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Whether we like it or not, the American concept of beauty is entirely dictated by the media. When we look at magazines, billboards, movies, advertisements, and television shows, most females are represented to be this tall, svelte, sophisticated, and usually blonde young woman. Usually, she has this symmetrical body figure, clear skin, and long shiny hair. This is why most Americans possess these prevailing expectations about beauty and body shape. Anything that negates from that female image may be regarded as ugly, obese, or imperfect from what media has represented to be as their model for a beautiful woman. Both overweight and anorexic people are assumed to be weak in character, slaves to their appetites or media images. Because they do not conform to the media concept of beauty, they may be viewed as “disfigured” or “strange” in appearance. However, what constitutes disfigurement is just a matter of interpretation. Of the millions of cosmetic procedures done every year in the United States alone, many are performed on women who would be objectively defined as having a normal appearance. Thus, we can succinctly say that the problem is in the concept of American society of what real “beauty” is all about.
“Caught with a Centerfold” by Jennifer Silver
In the article of Jennifer Silver entitled “Caught with a Centerfold”, she finds herself questioning and comparing with the appearance of a shapely female model represented in the Playboy magazine that her boyfriend possessed. It is quite disconcerting on her part that she claims that she is a feminist but then she wondered what it is to be like to have that physical beauty of a woman that her boyfriend fantasizes about. This natural reaction of women when they discover how men look at them would make many women feel uncomfortable with themselves. Often, this pushes them to lose confidence in their appearance as they usually compare themselves to women with large bosoms and almost perfect figures.
This concept of beauty is deeply exemplified in the film “Shallow Hal” also. In this movie, a man named Hal (Jack Black) is a typical American guy who looks into the physical aspect of the beauty of every woman he meets. Because of this, a self-help guru imparts him with the ability to see only inner beauty. He then sees Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow) as very beautiful, unaware that she is obese. Rosemary takes Hal to her parents’ house, where Hal impresses everyone by defending her appearance. When Hal took reverse therapy, he realizes the truth and Hal deserts Rosemary and hides out at his apartment. Hal’s ex-girlfriend Jill takes him to dinner, planning to seduce him. Rosemary caught them together moments before Hal decides to choose her over Jill. Five days later, Hal gatecrashes a party thrown by Rosemary’s parents to celebrate her imminent 14-month expedition with the Peace Corps. Hal declares his love for Rosemary, and reveals that he will be accompanying her, having been sworn into the Peace Corps earlier that day. Although the movie has redeemed Hal’s character in the end by choosing inner beauty versus physical beauty, no one can deny that it is what most men look at when dating a woman.
Anna Schnur-Fishman’s “Bathing Beauties”
On the other hand, an article by Anna Schnur-Fishman entitled “Bathing Beauties” imparted thoughts of how young women should feel comfortable about their looks and their bodies. The article discussed that every woman has her unique beauty that cannot be matched and this is why they should not be ashamed of how they look like. Young girls should learn to push back what American culture dictates and they should support each other. A good thought in this article is quoted saying that girls should “not be arrested for feeling this good” about themselves. This is the right frame of mind that young girls should cultivate within them so that they can stand proud and be beautiful, regardless of how they look physically. They should learn to emphasize their inner selves rather than concern themselves with appearing like ramp models which are nearly impossible.
Ultimately, American society should support the counter culture that negates the myths of beauty that media is representing. It is about time that girls should not worry too much about their appearance because they need to realize that they can be beautiful by being unique.
- Schnur-Fishman, Anna. “Bathing Beauties”. 2004. Web.
- Shallow Hal (dir. Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly). 2001.
- Silver, Jennifer. “Caught with a Centerfold”. Our Times. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998.