Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Economics of Beauty

Every time I watch a movie I am surprised at the number of really beautiful women there are in the world. It always seems like I can't imagine how there could be another one so pretty, and yet the next time I see a movie (or look at a magazine cover, or just walk around somewhere public like a mall), there's one I haven't seen before. With all the fuss we make over beautiful people, you'd think there would be a lot fewer of them than there are.

Which has led me to realize--so abruptly, in fact, that I am texting this to myself from my seat in the movie theater--why our obsession with beauty is so silly.

Physical beauty is not rare. There are millions of absolutely gorgeous people in this world. There's nothing unique about it, no reason why it should be in such high demand. It certainly wouldn't be if the laws of economics applied here.

Beauty isn't inherently good, either, at least in reference to what kind of people have it. There are plenty of truly crap people who are cruel and thoughtless, but also beautiful. 

You don't get to be beautiful by doing anything special, and you don't become a better person for it. It's not a quality you can develop. In fact, if our culture weren't shallow, superficial, and entirely backward in so many of the things it considers important, beauty would be the most worthless quality a person could have. 

There are countless, endless, limitless numbers of  really really ridiculously good-looking people in the world, so if the only thing a person has going for them is their beauty, then they don't have much at all. They're easily replaceable by any number of others. (Which is, perhaps, why Hollywood etc. are so obsessed with their looks... But that is sad, and makes me feel like we should pity them instead of envying.) 

Kindness, cleverness, compassion, determination, etc.--these are special qualities. These are things that make you unique, that say something about who you are, that make you different from others. These are things that count. One day beauty will be gone, and in the end I think we'll finally discover that it didn't mean anything to begin with.


Heidi Marie said...

What a fantastic post Miri... and having not ever thought this way before-it makes absolute perfect sense to me!

Thank you, I think this post just changed my life...

Herry and Jayley said...

I think all you ladies are starting a revolution. At least, to me the things you say SHOULD start a revolution. This is something I've been struggling with myself lately-perhaps I shall think some more, and maybe come up with a guest post!

Meg said...

This seems like an appropriate time to share a poem my great-grandma, Irene Winegar used to share.

Beauty's only skin deep
Ugly's to the bone
Beauty slowly fades away
While ugly holds its own.

I love this post.

Lin said...

Wonderfully said, Miri. I've actually been thinking about this recently. Great post.

Anna said...

Dang Miri. That was deep...thanks for posting it, it is all ridiculously true!

Miri said...

Thanks everyone! I was never quite sure that the post was getting across what I meant to say, so I'm glad it worked for you.

Megan--your great-grandma is a genius. I love that poem!

And yes, please, guest posts all around! We love guest posts! Yay for having such great readers.

Krilafis said...

The other day I was watching a movie, Show Boat, to be exact and it got me thinking about Ava Gardner.

Discovered by MGM in a photograph in her Uncle's studio in New York, she was signed before she turned 18 by her parents. She continuously felt she could offer movies something more than being beautiful but was always denied the opportunity to be anything else. She had a beautiful voice, which MGM denied and dubbed over. A desire to be home running around barefoot longing to be undiscovered. It is so sad.

I think you should go read about her life and the few things she has to say about being beautiful and in Hollywood. I think that this woman who was ONLY seen as beautiful to the world, lived a traumatic and sick life because that is all Hollywood wanted her for. By the time she died, the only things she had to say about her acting career as beautiful (maybe one of the most beautiful women) were things of bitterness and idleness and emptiness.

After her first screen test, the director clapped his hands gleefully and yelled: "She can't talk! She can't act! She's sensational!"

And she was quoted as saying, "Because I was promoted as sort of a siren and played all those sexy broads, people made the mistake of thinking I was like that off the screen. They couldn't have been more wrong."

I definitely think that beautiful people, at least in the physical sense of the word, should be pitied.

I throughly enjoy being undiscovered and average.

abnormallyawesome said...

Salma Hayek(who is gorgeous)said "People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I say the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing you are the beholder."

You're right that having beauty doesn't make you special or make you a better person. It's seeing beauty in every one and everything else that does that.