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Member Article: More Than Just Hair

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Recently, as I was watching a repeat of “Linchpin” (4×16) in which Beckett and Castle take a plunge into the river and Beckett’s hair dries all wild and wavy the image triggered a memory. It might not have happened if “Linchpin” wasn’t the concluding episode of a two-part “Castle” in which the preceding episode was titled “Pandora” (4×15). As with all nagging things that don’t let you rest (think mothers and toothaches) I had to do something about it or not sleep soundly that night.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Proserpine- 1874

Ten minutes later, thanks to Larry Page and Sergey Brin (creators of Google) who could have spent time partying at Stanford, but chose to study instead, I had my answer. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, an artist who lived in Victorian England, had painted a woman with wild, wavy hair in 1869 and the title of the painting was “Pandora”.

As I looked through a selection of Rossetti’s work, I was struck by Stana Katic’s uncanny resemblance to the women in many of his paintings. On the verge of excited Castlesque theories (time travel, reincarnation, an alien conspiracy) I found that Rossetti was among the first in a long line of men who recognized tall, long-necked, long haired women as beautiful, and was credited with changing the concept of beauty in an era that idealized pale, women with tiny corseted waists.

He was part of the Pre-Raphaelites movement of artists, poets and writers that wanted to reform art by depicting Nature and people in all its raw reality rather than the posed superficiality that was the convention at that time. The ‘ideal’ nineteenth-century English woman was submissive, unassuming, and restrained in her dress and behavior. Rossetti challenged the prevailing standards of womanhood and painted his own ideal woman.

In “Pre-Raphaelite Challenges to Victorian Canons of Beauty”, Susan Casteras writes about Rossetti, “The women in his paintings did not conform to the mold of the demure and fair Victorian maiden. Instead, he constructs the idea of a “dark Venus” in his paintings with powerful Amazonian structured bodies and bold, direct gaze.” Rossetti depicted women not as delicate ornaments, but as women in all their intensity, complexity, and substance. He gave them the power to be different.

While Rossetti’s paintings did not resonate with the general population, his work was one of many seeds of rebellion at a time when women were beginning to fight for their own voice and identity. It is fascinating to think about how the “Rossetti Woman” paved the way for the women of our generation. In some ways, Kate Beckett would not be Kate Beckett, “a remarkable, maddening, challenging, frustrating woman”, were it not for the vision of Rossetti and others like him.

It is not only in the layers of complexity that Beckett is a “Rossetti Woman”. I mean how can you miss the hair? Shiny long hair is significantly correlated with female attractiveness as perceived by men and women. I base this statement on irrefutable scientific research. All right, mainly shampoo commercials, but some serious Google Scholar searches too.

According to my findings, anthropologists and zoologists believe that this attraction to long, thick and healthy hair, or fur as the case may be, is a subconscious recognition of the female’s health and reproductive potential. I have faith that evolution has raised men’s responses beyond those of yaks and Persian cats so that they can see beyond the hair to the personality beneath, but no doubt we still have a long way to go before every man is like Richard Castle.

Beckett’s hair has grown lighter, longer, and more famous than some rock stars.

Over the past four seasons, Beckett’s hair has grown lighter, longer, and more famous than some rock stars. It has Facebook pages devoted to it and it has even made it into the urban dictionary as an example of the term “hair porn”, which is apparently the hot and steamy things you imagine when you see lustrous, windswept hair. (No, not coffee. Try again.) And, as unlikely as it it may seem, the online discussion about Beckett’s tresses is a showcase for a deeper dialogue about women’s place in a testosterone world.

Beckett stands as a symbol of the modern North American woman – strength, confidence, and assertiveness balanced with the overt femininity of her long hair and spiky mascara. Sociologically, hair is an important aspect of individual and group identity. In that sense, Beckett shares a commonality with hippies, Hindu widows, punks, monks, and Black women – their hair is a statement of who they are and how the world views them. Her Season 1 hairstyle was described by Ingela Ratledge of “TV Guide” as “short ‘lady cop’ hair that was as no-nonsense as her personality”.

As Beckett’s character relaxed towards Castle, so did her look, portraying that she can be strong and soft at the same time. In “Nikki Heat” (3×11) when Natalie Rhodes, the actress who is going to portray Beckett in the movie version of “Heat Wave”, suggests that Beckett wears high heels to add inches so she can subtly intimidate men, Beckett says, “You’re right about the heels and the stature, but it’s not because I need it…I just like it.”

Beckett is not apologetic about the ying and yang inherent in who she is, and the most important aspect of her personality is that her strength is not tied to her hair.

In a “Parade” interview, Stana Katic said about Beckett’s longer hairstyle, “She’s well-served by being able to be feminine and tough. The whole look is a balance between the hair, the wardrobe, and the makeup. I don’t feel pressure to keep her hair long. It’s more about where the character is. Right now she can let her hair down and show her feminine side and doesn’t have to be as buttoned up. We get to see other parts of her. She’s a little girl, she’s a tigress, and she’s a warrior. She’s insecure and she’s indomitable. She’s everything.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti would have been proud to see what a long way we’ve come.

About Jas

Jas is a couch potato who despairs at reality TV. When she is not watching TV, she teaches at a university in Toronto

Comments

  1. Hey, hope you don’t mind the correction but, the picture you have in the article is another of Rossetti’s works. It’s not Pandora, it’s another woman from Greek mythology named Persephone.

  2. None of this theory deals with the long history of men with long hair. It is hard to work out why long hair was a symbol of power for so long, and then goes away until the 60s, and now is more or less gone again except on the cover of bodice rippers and West Side Wally…..

    • alanapaints says:

      What a cool and thoughtful observation!
      BTW, Rosetti’s model became his wifei.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Raphaelite_Brotherhood
      The reason the Pre-Raphaelites chose that name was because they wanted to go back to art pre-Raphael – art based on the observation of nature and detail, rather than idealization (although I think idealization was certainly part of their aesthetic, either that or everyone in Victorian England was exceptionally gorgeous). :-)
      The fashion industry is designed to fill us with longing for what we don’t have. That’s so we’ll buy stuff. This holds true for both men and women. It’s cyclical, but since culturally we never step in the same river twice, there will always be slight differences in what’s acceptable. Justin Bieber’s face-sweeping ‘do is an echo of Napoleonic hairstyles. He’ll probably wear mutton chops and an afro when he’s 30. (#OhDearGodNo).
      It never even occurred to me that anyone would devote an entire page to Kate’s hair… there’s probably one for Nathan’s hair out there too. He’s rocked the Leslie-Neilsen-in-Forbidden-Planet ‘do for a long time, and it has served him well.
      http://preview.tinyurl.com/cxupd3m

      I’d love to see him all shaggy with a beard sometime. Preferably a little gray in there. In a movie with Sam Elliott. Possibly rescuing orphans or kittens (or both).
      But not too soon. Because then I’d be dead, and in heaven, and I’m not ready to die just yet.

  3. Just a note to say one cannot truly get an idea of how much Stana Katic looks like a “Rossetti Woman” till you see it for yourself. I have compiled this collection of Rossetti’s paintings and Stana Katic’s photographs on Youtube to illustrate the striking resemblance.

    Castle and Beckett – Rossetti’s Beckett: A Work of Art
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkscmrWkXIA

    • fantastic article Jas! Excellent points and illustrations. This teacher knows how to recognize class!

  4. “Beckett’s hair has grown lighter, longer, and more famous than some rock stars.” Fabulous line! And I had no idea about Stana’s hair being referenced on Urban Dictionary… it made me laugh out loud when I read it.

    There has been so much controversy about Beckett / Stana’s hair — short, long, wavy, straight. And for the longest time I kept thinking: “Get over it, people! It’s just hair!” However, your article has been more than enlightening about just how much her hair defines her character and her personality.

    A wonderfully written article, Jas! Thank you! :D

  5. TracyLee55 says:

    Jas, Great observations and article. I will have to Google Rossetti my self.

    I loved when you wrote: “According to my findings, anthropologists and zoologists believe that this attraction to long, thick and healthy hair, or fur as the case may be, is a subconscious recognition of the female’s health and reproductive potential. I have faith that evolution has raised men’s responses beyond those of yaks and Persian cats so that they can see beyond the hair to the personality beneath, but no doubt we still have a long way to go before every man is like Richard Castle.”

    I have enjoyed watching the hair grow. For a long while I really liked Kate/Stana in S2 hair (beginning) and if she did trim it back to thatI would like it. But Stana is so right, Kate is a woman who is comfortable (for the most part) in her own skin…. and hair.

    I have to admit though, I wish it would go back to darker. I tire of the blond and the lightening of female locks. To me it says: You are only pretty if you have lighter colored hair, and the brunettes out there are not so much. I also concede this could be my own prejudice too.

    Thanks again.

  6. What a great article! Thank you for writing it.

  7. MLibraryGal says:

    Thank you, Jas. This subject had a lot of silliness potential but instead you’ve brought us a wonderful new way to look at something as basic as hair. Tying Beckett’s look into the Pre-Raphaelites art movement is brilliant and insightful. Yet more layers to the Beckett onion.

  8. You all are such a clever bunch…

    Being a Castle fan is very satisfying, because it makes you part of a community of quality people. It is not always the case on other sites of any kind.
    Stana Kacik’s “Parade” interview you gave as example shows how characters are really thought through and the actors have a clear vision of them. I must say I never imagined I would someday comment an article about hairstyles…But any POW on such a good subject as this show is goes, especially when the eye is as acute as yours.

  9. southerngirl says:

    Jas, what great observations and insights! What I loved about Kate’s somewhat frizzy, air-dried hair in Linchpin was that it added realism to the episode and yet she was still beautiful, in-charge Beckett. Credit Stana’s great talent and true beauty. I just watched your Youtube of Rossetti’s Beckett and great job. Stana would have been a terrific model for Rossetti and his colleagues of the time (as well as artists of today). Thanks again for an interesting and informative article!

  10. Dear Jas:

    AMAZING !!!!!! Thank you soooo much for sharing such a soulful article. Reading it has been a spiritual oasis in a “techno world”.

    Merci – Gracias – Danke :)

  11. Thank U for sharing. Great point of view! This Castle fans are amaizing