VITAL SIGNSrnPOP CULTURErnThe Model andrnthe Maidrnby Theodore Pappasrnii I: t is amazing how complete is thern-delusion that beauty is goodness.”rnTolstoy’s remark shot to mind this summer,rnwhen supermodel Linda Evangelistarnwon 80,000 French francs in damagesrnfrom her lawsuit against Jean-MariernLe Pen and the National Front Party ofrnFrance. The controversy stemmed fromrnLe Pen’s campaign posters, which depictedrna Joan of Arc that looked strikinglyrnsimilar to the short-haired, cat-eyedrnmegamodel from Ontario. In accordancernwith the court’s decision, thernposters have been banned.rnA lawyer for the National Front calledrnthe flap “perfectly ridiculous” and saidrnthe party would appeal the decision.rn”When you look at the poster you thinkrnonly of Jeanne d’Arc,” he said. Ms. Evangelista’srnmodeling agency. Elite of Paris,rnstrongly disagreed and also sued, arguingrnthat the poster was an invasion of itsrnclient’s privacy, infringed on the company’srnright to control the model’s image,rnand damaged its “reputation and honour.”rnThe London Telegraph reportedrnthat “Ms. Evangelista is well known forrnher determined and independent attitude,”rnand quoted one of the model’srnfriends as saying, “Linda won’t do anythingrnshe doesn’t want to do and is veryrnidealistic.”rnNow, famous people should certainlyrncontrol how their likeness is used andrnmarketed. Dennis Rodman, for example,rnhas every right to sue the enterprisingrnyoung capitalist selling T-shirts depictingrnthe Chicago Bulls star’s “bodyrnart,” pierced navel and all, and surely thisrnsame right should be extended to Ms.rnEvangelista. But forget for a moment thernlegalities of the case, and set aside the supermodel’srnreported disdain for Le Penrnand his far-right politics. For the basicrnfact remains that—for whatever reasonsrn—an “independent” and “determined”rnwoman, one who is protective ofrnher reputation and proud of her “idealism,”rnhas objected to being portrayed asrnJoan of Arc.rnOne might think that Ms. Evangelista,rngiven her Roman Catholic backgroundrnand concern for her public image, wouldrnhave felt honored to portray Jeanne LarnPucelle. After all, the supermodel hasrnbeen hailed as a symbol of the “empowerment”rnof women, and what historicalrnfigure would better fit an empoweredrnCatholic woman’s pantheon of saintsrnthan Joan of Arc? A poor peasant girlrnbattles male chauvinism and the old-boyrnnetwork and rises to world fame in arnmale-dominated profession; she fightsrnfor her country and is wounded in battle,rncaptured by quislings, and allowed to rotrnin prison by the very king she risked herrnlife for; she is then sold to the enemv,rncondemned to death by an all-male panelrnof eggheads, and burned alive for herrn”idealistic” beliefs. More fashionablernstill, Joan of Arc was one of the most famousrncross-dressers in Western history,rnone who died undefiled by the devil’srnseed—i.e., she died a virgin. CouldrnSigourney Weaver or Meg Ryan ask forrnanything more?rnOf course, the reason we shouldn’t expectrnto see The Maid From Domremy atrnthe theaters anytime soon is that Joan ofrnArc’s “feminism” was neither a goal in itselfrnnor a means to a selfish or materialrnend. It was not a cudgel with which tornplay Thelma and Louise, or a crass strategyrnfor acquiring riches and fame, but arnmeans to a more significant, less tangiblernend, one virtually inconceivable becausernof its rarity today: sacrifice for the greaterrnglory of God. Joan of Arc claimed tornhave heard and acted on the voice of thernAlmighty—^ahweh, not Hillary—and torndouble the offense, she was a martyr forrna faith led today by a celibate old killjoy,rna white male no less, who opposes suchrnprogress as the ordination of women andrnsame-sex marriages. Moreover, wheneverrnCatholics do deign to celebrate women,rntheir heroines, we’re told, turn out tornbe hucksters and frauds, more sinnersrnthan saints. As the Kathie Lee Gifford ofrnGrub Street is always whining—ChristopherrnHitchens, that is—Mother Teresa isrna “ghoul.”rnWhat really motivated the model andrnher agents to sue Le Pen—was it politicsrnor the pocketbook, or a little of both?—rnwill probably never be known. But whatrncan be said is that the media’s moralisticrnspin on this story—that a brave andrncourageous woman has faced down arnclique of reactionary white men becausernshe is devoted to principle and ideals—isrnhighly suspect. For “independent” andrn”determined” Ms. Evangelista may be,rnbut a devotion to “principle” and “ideals”rn—at least to any principles and idealsrnconsonant with Catholicism—wouldrnseem a dubious characterization of thernmodel’s much-publicized career.rnLinda Evangelista has long been toutedrnas one of the most beautiful womenrnin the world and one of the most successfulrnpersons in her field. Many worshiprnher high cheekbones and almondshapedrneyes, though fashion illustratorrnMats Gustafson has praised her “beautifulrnnostrils that tilt another way, and arnmouth that angles in a third direction,”rnwhich makes her sound like one of thernextras in Tod Browning’s film Freaks.rnShe was part of what the fashion worldrndubbed the “Trinity”—Evangelista,rnNaomi Campbell, and Christy Turlingtonrn—and this hallowed term reflectsrnthe reverence with which the institutionsrnof pop culture groveled before thesernicons between 1986 and 1991, when thernwaifish Kate Moss finally stole the limelight.rnThis triumvirate came to epitomizernWestern fashion and were thernprototypes of what today is called thern”supermodel,” earning fees unprecedentedrnin the history of their professionrnand garnering the kind of slavishrnattention which only movie stars inrnHollywood’s glory days once enjoyed.rnNo longer would models be mannequins,rnmere human clothes-hangers,rnas they were in the I930’s; they were nowrnsex symbols, celebrities, and culturalrnmetaphors.rn”It’s all about models today!” JohnrnTowne’s lament was never more appropriaternthan last year, when both fashionrnand nonfashion publication alike coveredrnMs. Evangelista’s decision to dorn”the bob.” Harper’s Bazaar replayed thern”event” snip by snip in its July issue, reportingrnthat the bold new coiffurernproved “drama is Evangelista’s middlernOCTOBER 1996/39rnrnrn