Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rachel McAdams: The Blonder, the Blander

Okay, this is going to be totally superficial — but that wouldn’t be a first for the Internet.  I want to talk about Rachel McAdams’ hair.  Now, I’m not commenting at all on the Canadian-born movie star’s talent (I don’t think that anyone is interested in my opinion on that, anyway).  But I need to say something.

That something is this: I can’t think of another woman whose looks are so dramatically transformed by blonde hair color — transformed for the worse.

Full disclosure: I generally find darker hair more attractive on a woman than lighter hair.  Although I have my exceptions, the darker the hair color, the better, in my book.  (I guess I’m no gentleman.)  Of course, I don’t need to tell anyone just how beautiful Rachel McAdams is.  With her liquid hazel eyes, elegant chin, and supple lips parenthesized by two delicate dimples, the Canadian coquette will haunt many a movie-goer’s dreams for years to come.

In most of her films that I’ve seen, she usually sports a head of gracefully flowing auburn hair.  In some of her other movies, her cascading tresses are slightly lighter, maybe a burgundy brown, but still agreeably dusky.  The darkness of these hair colors brings out the best in her tan-tinged beauty.  But in a few of her films — and in most of her red-carpet and other off-the-set photos — her hair is bleached blonde.  The obviously artificial yellow in her curls blanches the crinal frame of her face, a face with a tincture of tawniness that clashes with such a bright color.  

According to the Huffington Post,
this shade of dark brown is Rachel
McAdams’ real hair color.
Rachel McAdams’ Internet Movie Database trivia page says that her hair is naturally blonde.  This is hard to believe.  Ms. McAdams is an “autumn” (to use the outdated beauty-parlor parlance) in every other aspect of her appearance, but blonde hair belongs on a “summer.”  Another on-line article says in one paragraph that her hair is “naturally brown” and in another that it’s “naturally blonde.”  I guess that clears things up.  But a YouTube video of her audition for her breakout movie The Notebook (2004) shows her with dyed blonde hair over grown-out brunette roots.  Did this “natural blonde” dye her hair a deep brown in order to bleach that color over with an artificial blonde?  If so, why?

I think the best explanation is that Rachel McAdams’ hair is naturally brown, as the rest of her coloring would indicate, not naturally blonde.  But if the actress does indeed have a natural hair color — blonde — that is inexplicably inharmonious with the rest of her looks, she patently helps it along by man-made means.  It’s the synthetic quality of this blonde look that subtracts from her attractiveness.

Or in plain old English: The otherwise extremely beautiful Rachel McAdams just does not look good with bleached-blonde hair.  

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’

On the other hand, this disagreeably artificial look can sometimes aid her characterizations as an actress.  The difference between her hair’s various visual effects upon an audience is most noticeable in her two films co-starring Owen Wilson.  In the romantic comedy Wedding Crashers (2005), a brunette McAdams plays the ingénue whose affections Wilson fights for.  Like the rest of the cinema patrons seated around me, I rooted for Wilson to win over the dark-haired beauty.  In their second film together, Midnight in Paris (2011), a bottle-blonde McAdams plays Wilson’s fault-finding fiancée.  Given this off-putting character’s ersatz appearance, it was easy to root against the relationship, which is certainly the audience reaction that the film desires.

In ‘Mean Girls’ (left) and ‘Wedding Crashers’

In fact, when I first saw Wedding Crashers, the face of the beautiful brunette who played the female lead really stuck in my mind.  What I didn’t realize was that I had seen this same actress the year before as the blonde antagonist in Mean Girls (2004), and her face never really registered with me.  I think that says a lot about how McAdams’ hair color can change the perception of her appearance — and, as in Midnight in Paris, how pejoratively the audience perceives her when her hair is yellow.

I can imagine a movie in which a male lead is torn between two female love interests, one blonde and the other brunette.  And — I’m sure you saw this coming — both women would be portrayed by Rachel McAdams.  This conceit of a male lead who divides his affections between two different women played by the same actress has been done before in Masahiro Shinoda’s Double Suicide (心中天網島, 1969), in which Shima Iwashita plays the roles of both the weak-willed lead’s wife and his mistress.  Shinoda’s use of casting the same actress (who is also his wife) in two different parts underlines the indecisiveness of his anti-hero and the somewhat capricious character of romantic love.  (And this concept is different from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo [1958], in which Kim Novak plays only one character: a dark-haired woman who disguises herself as a blonde.)  The way I envision it, this casting of my imaginary movie would be an experiment to weigh the contrasting attractiveness (or unattractiveness) between blonde Rachel and brunette Rachel.  I know which one I’d want to prevail.  My hypothetical movie’s writers could make brunette Rachel the most despicable character in cinema, and I’d still want to see the male lead end up with her.  Yes, McAdams looks that bad blonde.

There you have it — my raindrop-in-a-bucket diatribe about the ever-urgent issue of Rachel McAdams’ hair color.  I know that she has some fans who absolutely adore her blonde.  And I know that my opinion won’t matter to anyone else, least of all Ms. McAdams herself.  So, I know that she will wear her hair whatever color she pleases, as she should.  

But I think it’s a shame that a woman with an exceptional beauty best enhanced by darker hair seems to spend so much time lightening her locks for a look that — and this word is very apt — pales in comparison.  I believe that Rachel McAdams would better serve her exquisite features by keeping her tresses brown, thereby making the most of her coppery coloring and avoiding an inorganic appearance that makes her look like just another Hollywood blonde.  But it’s not for me to dictate what the actress does with her hair.

Unless maybe I could get blonde bleach declared a controlled substance.

Everyone’s a hair critic, I suppose.


Raj Bains said...

Agree completely.

LoungeLizzie said...

I have noticed this for years. She's so stunning with dark brown or auburn hair and so washed out with blonde.

I see it more with her than any other celebrity. And she does seem to be an autumn. Great article.

Executive Solutions said...

Absolutely agree. With the blonde hair, her face has no features. With the darker hair, her face really pops.

first time I saw her as a blonde I didn't even recognize her.