A disaster of monumental proportions for those of us who study media and American culture: Bettie Page died yesterday. Born in 1923, Bettie Page led a troubled life. Perhaps the most famous of the 1950s pinup models, she specialized in fetish pictures. A movie about her life in 2005 starred Gretchen Mol. Later in life she converted to Christianity and did missionary work.
So why am I memorializing her in what is mostly a political blog? Well, there is a political angle: her bondage photos in the '50s led to a senate investigation. But that's not the reason. Long time readers will know that this blog isn't just about politics. It's about media and American culture, and Bettie Page was an important media icon. She was an early pinup model for Playboy, which named her "the model of the century." Her official website gets lots of hits. According to her obituary, a recent TV guide poll named her "the ultimate sex goddess" beating out Marilyn Monroe. Her pictures still sell well as posters, on t-shirts, and as images downloaded from the internet. All of this for a woman who stopped working fifty years ago. She had a certain spark that was both inviting and challenging, and which came through in her photographs. She was a true icon and it is worth noting that she has passed.