scattered thoughts on beauty

February 4, 2010 at 9:43 pm 1 comment

In some ways, I feel like the topic of beauty is covered way too much.  (yeah, yeah, we all know that models are photoshopped and a get-rich-quick scheme might be a new diet for women.  Although, a Reuters report that 90% of girls feel pressured to be thin is scary).  And yet, maybe it’s not covered enough.

You’ve probably seen this minute-long video by Dove showing the transformation of a girl off the streets into a model.  It’s scary.  So much makeup…but really, so much photoshop!  And consider this quote from one of my textbooks, A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication: “Computerized image construction of models and the use of body doubles, even for very attractive stars, are common.  For example, in a prominent movie poster […] what appeared to be Julia Roberts was, in fact, composite body parts selected from the best of several models, plus computer graphic enhancement” (67).  I think this must be demeaning to the girls themselves – being so naturally gorgeous, but not good enough for whatever it is we’re looking for.  They have to make people less than real; make them paperdolls.  Or puzzles – pieced together from the best of many models.  And then there are all these beautiful girls who are really going under surgery to try to become this impossible standard.  I think it’s so…tragic.  One model even admits the emptiness of this: “Everything about me is fake!  From my hair to my nose to my toes […]  Even my heart is fake.”  (qtd. in Set-Apart Femininity, pg 17).

So not only is this standard impossible to achieve, but our heavy pursuit of it also changes us.  Into people who aren’t – real.  Walking paperdolls.  And we may know all these things about crazy media perceptions, but does that really change behavior?  Somewhere along the line, we’ve all fallen prey to the beauty lie.  You know: if you are beautiful, you will be successful, popular, and live happily ever after; you will be a princess spared heartbreak and will have lots of friends, a fabulous career, and a perfect family.  Right? 

Have we learned yet that beauty doesn’t deliver?  I’ll confess that I still struggle with it.  I don’t look perfect, and sometimes it does seem that the stunning girls have the ticket to a wonderful life.  But do they?  Even if they don’t have all the happiness and love and success in the world, do they at least fare a little better than the rest of us?

Here’s a quote from Halle Barry that I found provoking.  She’s famous, she’s an actress, she’s won an Oscar and a gazillion beauty titles (as well as being the first African-American to represent America at Miss World, apparently).  She should know what she’s talking about in the beauty department.  And yet:  “‘Let me tell you something,’ she has said, ‘being thought of as a beautiful woman has spared me nothing in life.  No heartache, no trouble.  Love has been difficult.  Beauty is essentially meaningless and is always transitory.’”  (qtd. in Girl Talk, p. 133)

So we get the idea all wrong when we turn to the world.  If we try to do what the magazines tell us to, and become that perfect beauty – we’re still left empty-handed.  And with an empty heart.  And yet, we believe some pretty clever lies when it comes to God’s thoughts on beauty too.  We think God doesn’t care, at all, and that He tells us not to care, too.  Which is pretty hard to do.  And we forget that He created beauty, and He created beauty in us.  He is beauty: he loves it and delights in it.  And we are made in His image.  Naturally we are drawn to it, naturally we delight in it.  Wearing pretty clothes and makeup is not a sin, ladies.  Women in the Bible were beautiful – Sarah and Esther and Rachel. 

But our world has such a warped view of beauty.  They think that plastic is beauty.  And the old cliché that beauty is only skin deep is true – we’ve all seen gorgeous girls who really have nothing to them.  They are empty, obsessed with self.  And somehow, that makes them…not pretty.  And we’ve seen other girls, who won’t be on the cover of a magazine, but are stunning anyway, with that quiet loveliness, a beauty grown out of the heart.

And I’m going to stop now, because I feel that now I’m not saying anything new or interesting; just spitting out what we’ve all heard before.  But I’ll end with some thoughtful words from the Mahaney ladies:

“Our culture puts forth a false standard of beauty and a false message about beauty.  But ultimately it’s the sin of our hearts that motivates us to believe them.  These lies appeal to all the things our hearts desire.  We desperately want success, recognition, significance, importance, and approval. 

For mothers and daughters, Scripture reveals the falsehood and the futility of the quest for physical beauty.  ‘Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain’ (Prov. 31:30).  This word charm actually means ‘bodily form’.  It is perfect form and beauty that our culture esteems and pursues with fervor; yet God exposes this pursuit as sinful.  Nowhere in the Bible are women instructed to wish for, ask for, or strive for physical beauty.  Neither does the Bible portray physical beauty as a blessing for those who have it.”  – Girl Talk, p. 133


Entry filed under: beauty, faith.

simple pleasures and another adventure

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Joanna  |  February 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, dear. The topic of beauty may be covered a lot, but not always with Biblical standards, as yours was.


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