I struggled with how to start this topic – so let’s start with a little reported fact: Brooke Shields is intellectually gifted with a reported IQ around 150. When her modelling and acting career slumped she went to university, to Princeton, where she did honours in French literature. When you look at her photos, the X factor is a keen intelligence glaring back. This is an important point.
What is the difference between being pretty, beautiful, playfully sexy or overtly sexual? These are all attributes of Aphrodite. Legend suggests that Aphrodite’s power lies in her mirror, in her ability to create an illusion. The problem is that a life lived in an illusion is a trap. And too many women fall into that trap, a fate that befell both Brooke Shields and her French counterpart, Eva Ionesco.
Brooke was a child model who transgressed the boundary between pretty and sexual. To many she is a victim of exploitation. When she was 10 she posed in series of erotic photos for NY photographer Gary Gross.
These images were the subject of a court case when Brooke and her mother attempted to stop their publication. The court upheld the contractual rights of the photographer, adding that they did not breach the child pornography laws. The above image is a detail of a full body shot later turned into a work called ‘Spiritual America’ by Richard Prince, which was the subject of a child porn controversy when it was shown at the Tate Modern. What is interesting to note is that an older Brooke repeated the pose for Prince’s ‘Spiritual America 2’, this time wearing a bikini, clearly suggesting that she approved of the first version.
A few years later Brooke again posed nude, this time playing a child prostitute in Louis Malle’s 1978 film, Pretty Baby. The film again created controversy and some scenes of Brooke’s full frontal nudity were cut. The film tells the story of a famous New Orleans brothel at a time when child prostitution was legal (at the time the age of consent throughout America was very low – 7 in Delaware). Brooke’s character is rescued when a photographer, based on the real-life EJ Bellocq, marries her (again legal at the time).
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