Glamour's Origin: Hope Or Despair?


Glamour carries with it the promise of escape and transformation. What does that imply about its audience? Does glamour appeal to the optimistic or the desperate? You can make a case for either--and people do.

"I've always felt there was an aspect of glamour that contained a moral element. I can't explain it exactly but it's something to do with optimism, cheer and celebration, glamour being a language that denotes great faith in life," writes the FT's Susie Boyt in a recent column.

By contrast, in the comments on my earlier post on terror and glamour, reader grvsmth (a.k.a. Angus "Andrea" Grieve-Smith, who blogs here) suggests that glamour's appeal originates in despair: “If you’re trying to escape through a fantasy you have to be pretty desperate, right? That's the sense of ‘despair’ that I mean - a feeling of being trapped and having no options left.”

Glamour is an illusion, but that doesn't mean it's entirely untrue. It reveals something true about what we desire and, in doing so, may point us in the direction of what we might become. It may open up some imaginative space in which we can consider new options, rather than feeling entirely trapped. Sometimes escape and transformation are real possibilities, if only we can find ways to act realistically on the suggestions contained in our fantasies. At other times, imaginative escape is better than no escape at all. Anne Frank posted glamour shots of movie stars on the walls of her hidden room.