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Blond ambition: Hair-raising tales of shoddy work

With the release of House of the Dragon, the much-anticipated Game of Thrones prequel, some of the fuss has centred on a surprising angle – the wigs.

As many commentators have noticed, they are embarrassingly shoddy, especially considering the show’s $200 million budget.

Unlike many of the wigs in GOT, they were not made with real human hair (most likely because these kinds of wigs are incredibly expensive), and the colours chosen did not complement the actors’ skin tones.

This might seem like an isolated incident, but it points to a larger problem in the entertainment industry.

In a Facebook post, which I came across this week, commentator Nolan Yost detailed some of the serious lack of quality in current TV costumes.

I should make something inescapably clear: Ceatives within the TV industry are not wholly responsible for the subpar offerings of the last few years. While it can be tempting to make fun of hair and costumes for being inaccurate and crappy, the ethical implications of this situation should be considered.

Blond ambition: Hair-raising tales of shoddy work

Nolan Yost points out some cheap shortcuts on costumes and hair. Source: Facebook

Unfortunately, costumiers are at the mercy of a system that prioritises speedy production. No matter the budget or form, new shows are being rushed into production at alarming rates, with many being greenlit, made and released within a year or two.

In this environment, people are simply not given enough time to create high-quality work, often having to make do with cheap and unconvincing materials. 

As Yost explains, House of the Dragon, the recently released Game of Thrones prequel series, is one of the more recent examples of this phenomenon – the wigs, in particular, have been harshly criticised. Despite the show’s huge budget, the production used synthetic hair in its wigs, and they look dreadfully fake.

It’s particularly disappointing, given the original GOT series was celebrated for its costumes and mostly well-executed hairstyles. 

“The Shein Era of Mass Media” – as Yost calls it, after the maker of cheap, synthetic clothes – extends to film.

Blond ambition: Hair-raising tales of shoddy work

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Avengers Endgame, wearing a CGI Quantum Realm suit.

2019’s Avengers Endgame featured CGI Quantum Realm suits because production started before they could be finalised. Although the effects on these suits are convincing enough, it is frustrating to discover that studios are so willing to rush film shoots that CG artists are forced to clean up the mess, while also being terribly underpaid and rushed.

This conveyor belt style of filmmaking is not universal: 2020’s The Queen’s Gambit is a masterclass in period-accurate costuming, with the costumiers taking great pains to present 1960s style beautifully.

Series such as Euphoria feature well-chosen, stylish costumes and hair, proving that contemporary looks can be much higher in quality than they are often given credit for, and can be created in a relatively pleasant environment.

Even some truly awful cinematic looks of the past are admirable because they came to exist in an era when the designers’ desire to take real risks was more accepted. This new system does not allow this kind of passion to flourish; creatives are expected to churn out whatever their higher-ups demand of them, leading to passionless, clinical costumes and hairstyles.

Poor-quality costuming and hair are just a problem now, but there is a trend.

Blond ambition: Hair-raising tales of shoddy work

Great costuming: Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) in The Queen’s Gambit.

Series such as Bridgerton have also come under fire for featuring shoddily sewn garments, and historically inaccurate hair is a near inevitability no matter the era of film you study. As someone who writes about film and TV costumes, this trend of bad outfits and hair is infuriating to no end.

While this new era of filmmaking isn’t a sign that no good costumes will ever exist again, audiences and workers alike should be cautious. If studios continue to greenlight projects and allocate so little time to get them made, this cycle will keep going.

For the foreseeable future, it seems that industry giants are unwilling to provide more time to create acceptable aesthetics, which is a crying shame, as employees are exploited by authority figures with little to no regard for their wellbeing or the quality of their work.

In short, you can’t hurry costumes; you just have to wait.

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