This week we are changing things up! While the last number of posts have been about the future, i.e., upcoming fashion tech, this week I’m going to talk about something that’s been around for centuries: Fairly Tales. Well, more specifically, Beauty and the Beast.
The reason? You can’t ignore it. Every time I open my news feed I see story after story about the movie. Of course there’s lots to say about this version: there’s some hot actors in and controversies surrounding it, and box-office numbers are through the roof. But it seems the focus on it is excessive.
Should I be surprised? I mean how many versions of Beauty and the Beast, whether in film or written form, have there been? A ton. What gives? Fairy Tales intrigue us because they are a reflection of fundamental human struggles, highs and lows, and desires etc. But in this day and age why are we so enamored by a simple story about a beautiful woman and her ability to attract a prince?
Beauty, or the lack/loss of it, is so central to so many of these stories, because, well, it does matter to us. But I can’t help but wonder if the blatant concern with outer beauty is something we want our kids to be listening to or watching in this day and age. Haven’t we progressed beyond girls being noticed and valued for their beauty alone?
For those of you who follow Beautyskew, you know that I’m anything but adverse to our celebration of beauty. But I am alarmed when we view beauty as our only asset. I too have a daughter who is beautiful AND intelligent, gregarious, athletic, friendly, artistic, and the list goes on. I try to celebrate all these traits. So when a movie all about beauty gets so much attention I have to pause.
But, maybe this film is actually a gift. Maybe the smack-you-in-the-face focus on beauty — it’s in the very title — will force a necessary debate. No matter how successful we are at helping our daughters, sisters, girlfriends or mothers see their worth beyond their appearance, our culture still reflects how critical our looks are. Often culture has a way of doing it in subtle ways, e.g., only cast young, svelte women for TV roles, churn out only singers that look pretty or put the spotlight only on female politicians’ attire. When it’s subtle, it’s that much harder to recognize the issue, especially for kids. On the flip side, the obvious title of the film and the role of beauty in the film can’t be ignored. It’s there to enjoy, agree with or confront. And that’s a good thing.
The fact remains: we are judged by how we look. I suffered from this just last week when I was harshly judged by a particular audience for how I looked. I’m not placing all the blame of my less-than-stellar success at bonding with the audience on my looks, but from what I heard, how I appeared was met with criticism and sexism. This reaction tainted the whole presentation and had a ripple effect on others I work with.
I don’t like it, but it happens. We can’t shield our kids, friends, relatives from that. But we can help them come to terms with it. If we deny the reality, we don’t help anyone. We just leave our loved ones unprepared for others’ reactions.
The reason fairly tales still touch us is that they are so obvious. They speak to the classic issues of beauty vs ugliness, evil vs goodness, strength vs weakness, without apologizing for it or masking it. Of course we are more subtle creatures and don’t need everything so blatant. But sometimes you got to put the thinking out there so people are forced to respond. We need to talk about the role of beauty in our lives, we must deal with issues of jealousy and fear. We may not like that our outer appearances gets so much hype. But they do. Let’s address the issue, and learn how to love ourselves no matter how we appear to others or how others react to us.