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The Duchess and the Devil: a tale of two pretty ladies

2012 April 8
by Zoe Strimpel

Now here's a woman the public can get on board with: modest.

Samantha Brick is everything Kate Middleton isn’t.














As the anniversary of the Royal Wedding sweeps towards us, I can’t help but reflect on two very different Daily Mail bonanzas. The sickly sweet stink of Hallmark soppiness that oozed off the pages of that newspaper last year, egged on by its readers, and joined by the world’s media, had at its core the woman that every reader – any “decent person”in the UK – loved. Kate Middleton.

A year later, Kate Middleton’s perfect antithesis has emerged in the form of Samantha Brick (5,725 mostly-evil comments on her Daily Mail article). People hate Brick possibly even more than they loved Middleton.


Certainly, the foremost feature of both women are their looks: Middleton’s are self-evident, not to mention necessary (an ugly future-queen? That would really be maddening). Brick’s are obvious too, in their way, but as a standalone feature that would not have been noted in public had she not written the piece, not as a natural part of a fairtytale. Sure, Kate is more beautiful than Samantha. But unlike the thousands of ranting comment-leavers and tweeters (most of them probably either ugly, stupid, or with severely bad sex lives), I don’t buy for one second that the difference in the calibre of their looks is the issue. Or, to put it in the words of the mob, that “I am sorry, but this woman is not even remotely attractive, at least by the standards of New York CIty”. On the surface, it appears the rage lies with her misjudgement- fine to boast if she WAS super-pretty, but she’s not. Another US reader (Americans are inevitably the most tense about matters of looks) explains: “People would not ‘attack’ Angelina Jolie if she were to declare that she is beautiful, because it goes without saying that she IS beautiful. She has amazing hair, big beautiful lips, large cat-like eyes, and tall slim figure that is totally kick-ass. If Charlize Theron, Beyonce, and Jessica Alba were in the same room as me, I would squeal and ask for their autographs!! Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for you, Samantha.” That clears that one up!

But really, it’s the “arrogance” that kills them. How DARE a woman be so arrogant – and about something so precious, so central, so God-given and celebrity-endorsed as LOOKS? Rants TLC from Hampshire: “The arrogance and self absorbtion of this woman is staggering.” Anonymous from Birmingham opines: “For your age you are quite pretty, but arrogance. But have you thought that actually the reason why women don’t like you is because of your personality rather than your good looks?” And H-UK from London decrees: “There is nothing more unattractive than a boastfully high opinion of yourself. I suspect this woman lacks friends because of this rather than her appearance.” And so the mob wants to put this Scarlett Letter-style harlot, this Salem Witch, or – in the contemporary argot, this BITCH-  in her place. Leigh from Huddersfield volunteers, telling her: “Honestly – I would actually not see you if I passed in the street – you are beige – forgettable,” (probably just as well for Brick – or any woman). And it’s not just weirdo trolls unable to control their rage at Brick’s so-called arrogance – the intelligentsia and media elite can’t either: magician Derren Brown, columnist India Knight, Barbara Walters and Ann Curry on the Today Show are among the bullies (NB: I’d rather look like Brick than any of them). Poor old Brick even says a Swedish crime writer’s had a go at her.

Now, to Kate. What people love about Kate is that she’s a perfect woman by the surprisingly archaic definition that still really holds sway in people’s hearts: demure, quiet, adoring, thin, pretty, girly, into clothes, sweet. Demure, sweet, adoring. Those are the big three. And put together, they equal modesty, perhaps humility. You could imagine Kate at the confession box, Jaeger hat neatly set on the pew. You can imagine her denying that she’s pretty: “Who, me? Not at all. It’s my chess skills that hooked Wills, really”.  I’m not saying I dislike Kate in the slightest and I’m glad I’ve never seen her knickers in a drunken catapult out of Boujis as might well have happened with another candidate for the throne. Certainly her charity work has gone off smoothly, and in a way that speaks well of Britain.
But Kate’s popularity, taken in contrast to Brick’s perceived villainy, says something dismaying about our notions of femininity. Not just that we confuse moral health with good looks,  but that when it comes to femalehood, anything is better than immodesty (even false modesty) – especially when it comes to a public persona. More specifically, what the Brick affair has show is is that if there’s one kind of arrogance in a woman that repulses us above all others, it’s an inflated views over looks. Get anything else wrong but not that. Had Ms Brick had written an article about how everyone hates her because she is so clever, or so good at the piano, or has such a green thumb that all her lemon trees grow while her neighbours’ die, there would have been a rather different reaction.
PS It’s worth noting that sheer good looks does not denote quantity of male attention. I have known women who are not obviously pretty, vivacious, or attractive, but whom men, attractive men, have always loved and always will. Certain women just have that thing that makes men love to give them free drinks, and it sounds like Brick is one of them.
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