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Nice Counts. Or Why Jessica Simpson Won't Do Nudity

By Michael Murray | Think Pieces | July 23, 2010 |

By Michael Murray | Think Pieces | July 23, 2010 |

While watching TV the other day, I stumbled upon the movie Blonde Ambition, which I mistook for the movie Legally Blonde. It’s a pretty easy mistake to make, that.

Legally Blonde stars Reese Witherspoon. She plays a perky, underestimated blonde who falls in love with Luke Wilson and rises against expectations, whereas Blonde Ambition stars Jessica Simpson as a perky, underestimated blonde who falls in love with Luke Wilson and rises against expectations. As far as these things go, Legally Blonde, propelled by a charming and talented actress, is kind of decent, while Blonde Ambition, propelled by Jessica Simpson, is not.

No matter, the ugly truth was that I was happier to watch the Jessica Simpson vehicle, as like a lot of men, I feel a trashy, inarticulate lust when I see her. I would very much like for my tastes to be more elevated, but they are not, and every time I see Simpson, all I want is for her to take her clothes off.

But so far, she has not.

I’ve been expecting nudity of Jessica Simpson for a couple of years now. Her career’s been in a tailspin, and now 30, she’s practically ancient by Hollywood standards. It seemed that the only thing left to do was to bare it all in a last, desperate cry for attention. But in a serious acting role, of course—perhaps playing some historical figure—The Undiscovered Betsy Ross: The Woman Nobody Knew starring Jessica Simpson.

At any rate, what was clear from watching Blonde Ambition was that Jessica Simpson is an utterly hopeless actress. Obviously, it’s not a movie that asked for nuanced emotional expression from its star, but man alive! Her face was capable of little more than clownish caricatures of actual feelings, and it was deadly obvious that there was nothing “thoughtful” animating her.

The truth is that she can’t act, sing, dance, or even strike model poses— beyond the hands-on-the-hips-radioactive-beauty-queen-smile variety—and as she has nothing much to say, well, that makes being a star— rather than a laughing stock— kind of difficult. No matter, her father, who seems as proud of her tits as some parents are of their child’s scholastic achievements, keeps trotting her out there in the hopes of securing some market share.

In “The Price of Beauty,” Simpson was reconfigured as a jiggling seeker of wisdom exploring the complex nature of beauty in disparate cultures. This was not entirely convincing. She was also presented as a county singer, but in spite of the cleavage, she was no Dolly Parton, and it seemed like a career as a Christian pop singer lurked just around the corner.

The giggling, kittenish simplicity that emanated from Simpson through her 20s seems less tolerable now that she’s turned 30, and her lack of discernible talent is becoming even more glaring. At this point in her career she’s primarily newsworthy for being “fat.”

Online and in magazines, we’re now seeing graceless photographs of her in muumuus and high-waisted jeans. She’s not really fat, but it’s close enough by the standards of the entertainment industry, and so we all snicker and point, or at least, I do. Honestly, I can’t help myself.

There’s something instinctively satisfying in seeing a person like Jessica Simpson, a person privileged with the obvious good looks that have eluded the majority of us, being pulled down to the pack. It doesn’t exactly make sense, but when beauty goes fat, all across the globe, lips tremble and then curl into smiles.

The narrative that’s being spun out of the Simpson weight gain is that after being dumped by a succession of predictable, asshole boyfriends— the type of men who saw her as nothing more than a temporary sex toy— she began to eat to fill the gaping chasm of loneliness that had cratered in her life.

And so we laugh at her, just as we laughed at Britney Spears. Spears, a princess who floated up from the septic of a trailer park was a teasing schoolgirl, the taboo sex bomb that every man in the world wanted to screw. But once she realized that sexual potential and became a wife and mother instead of the forbidden fruit we dreamed about, she was brutally tossed aside. And then, with a truly creepy glee, we watched as she went insane, her demise now a public entertainment.

It was hard not to have sympathy for the vulnerable Spears, as she simply didn’t have the tools to deal with the brutal and confusing chaos her life revealed itself to be. Similarly, although Simpson’s merely pudgy and seems unlikely to ever achieve the florid psychosis that visited Spears, it’s next to impossible not to feel for her, too. There’s an uncomplicated decency to Simpson that’s notably absent in the younger-train-wreck-in-progress that is Lindsay Lohan. Lohan has the coldly ambitious intelligence of Tracy Flick and a childish and unrepentant sense of entitlement that marks her as a Veronica and not a Betty.

Not yet 25, Lohan has already delved into the dark arts of plastic surgery in an attempt to further her stalled career, while Simpson’s best idea just seems to be to sing louder. In spite of being the “sexual napalm” that moron John Mayer used and then disposed of, or of being public enemy number one in Texas for being the witch that cursed Tony Romo with her poison love, Simpson really hasn’t struck back. She’s never seemed particularly spoiled or mean-spirited, just silly, and even in the face of public humiliations, she’s just dusted herself off, and tried something else.

Her continued refusal to appear nude is (although frustrating) laudable. That’s for her husband alone, she says, and although it’s kind of old fashioned and quaint, it’s also sweet and sincere. Hell, maybe she is just a simple, country girl who wants to fall in love, and all the rest of it is the ride that she hopes will take her to that destination.

Talent wise, there’s no doubt that she sucks, and she really doesn’t seem to be very bright, but there also doesn’t seem to be a mean bone in her body. She’s the sort of person who wakes up each day honestly expecting to like everybody that she meets, and cheerfully expecting that they’ll like her, too. And so Jessica, even if you do get fat and start belting out over-the-top and out of key love songs to Jesus, I’m still going to like you, because nice counts.

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