost interest in her but has gained an interest in his new subscription to Playboy. She sends the magazine a letter stating that Moms can be pretty, too, and encloses a photo as proof.

Next thing you know, she's on a plane to Chicago where she had no intention of taking off her clothes, but, after being treated like royalty for a day, she responds to the nice photographer's request that she drop the sheet, in a posing session that, like all of them, is depicted as an inhibition-lifting music video.

"Posing" then tells us that these women's decisions caused virtual devastation in their lives. The stockbroker essentially lost her job. The Yalie was estranged from her father. The mother was given the silent treatment in her small town, their bowling alley boycotted.

It goes on to defend these women as concerned, caring people who did what they did for their own good reasons and didn't deserve such awful treatment. All three stories end on an upbeat note.

But what's really going on here? In all of these stories, the women's decision to pose was a virtual infantile cry for attention, one that could be heard only because all three were exceptionally physically attractive. Does that mean less attractive women don't deserve such attention?

Moreover, all of the women saw getting picked for Playboy as some sort of certification of their worth, a sad commentary on their own self-images. It's reminiscent of that proto-feminist poster from 20 years ago that showed a demurely posed nude with a USDA Prime stamp on her thigh.

"Posing" never poses the question of whether this quest for acceptance by the voyeuristic men of America is an appropriate and healthy way for a woman to express her identity, instead depicting it for all those young women out there in the audience as a liberating expression of self-identity.

But, in fact, as with those Danielle Steel stories of a couple of weeks ago, "Posing" is just another case of women becoming heroines by seeking the approval of men. There's a better way, and a better message for a TV movie to deliver.

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