The mirror of beauty


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Posted by HSG on March 28, 2005 at 08:25:07:

In Reply to: Criticism? It's a selling point..... posted by M. Lopez on March 25, 2005 at 19:38:41:


Your response matches the opinions of a reader named Chanelle Moore, who recently sent us one of the one of the most insightful responses that we have ever received to that seminal question about modern aesthetics, "Why does the media resist plus-size beauty?" Ms. Moore writes:

I think I may have figured it out! In the past the women who were considered beautiful were full figured and healthy. One must suppose that there were a good amount of woman who were sickly and skinny who felt out of place among these well proportioned women. As time went by, the ones who were seen as unhealthy and unattractive banded together . . . and changed the face of beauty in the media, because many times we as people trust the ideas of others more than our own.

Anyone who has read the works of self-consciously unattractive authors such as Charlotte Bronte or George Eliot will see grounds for Chanelle's theory. Their works (profound as they are) are suffused with their authors' overwhelming resentment towards the voluptuous goddesses of their day (even while they are unable to deny a sensual attraction towards these goddesses). The opinions that Bronte and Eliot express in their writings, linking proto-minimalist aesthetics to morality, (not to mention the unappealing fates that they dole out to their curvaceous antagonists,) testify to a impulse on their part to upend timeless aesthetics, and to establish a vision of "proper" womanhood that reflects an idealized version of their own appearance.

This is all an understandable consequence of common psychological tendencies.

Jane magazine published a quasi-"shape" issue last year, and the magazine quizzed its own staffers about their body image. The most significant revelation that emerged from this survey was that nearly all of the staffers acknowledged that they, themselves, were thin, and more than a few acknowledged a social history more akin to that of a wallflower than a cheerleader.

This would undoubtedly be the case at any similar publication.

So, are today's fashion/entertainment writers the Charlotte Brontes and George Eliots of our time--at least, in the impulses that govern their aesthetics? Quite possibly. In selecting their models, and in shaping the "look" of their magazines, these individuals produce a somewhat idealized expression of their own self-image: neat, trim, proper, functional, efficient, moderate, modest (oh-so-modest), and carefully curbed, curtailed, and controlled,

But plus-size beauty is an expression of a very different aesthetic. It is sumptuous and lavish, lush and extravagant, rich and luxurious,. It is immoderate and immodest, and it resists any attempts to control it. That makes it dangerous to some, but all the more compelling to others. And for these reasons--because of its undeniable power--it stirs up lingering resentment and repressed envy among those who shape popular culture today.

But in the very near future, individuals with different tastes will enter this field, individuals with a profound appreciation for the more opulent and exciting aesthetic of timeless femininity. And then, the world will be treated to visions of beauty that it can scarcely now imagine.

Christina Schmidt, brand-new, never-before-seen test image:

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