I just watched a modern production of the old Broadway show “42nd Street”. It brought up a question that I have asked myself many times before…
Why do girl’s legs look better today than they did in the 1930s and 40s?
I’ve seen a million of those old “show” movies from the Busby Berkely era, and I’m sure that in those days (just as today) the dancers were all chosen from the top ranks of their profession. They were just as skilled and athletic, as well-trained, as performers are today. But today’s girl’s seem more physically attractive, their legs seem longer and more perfectly formed–bluntly, sexier, than the hoofers playing the same parts in the old movies. In fact, many of the old-time sex bombshells from Hollywood just don’t seem to have as good a figure as even the typical modern B-level starlet.
I’ve noticed the same thing in athletes (figure skaters, gymnasts, swimmers, etc), but the sample size is much smaller so it is hard to say I’m seeing a trend, or if I’m just making it all up.
Could this be function of modern diet, training methods, or a tendency to cast different body types? Or perhaps its a slowly evolving standard or expectation of feminine beauty. I’m sure a similar effect would be noticeable among male performers, but its harder to pick up on because they wear more clothes. And maybe I’m not paying as much attention.
This is not a frivolous question. I’ve been a fan of old movies for a long time, and I’ve noticed this effect for years. I also realize that physical attractiveness is completely subjective and driven by cultural norms and fashion as well as biological health or apparent reproductive fitness. We all recognize that different cultures and different eras of our own culture have had different and changing standards of “beauty”. Look at the paintings of the old masters, fat girls and pale skins used to be in, tanned and skinny are the rage today. I’ve also noticed changes in what is considered “attractive” even in my own lifetime. Is it perception or population that is changing?
I’m interested in your comments.