I make the argument that not only does a consumer relationship to beauty make us insecure, it also robs us of the ability to enjoy the simple aesthetic pleasure of physical beauty.
Our deeply held assumption is that we are not only meant to look, we are meant to look like the beauties we see in media. Who said that? Who told you that someone else’s beauty is something you should strive to “attain?” My guess is that they were trying to sell you something.
The problem is not that models are beautiful. It is not even that they are impossibly beautiful—extraordinarily young, skinny and photoshopped. It is only our relationship to the images that is unhealthy and dangerous. The danger is in our unshakable belief that our beauty ideal is aspirational, that perfection is something we should always strive towards.
What marketing does that museums do not is to transform our natural appreciation of a beautiful form into a push to buy a product. A model is presented with a call to action—buy my make up, buy my jeans. Advertisers create the implicit promise that not only can this beauty be contemplated, it can be imitated. And it is easy to do so, just buy the jacket, the perfume, the deodorant, the car. If it is so easy to become beautiful, if all you have to do is buy a shampoo, then it really is a personal failing if you don’t make the effort.
The real problem is not that the physical form of the model is “unobtainable” by most of us, but that we think of beauty as a product, as something we should “obtain.” We tyrannize ourselves with the belief that we should possess anything we see that pleases us. "I see physical beauty, it pleases me, I should have it."
That is a shame, not only because of the way it makes us feel about ourselves, but also because it robs us of the joy of simple aesthetic appreciation of rare physical beauty. We should celebrate the capricious twist of genetic fate that creates a Heidi Klum, and be grateful that it occasionally happens.
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