Wednesday, September 1, 2010

THE HORRIFYING THOUGHT OF THE FEMININE IDEAL



I've always been one to take pride in my appearance and try my hardest to look my very best.  It's not necessarily a vanity issue as much as it is a personal choice.  I love to dress up, and I love to show off my "girly" side with eye makeup and red lipstick.  I do it because it personally makes me feel good inside, and that's what matters. The scary thought though, is that there are those out there who firmly believe that all women should follow suit.  There are those who believe that no matter how much makeup I wear, or how fancy my hair is, I'll never be beautiful because I don't fit into the All-American ideal.  There are no ghouls or goblins that can frighten me more than the thought of a society that only values women based off of their appearance.  I'd be lying if I said "looks don't matter", because I'm realistic and accept the way society works.  It doesn't mean I necessarily agree with it, but it's the God's honest truth.  The concept isn't something unheard of and there are horror staples that exploit the ultimate fear of woman, being valued solely on appearance and nothing else. 

It is unfortunate that I admit I only became a Twilight Zone fanatic later on in life.  However, I have a deep and abiding passion for the series and one episode in particular.  "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" is by far one of the most haunting and jitter inducing episodes of the entire series for me.  The narration is as follows: Given the chance, what young girl wouldn't happily exchange a plain face for a lovely one? What girl could refuse the opportunity to be beautiful? For want of a better estimate, let's call it the year 2000. At any rate, imagine a time in the future when science has developed a means of giving everyone the face and body he dreams of. It may not happen tomorrow — but it happens now, in the Twilight Zone. That narration alone could give me chills.  N12LJLY puts every woman's fear in a world where it is the accepted way of life.  People are able to choose the face and body of a "perfect" ideal when one reaches a certain age and has a variety of looks to choose from.  Could you imagine waking up one day to turn in your identity for some cookie cutter woman that looks just like everyone else?  Marilyn (who's "not ugly, not pretty, but not ugly") shows great displeasure in ridding her looks, brains, and personality in order to conform to the rest of the world, but alas...she is defeated.  She then takes on the life her best friend has also chosen, model number eight.

>More mainstream thanks to the remake, The Stepford Wives also explores the terror that is stripping a woman of everything unique in order to fulfill the needs/desires.  However, unlike N12LJLY, the women of Stepford are simply killed off and replaced by robots.

Why does it horrify us so much to think of losing everything we hold true to ourselves in order to reach a bar set by other people, and yet there are millions of women around the world struggling with depression or eating disorders because of the very same subject?  I'm not sure, but just thinking about it makes me want a glass of instant smile.

7 comment(s):

Cheesemeister said...

I actually like to wear a little makeup and look as nice as is possible for a fat 45 year old broad, but it rarely happens due to lack of money combined with exhaustion leading to a tendency to inertia whenever I don't have to work. I have, however, always hated being defined by my appearance. Many an eon ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth I was applying for an administrative assistant position and happened to glance at what the interviewer was writing. It wasn't about my ability to type 75 WPM nor my stellar spelling skill. Nope, I was summed up in three words: "Cute little blonde."
I was not flattered, I was incensed.
Also, and I know I'm unusual in this, I do not like people commenting on any weight loss that may happen for me should I be able to stick to a diet or what have you. To me, this is a personal issue. It has nothing to do with my worth as a person. Compliment my cool outfit, should I be wearing one, or give me a generic "you look nice today." When someone says "you've lost weight--you look great!" I feel like saying "yeah, chemotherapy has that effect," because their comment implies "you looked like ten pounds of shit in a five pound sack before." I'm still the same person no matter what I weigh. That shouldn't enter into anything.
You know you've done a good post when it inspires a mini-post on my part--so, well done!

Trick or Treat Pete said...

Fantastic post! I refuse to be cookie cutter, my unique individuality is what makes me me.
My ex told me once, you're not the prettiest girl I ever dated, but you are the one I chose to be my wife...yeah, he only said it once, I made sure of that. Thanks for making sure I knew I was your consolation prize when you couldn't land Selma Hayek.
Everyday we are bombarded with media telling us we need to make our smiles whiter, our hair silkier, our skin softer, our waists smaller. We are told to use the "cuter" tampon and have a happy period. "This is what we consider beautiful and it can change every second, so be ready to do it or you won't be beautiful and we will tell you so."
Wear this brand, eat this food, drive this car...conform conform conform.
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum

Lela Richmond said...

An excellent post, and you've made me want to go and rewatch N12LJLY and both versions of The Stepford Wives all over again.
I've been pondering the female conformity question quite a bit myself, lately. It's horrifying to imagine how many women are absolutely tearing themselves apart to look like the plastic and air-brushed confections on magazine covers...

Strange Kid said...

That offers one possible explanation why horror is such a popular genre, especially within the tween and teen markets. I think what people forget, adults in particular, is the whole concept of inner beauty. Instead they focus on their visual austere of social expectations. In contrast to this, the horror film typically seeks to convey the inner virtues of inner beauty wherein the "monsters" are generally the sympathetic character with whom the viewer is meant to identify. That's my basic interpretation at least.

Bookmonkey said...

It's funny because as I read your post it sounds almost exactly like my 13-year-old daughter's current favourite book series, Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, in which at the age of 16 all people are given mandatory plastic surgery and are allowed to move from the plain town they live in as children to the pretty cities where all the grown ups live. A great young adult series which focuses on many of the same themes.

Emily said...

Oooh I love that Twilight Zone episode. Funny to, as I'm reading, I was thinking about how I'd have add a comment about the original Stepford Wives and then you seqway right into it!

I think both touch on such great female-centric horror. We're still in a world where 'beauty' is defined by an odd mainstream that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with real sexual urges. A lot of men would rather sleep with Kathy Bates than Angelina Jolie, but would never say it out loud. So when something like Stepford makes a liberated woman (by far the most horrific aspect of both the book and film, the fact that the women are quite forward) into cookie cutter 'perfection' as dictated by something that has no right over their body, it's truly chilling.

Anonymous said...

I chose to remain anonymous, but who should be given that power to define
what is considered unattractive or attractive?

Personally, I think some people are crazy. Because we can't remain "young" and
"beautiful"
forever.
(Beauty like time is fleeting!...I think how you treat people and if you are 100% sincere your "true beauty" will shine right through.

(Forget what society think...go ahead and live your own lives doing what we really were placed on this earth to do help others and not to focus on self.)

Now, a new word entire the conversation... "ageism"
Now ask yourself this question...Do we all want to end up looking like
Joan Rivers? Yikes!!!!
(I think that she was a very beautiful woman...minus all that silicone!)

I think in the end, we will be remembered for how we lived are life and not how we looked.

My favorite aunt just recently, past away...Even though she had a glow" externally, her real "beauty" was internally.

Because of all the kindness that she shown to others around her...I think in the end that her inner beauty (Kindness that she shown to others on this earth.)will radiate for a million years or more!


A Morbid Moment or Thought: In the end we all are going to look alike!...It seems it's like that "force" unseen...only care about what we do in this life and not how we look!

Thanks,

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