Iconic film star Raquel Welch is back — by which I mean the 81-year-old actress who has long since retired from the silver screen happened to venture outside her home last week, where she had the misfortune of being snapped by paparazzi. This appearance marks the first public sighting of Welch in over two years, presumably because she enjoys keeping a low profile these days after decades of fame and intense scrutiny of her personal life.
To simply be left alone seems like a perfectly natural desire for any octogenarian who has spent the vast majority of their adult life in the spotlight — particularly Welch, who shot to stardom wearing a now-iconic fur bikini in the 1966 film One Million Years B.C. and spent the next few decades of her career as one of the 20th century’s leading sex symbols. Like many beautiful and talented women in Hollywood, Welch’s personal life was also frequent tabloid fodder throughout her career, and the star was known for her string of high-profile romances.
These days, however, Welch has retired to “former sex symbol” status, as Page Six put it in a recent report on the star’s sudden emergence back into society. Frankly, “former sex symbol” seems like a pretty rude way to refer to a still-living celebrity, for obvious reasons. I would think once a sex symbol, always a sex symbol, but apparently that’s not the case. At what point, exactly, was Welch stripped of her sex symbol status? When does a woman who has spent her career being ogled and objectified lose the official title? Is there an annual changing of the guard when Hollywood execs revoke sex symbol status from aging starlets and force them to pass on their titles to a new crop of stars whose filler and Botox have held better?
Then again, while demoting an aging star from sex symbol to “former sex symbol” may seem a little harsh, perhaps it’s time we do away with the term “sex symbol” altogether, if not the entire concept. As a society that generally recognizes that it’s probably not great to treat a human being like a sex object, it’s a little weird that we’re pretty much fine with declaring someone a sex symbol. Most people can broadly recognize sexual objectification as a Bad Thing, yet “sex symbol” is still a term and concept we toss around pretty casually, often as an accolade.
Anyway, while Page Six‘s “former sex symbol” slight may come off a little cold, I’m sure Raquel Welch is probably pretty glad to have retired from her sex symbol days. May she quietly return to the low-profile, former sex symbol existence from whence she had the misfortune to emerge ever so briefly, and may we all simply leave this woman alone.
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