People Can't Stop Talking About Rebekah Brooks's Hair

Robin Givhan's 900-word analysis is just one offering of many

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The first thing that everybody notices about Rebekah Brooks is her red hair. It's red, and it's curly. Brooks almost always wears it down and she's probably fielded jeers about it her whole life. Despite the already endless list of clichés and catchy headlines that already highlight Brooks's hair, The Daily Beast's Robin Givhan today devotes nearly a thousand words to searching for meaning in the curls. (There's also a helpful slideshow of powerful women with red hair.) The Pulitzer-prize winning fashion critic seems straight-forward enough at first:

Brooks arrived for her questioning dressed soberly in navy with a demure little heart-shaped charm dangling from a necklace. Her hair hung thick and loose below her shoulders like a dense tangle of vines. It was free and unruly; it was hair that had been released from any need to be controlled and tidy.

As she's famous for doing, Givhan inevitably and provocatively turns Brooks's fashion statement into a much broader statement about power. It's kind of like the time she framed Dick Cheney's choice to wear a parka, "the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower," at an Auschwitz memorial ceremony as an expression of his selfishness. (She included that article in her Pulitzer portfolio by the way.) Givhan's take on the non-ponytailed red hair is similar:

Brooks’s hair was a distraction because it was a ballsy rebuke of our expectations governing how people on the defensive are supposed to tread. There was no suggestion of humility, timidity, or caution. There was no attempt to disappear into doleful anonymity.

That was look-at-me hair--stare at me, remember me. Me, me, me.

Speaking of analogies, we counted at least five ways besides "look-at-me hair" that Givhan manipulated metaphors to reference Brooks's hair: "a wild mane of wavy auburn hair," "a dense tangle of vines," "the familiar red cloud," "that flaming hair," and "a spray of self-conscious indifference."

British journalists have been conjuring up ways to reference Brooks's hair for years. However, even they seem a little bored of the red-hair angle. "Thousands of words have been written about her hair, her charm and her husbands. But the key to her extraordinary rise and devastating fall is none of these things," wrote Janine Gibson for The Guardian last Friday. Gibson adds that many of the jabs at Brooks's hair amount to "attempts to dismiss her by reducing her to ambitious woman cliches."

Or take Telegraph writer Richard Alleyne who profiled Brooks last week, giving mention to her hair only once in his story's lede. "The flame haired, 43-year-old ability to get the scoop and rise up the corporate ladder were down to a potent mix of ruthlessness and dazzling charm," writes Alleyne. "That and an extraordinary ability to make friends in high places meant the guest list to her wedding two years ago read like a Who's Who of modern Britain. She has risen from the very bottom to the very top of the profession."

Viv Groskop at the London Evening Standard on Monday anticipated and laughed off Givhan's Daily Beast argument about the meaning of the hairstyle in a column earlier this week. "No one is claiming that Rebekah Brooks's hair cast a spell over Rupert Murdoch for all those years," writes Groskop. "Nor are they suggesting that the mysterious power wielded by a frothy mass of in-your-face russet curls tells the untold story behind one of the greatest scandals of our times. Because that would be silly." She then goes on to talk about how big hair is about power. Oops.

For what it's worth, the Evening Standard included a slideshow with their story too.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.