I’ve seen this story on my Facebook news feed for the last day or two, but I just watched it. It was fantastic.
I can’t really describe it without spoiling it, so I won’t try. But I like what it says about beauty. I think our conversations on the topic are often pinned between two extremes: either the pursuit of a very particular and artificial kind of beauty or a rebellion against thinking that beauty should even matter at all, especially for women.
One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is voices. No one seems to think that it’s shallow or superficial to recognize beauty in a human voice, and yet it’s just as much a product of random genetics and superficial body structure as visual beauty. Why is that? I think partially it’s because we know that a beautiful voice is a combination of what you’re lucky enough to be born with, but also of training and effort you take to improving it. We also recognize intuitively that there are wide variety of voices that are all beautiful in their own ways.
But there’s something even deeper. When you see a video or a photo of someone and try to assess whether or not they are beautiful, you’re only seeing a tiny fraction of what I think makes up visual beauty. You’re not seeing motion (not in real 3d, with depth and context), and you’re not seeing live interaction. When you hear a song, however, you’re actually getting a lot of the experience of audio beauty. So our concept of audio beauty is actually pretty robust, but our concept of visual beauty is weirdly warped.
The emphasis on photos and videos as the standard of beauty means that we’re asking men and especially women to conform to a standard that absolutely doesn’t exist. I mean, this is before we even get to the topic of weight and body-image: trying to live “up” to the beauty of a photo or video means trying to be a beautiful picture instead of a beautiful person. It’s impossible, wasteful, and tragic.