“The fairest one of all…”
Let me start with a disclaimer; I’m not on a witch hunt and I don’t believe in burning or banning books or any other art form.
That being said, my musings as of late have been directed towards what the media and art are teaching us about our daughters, about ourselves, and about men. Growing up I’m sure all of us read and or watched different fairy tales with a princess, a prince (or some other form of hero), an evil queen (or vizier), and a story of romance. All of those stories had a very important element in common: the princess was beautiful. Perfect skin (adolescence? Nailed it!) , perfect hair (humidity has no power here!), and a teensy little waste that revealed not only super genes but also super self control (or maybe just eating Paleo…I’m not really sure). Oh! And let’s not forget the kind of voice that would impress even Simon Caldwell (that’s the grumpy guy from American Idol, right?).
On the flip side, the prince was much the same. Good looking (Fabio would cower in his presence), perfect body (step aside Arnold…ok, maybe not that big), and innate fighting skills. Also? Pretty stinkin’ shallow if you ask me. After all, most of the heroes in these stories are infatuated almost immediately with the heroine. Why? Basically because they’re hot. Love at first sight! Eyes meeting from across the room and, BAM! True love! Sound like lust to anyone else out there?
Now granted, these stories weren’t all bad. In Snow White the worship of beauty is condemned in the evil Queen. In Beauty and the Beast, Bell falls in love with a guy who looks like a werewolf (we’ll give her bestiality a pass since he actually was a human), showing that seeing past the exterior is important. Jasmine falls for Aladdin even though he’s a poor thief (let’s face it, dude needed to get a job). But ultimately, most of these people were really, really ridiculously good looking, and I think sometimes, this elevates physical appearance a bit too much in our minds.
I remember hitting puberty in Junior High and thinking that no one could ever love me because of the way I looked. Life felt so unfair. Why did some girls seem to coast through the awkward years while I had to look like a chubby monkey with frizzy hair and acne? No guy would want to buy me a teddy bear like the other girls at school. I would never get a valentine. And why? Because I wasn’t pretty.
Maybe I’m the only one who thought that, but I don’t believe that’s the case, not after working with Junior High girls for almost five years now. This is an especially hard time because puberty is awkward and you’re just getting past thinking guys have coodies. Add to that the years of hearing stories about beautiful princesses ending up with the prince and I think it makes it even harder. Worse still, the advertisements and entertainment filling our heads are replete with women altered by computers and make up and squeezed into revealing costumes that cast them as nothing more than sexual objects to be used.
We don’t do much better for the men in our culture. Either they are stupid and lazy (a fact the proclaim from the roof tops constantly) or they too are objects to satisfy sexual desire. The pictures we see of them are just as provocative as the ones we see of women: cut to perfection, shining with “sweat” (body oil), and staring sensitively into the camera.
All the while we attempt to proclaim that looks don’t matter, that judging someone on the basis of their appearance is the most vile of offenses, and that character is important. We’re mixing our signals, screwing up our brainwaves…we’re harming ourselves.
It’s not an easy thing to fix or to avoid; the media is everywhere and even good stories like the classic fairy tales risk filling our brains with lies, but I think if we paid a little more attention to what we were consuming we might be able to fight it better. Don’t stop watching Cinderella; consider what underlying thought process it might create. Don’t ban Sleeping beauty; watch it/read it/listen to it/whatever with a filter. Talk to your kids about the story thoughtfully…talk to yourself about the story…and then consider what the bible has to say about you, what God has to say…
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman (or man) who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30