Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Beautiful, Inside and Out: But How Much Do Appearances Matter?

It started from the moment I saw a comment on Weibo with tons of “likes”: “Beauty is the real justice, ugly ones have no human rights.” When did our generation began to worship appearances so much to make these extreme statements?

As a part of human nature, we pursue beauty – and that may include good-looking people. With modern celebrity culture and how these celebrities’ – particularly women’s – careers rise, peak, and wane according to their looks, how true is “it’s what inside that counts“?

A typical example is Angela Cheung, a top model from China, most known for her nickname “Angelababy”. Angelababy has a face too perfect to be true, even out of Photoshopped pages. Although she has yet to confirm any plastic surgery rumors, pictures are all over the Internet showing subtle differences from “before” and “after” she became famous. Whether she did receive plastic surgery or not, Angelababy’s appearance no doubt was a part of her success – she’s not only a model, but has starred in films and has recorded her own CD.


The indeed angel-like Angelababy

Another country known for its worship of beauty is Korea and its K-Pop machine. For example, in every K-Pop group, here is a “visual” – this person’s task is to be the face that draws the fans, i.e., to be beautiful. It’s interesting that the “visual” will gain a lot of fans easily without doing much, whereas the “vocals” and the “dancers” will work harder to achieve the same level of attention or popularity.

Do skills matter? A fun reply to this question could be found on the proliferation of comments on music videos and performances on YouTube, some of which accuse the performers of lip-syncing. Many fans will defend their idols by the response: “Lip syncing, so what? We still love them. Plus it’s difficult to sing and dance at the same time, and they could nevertheless sing really well if they want to!”

Seems understandable. Unless you have someone like Beyoncé, who rocked it out in live vocals and in super high heels during the Superbowl’s half-time show.

So, should a singer be called a “singer” because he or she can actually “sing”?


Queen B got moves!

Even among the ordinary people, the acceptance for a little work done, here and there, is growing. There’s a saying that “beauty is the best recommendation letter”. Who doesn’t want to present the best face at the first look?

In response, there’s an enormous amount of “beautifying” products on the market, not only in oils and creams but through other venues. Personally, I have a couple of photo editing apps on my iPhone, so I could always enhance my pictures with various filters. This is the most basic and the least that one can do, now; there’s the line of cameras from CASIO TR, with features built into the camera to “beautify” one’s photographs. (It’s advertised as particularly good for selfies, by the way.)

So here we are, with all these products that tell and sell us the idea of how much people value appearances.


The hottest “selfie” camera from the Casio TR series

Why this focus on appearances? Is it today’s media, which pushes beautiful people in our faces all the time at a rate never seen before, in a loop of cause-and-effect? (Or monkey see, monkey do.) Is it the eternal pursuit for the fountain of youth, now seen in the range of advanced make-up products available?

It’s not wrong to appreciate beauty; however, no matter how much appearance matters, it’s the one thing that we can’t change in life (without surgery, ahem). Yet, we could always enhance ourselves by focusing on our personalities and that invisible charisma built by our wit, kindness, intelligence, and good works. There’s also another saying: “At the age of twenty, we don’t care what the world thinks of us; at thirty, we worry about what it is thinking of us; at forty, we discover that it wasn’t thinking of us at all.”

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