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Amélie at 20 and Halle Berry’s Oscar Bob

Two things happened this week that made me think about the cultural significance of bob haircuts as represented in film and on celebrities. I was quoted in an article about the film Amélie and also puzzled over some of the heavy criticism of actress Halle Berry’s similar bob. In brief, almost everyone loved Amélie’s hair but hated Halle’s.

When bad bobs happen to great actresses

Unless you’re a die-hard movie buff, you’d be forgiven for completely missing the fact that the beloved French film Amélie just celebrated its 20th anniversary. And unless you’re a die-hard awards ceremony buff, it’s unlikely that you watched the rather unfortunate Academy Awards ceremonies that aired earlier in the week. It’s equally unlikely that you spent much time musing over the celebrity hair on display, much less the historical or cultural significance, but I did.

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Men of a certain age vs. their female counterparts

While Brad Pitt’s man bun garnered universal raves, Halle Berry’s edgy haircut wasn’t as graciously embraced. For some reason, people took an almost instant dislike to Berry’s hair and makeup and were extremely vocal about it on social media. But why was there such a degree of disdain bordering on vitriol?

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Halle Berry’s bob is all of us right now.

Halle Berry has long been more than just another pretty face or woman who expresses herself through her hair. Berry is a woman of color who both fit the mold and broke the mold, and her evolving hair told the story. And yet, for some reason, the harshest of social media critics missed the fact that Berry at the Oscars was in many ways also a symbol of most women of a certain age right here and now.

Most of us no matter our age or experiences over the past year feel battered by the pandemic and are still exhausted from the residual pressure of always trying to look amazing. And so we try to look great on Zoom or even at the Oscars, but that doesn’t mean we have the same commitment to it we once did.

Tired but still trying

As embodied by Berry in her dusty rose dress, we’re simply trying to present a weary but fabulous current version of ourselves, even if it isn’t the one you thought you knew, much less the one easily accepted.

To be brutally honest, Like Amélie, Halle Berry’s bangs look like they were cut by an angry toddler.

But after looking at so many pictures of lockdown hair or the first haircut in over a year, isn’t that what Berry’s hair embodies? And admit it, on some level, it’s really comforting to see one of the most beautiful women in the world looking like she’s totally fried but still keeps going. Or maybe that’s what I’d like to think, and this is simply the person Halle Berry is right now, and that’s fine too.

Rachel in the news…talking about Amélie

Anyway, I was quoted in this fantastic article by Marie Lodi on Who What Wear. The article took a deep dive into why Amélie as a film mattered and why her distinctive bob was extremely meaningful. Worth noting and deeper history aside the classic bob as we know it was heavily influenced by iconic actresses including the insouciance, innocence, and subtle ennui of Audrey Hepburn.

I’m not sure that Halle Berry’s Oscar bob will ever be something widely written about, but ultimately it has as much historical immediacy if not significance as both Audrey and Amélie.