Someone from our staff – that will no longer be working with us – wrongfully took the liberty to make significant changes to the informal essay “The Blonde Who Knew Too Much” written by the journalist Joana Nunes. The wrong version, and not the original text, ended up being printed in our editorial debut: The Blond Issue. We apologise to the author and to our readers. We invite you to read the full and original essay here:

As the Mad Men TV show fever stroke me earlier this year, I started digging on famous female copywriters and their published copy – I find Googling at a frenetic pace to be heart-warming, especially when insomnia takes over me. So, with Google came great data and I remember my jaw dropping in disbelief when I saw this line (written by a copywriter named Shirley Polykoff) in a Clairol printed ad from the early 1960s: “If I have only one life… let me live it as a blonde!” Ha! How wrong of me to assume advertising couldn’t affect me anymore. It felt so aggressive, even considering the tendencies of the culture it sprang from. I have nothing against bottle-blond-hair, and I happen to believe people dye their hair nowadays for the same reason the Egyptians wore makeup 4000 years B.C., but roughly put, women were being told that there was a hair colouring brand fixing ‘genetic flaws’ one bottle-blond head at a time. Even though, the key question here was: what is it about blond?

While I’m not sure this will throw any light on the subject, think about how Eve – the infamous biblical and mythological character that doomed us all – has been represented in most illustrations, from early times and throughout history, as a pallid white girl with long blond hair. What can one conclude from that? I don’t dare to answer. If I would, I’d probably point out she’s not pictured as a brunette given that only a blonde would tempt Adam and get them banished from the Garden of Eden, but that would be an awful thing to say. In any case, I’m just trying to draw attention to the fact that the fascination towards the light-haired dates as far back as that and still made it to the 21st century.

Anyhow, according to Steve Martin’s character in the movie Grand Canyon (1991), “All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” So, what do you have to say for yourself, Hollywood? As drastic as it may sound, Hollywood obviously loves blonde women, but profusely despises blond men. If you’re an actor who happens to have fair-hair, chances are you’ll be stuck with the villain role and will forever be denied the good guy lead – unless your name is Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt, in which case I want you to know that, despite my relationship status on Facebook, I’m totally single. Even if your name is Jude Law, you’ll have to darken your hair if you want to be the lead hero, e.g., Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004); the film industry will only allow you to be blond, or even ask you to go blonder, if you’re going to put on your bad guy face, e.g., I Heart Huckabees (2004).

I’ll give you another example, but as I’ve often been accused of making too many allusions to motion pictures twice as old as my father, I’ll give you the most explicit, contemporary and odds-are-everybody-knows-it reference I can think of: American Pie (1999). What do Jim, Oz, Kevin and Finch have in common? Besides being blessed with a libido as big as Warren Buffett’s bank account, they all have (arguable) good intentions, which makes them likeable. And then there is the Sean William Scott’s character Stifler, also known as the all-brawn-and- no-brains-guy, who happens to be the sole yellow-head of the group, the rest being dark- haired.

Malicious gossip has it that Hollywood is deliberately assigning all the evil lead characters to blond and fair-skinned men, because Jewish people own all the major film studios. If there’s some truth to this tale, I suppose their alleged secret agenda, to make us subconsciously fear attractive blond men, is not exactly working as planned, especially when the so-called ‘surfer dudes’ come to mind. FYI, I’m continuously drooling over the work of Jewish screenwriters, directors and comedians, so no prejudice here, quite the opposite – and I’m not saying this just because I’m afraid of being blacklisted by Hollywood like Mel Gibson. Seriously. I think Fiddler on the Roof (1971) is one of the best movies of all time, and I never saw The Passion of the Christ (2004) – aren’t these two of the prerequisites to be invited to a Bar Mitzvah?

Now, fair question: while Hollywood may be fond of its women blonde, how many of the blonde characters are allowed to be intelligent? I can’t answer this question without blaming the star of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), the quintessential blonde who led the world to believe that, as long as you’re a beauty queen, being ‘dumb’ is cute and even some sort of motive for praise. Given that she is widely known, I’m not going to elaborate much further. I rather quote director Billy Wilder, who put it so wisely: “Hollywood didn’t kill Marilyn Monroe; it’s the Marilyn Monroes who are killing Hollywood.” If Marilyn had won an Oscar – which is plausible in the same universe where Hitchcock never did – I’m sure she would thank first and foremost the people at The Blue Book Modeling Agency who told her that no one would ever look up to a dark-haired Norma Jeane, and then she would thank the French chemist Eugene Schuller, who invented the first marketable hair bleaching product in 1909. Thanks to it, she had a head bright enough to give the sun a run for its money, but maybe as a consequence of inhaling so many bleach fumes, also a brain like Swiss cheese. Since I dare not to glorify the most celebrated of all actresses, one can only think that I’m an envious witch. And I don’t mind being called envious, but have you ever seen a blonde witch? It seems that we just stepped on another Hollywood stereotype.

Anyway, the issue remains unsettled: are blonde characters allowed to be intelligent in Hollywood? First we have to establish that the decade Marilyn was brought to fame, was also the one in which blondes reached their apotheosis in Hollywood – the 1950s. Secondly, the dumb-beauty-queen is a stereotype that sells, therefore the movies portraying them were a huge success at the box office. In sum, who would change a winning team? Hollywood obviously didn’t. This explains, roughly put, why the actresses willing to impersonate cute- dumb-characters overshadowed smarter and classier fellow light-haired actresses who wouldn’t. Moreover, that’s still what happens today, to an extent. The modern blonde bombshell starlets haven’t disappeared from the cinemascope, and never turn down an empty-headed role when being offered one. It appears that the majority of them want nothing but to keep building fortunes by perpetuating the easy on the eyes but hard on the ears cliché – and still they manage to be cherished by hundreds of fans, which I found difficult to understand. But as Chuck Lorre pointed out a few years ago, in one of his Vanity Cards, even King Kong went from blood-thirsty-giant-ape to suicidal-love-monkey over light-haired actresses Fay Wray (in 1933), Jessica Lange (in 1976) and Naomi Watts (in 2005).

It’s undeniable that, throughout time, the show business ideal inhabitant has been blonde. Even for “The Master of Suspense”. Alfred Hitchcock explained his preference for the palehaired while being interviewed by François Truffaut in 1962. Here’s an excerpt which I believe sums up the “Hitchcock Blonde” concept, the choosing of lead actresses like Grace Kelly and Janet Leigh and why he would never work with Marilyn Monroe.

Hitchcock: You know why I favour sophisticated blondes in my films? We’re after the drawing-room type, the real ladies, who become whores once they’re in the bedroom.

Truffaut: What intrigues you is the paradox between the inner fire and the cool surface?

Hitchcock: Definitely. Do you know why? Because sex should not be advertised. Because without the element of surprise the scenes become meaningless. There’s no possibility to discover sex.

But enough with Hollywood. Riddle me this, Batman: in a society where we are able to explain what happened a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, how come we can’t explain consistently something as undemanding as the enchantment of blond? Charles Darwin apparently spent some of his valuable time trying to examine whether hair colour affects sexual selection. He wanted to find out if the dominance of dark hair in the general population was increasing because brunettes had traits seen as more attractive by potential mates, which would result in a decrease of the blond hair in succeeding generations. Finally he concluded that the evidence he gathered was misleading, since the prevalence of dark hair in married women could be due to the natural darkening of hair with age. Oh, Darwin! I’m so sad you didn’t live up to see all the positive sexual discrimination targeted at blondes. If you only knew that in the 21st century there are even ads offering bonuses for blonde egg donors.

Well, I certainly knew that I wouldn’t be able to come up with the answers needed to solve the good old blond riddle. However, I do know that pale streaks of hair don’t have to be the stuff nightmares are made of. If you’re blond-haired, you can ditch the ‘dumb’ and ‘bimbo’ tags by not embracing the stereotypical mould. Just do the opposite of those people who make it into The Sun headlines. Or maybe do something big enough that deserves to be remembered with a Hollywood biopic (I don’t think the bar is set very high, so it won’t take you much effort) – that way you’ll be helping a lot of narrow minds to understand that there are also bright brains behind bright hair. By the way, if you’re an actor, you really should stop accepting every dumb- water-polo-player role that’s offered to you. As well as evil-capitalist-Ken-doll roles. It wouldn’t hurt your career if you played the good-guy persona – haven’t you ever heard of James Stewart? Furthermore, it would make your mother prouder and her neighbours more envious.

Nevertheless, I’m conscious that we don’t live in a compassionate society, quite the contrary. In case you’re tired of hearing dumb-blond jokes from wannabe comedians, I advise you to answer their pejorative comments by saying that (according to Wikipedia) the more blond inhabitants a country has, the more Nobel Prizes it wins. Do it just to provide some balance to their universe – those jokers usually need it. I also bear in mind that many people won’t go for bottle-blond-hair because of the embarrassment of either having a fake look, or being associated with stupidity. Even though you can’t control others’ thinking patterns, you’re responsible for the self-inflicted prejudice. Go in for a full head-streaking job and dye your hair the colour of yellow-raw-Thai-silk if that’s what you want; no one, other than yourself, is stopping you from having Brigitte Bardot’s tousled bed-hair look or the undercut worn by Michael Pitt in the TV show Boardwalk Empire. Most of all, and despite your hair colour, just keep in mind that Sarah Palin is often called dumb while Ellen DeGeneres isn’t. I’m guessing you know which one is blonde.

Joana Nunes