Eye of the Beholder

I came across an amusing article on Slate.com not too long ago. In it, the author creates an elaborate chart detailing the increase of pretty women marrying ugly men and how handsome men were more likely to marry pretty women. Of course, as you read the article, you realize the author is poking fun at the very topic itself and they are fully aware of that.

However, it does raise a question or topic that I’ve heard or seen before before. I remember reading an article some time ago about how TV sitcoms seem to follow this formula of the hot leading lady marrying or being married to the ugly/overweight/non-typical leading man. They cited King of Queens and According to Jim as examples. I never watched those shows but I knew enough to recognize the reference. For my part, when watching those shows or others like it, I never really gave any thought to how the lead characters looked. (Unless it was Angel because, well, I’ve crushed on David Boreanaz since I was 15. :))

Now that I think about it, it’s not just sitcoms like I mentioned above. Does anyone out there watch Game of Thrones? How many beautiful women are in that show? Now, tell me if there are an equal number of handsome men. You can’t, because they’re not equal numbers. What about Doctor Who? OK, some people might find Matt Smith attractive but I think it’s more that the Doctor is a sexy character. However, everyone would probably agree that he’s not conventionally handsome. The current companion, Jenna Louise Coleman, is a cutie though, is she not? Those are just the first two shows that came to mind but I’m sure you can think of others.

Some of you are probably agreeing but thinking to yourself, well, yes, that’s because Hollywood puts a premium on beauty and good looks, a problem in an of itself. It’s not just Hollywood though. In the writing or romance/erotica world, characters are written with descriptions telling us how hot, beautiful or mind-bendingly sexy they are, men and women alike. I can’t tell you how many novels I’ve read – not even just in the romance genre – where an author goes on and on about the hero or heroine’s looks. It almost becomes a living part of the story. I get so tired of reading those parts that I skip them or my eyes glaze over until I get to the real story again.

Yes, in romance, there is the need to create chemistry and part of that is creating an attractiveness between the two lead characters, but you can do that without repeating the color of eyes, the bulginess of pectorals or the length of sexy legs or whatever else you consider hot. I like to think I manage to strike a good balance in my books and stories. I may describe the characters a certain way in the beginning, and even then, I try to keep it on the vague side, leaving it up to the reader to ‘fill in the blanks’, so to speak, however they may want to. I know I’ve mentioned that before, and in my own writing it works for me. I don’t know if my readers wish I had put more descriptors in with regards to my characters, but it has never been a complaint before so I can only assume I do all right with regards to that. All I know is I hate seeing it overdone in so many of today’s popular writing so I try to avoid it in my own.

The sexy/good-looks factor in Hollywood and the publishing world becomes a bigger problem when the world at large starts to think they’re only considered handsome or pretty when they look like the stars on these shows or have features like what’s described in the latest hottest read. Maybe to the world at large, you wouldn’t be considered good-looking. But who. The. Hell. Cares.

I’m so tired of hearing that phrase or some variation of it, of rating people based on their looks. Sure, you can say someone’s good-looking because maybe they are, but when does that make them a good actor or actress? Or a good doctor, contractor or friend? Or a good choice for a life mate?

Wait a second. Did I just say that? Oh, yes. Yes, I did.

I’m sure I’ve touched on this topic before but this article just reminded me again how people view each other in terms of looks, so often. Not just when dating, though it’s a bigger problem then.

I’ve had relationships end in my past, not because it had anything to do with looks – although maybe it did, because I’m not pretty enough but who knows? – and then I’ve listened to comments from friends, thinking they’re being supportive. Comments like, “Oh, you can do so much better than him.” Or, “He wasn’t all that good-looking anyway. You can find someone way hotter.” Or this: “I never found him all that attractive.” Well, as he was my significant other, I think I’m glad you didn’t find him attractive. Would you be comfortable with it if I was constantly mentioning how hot I think your husband/boyfriend is? That is, instead of what a good guy he is, or how nice and friendly? Interesting. For my part, I don’t meet a friend’s significant other and immediately think, oh wow, he/she bagged a really hottie! No. I do the craziest thing and talk to them, get to know them and say, wow, what a great person my friend managed to hook up with.

Perhaps I sound a little ranty in today’s post, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

Maybe it’s because I’m not pretty or beautiful by conventional standards. I’ve never been a head-turner and that’s fine. I’ve also never put much stock in that and I mean it when I say I don’t care what other people think I look like. Sure, I dress nicely, but I’m not terribly fashionable. I’ve struggled with my weight off and on for years but I’m comfortable where I’m at now, even while acknowledging I could still go down another ten or fifteen pounds. I get my hair cut by a pro but I don’t put any make-up on every day. I seriously have to buy new mascara or other assorted cosmetics every time a special event comes up because I haven’t used my current goods since the last special event. 🙂

Somehow, with all these foibles, I still managed to snag a man who calls me gorgeous, tells me daily how beautiful I am, how he falls asleep thinking of my big, green eyes, and how he only needs to think of me naked to… well, put himself in an awkward situation if he’s out in public and thinking of me naked and let’s leave it at that 😉 I’m nothing special to the world at large and we both freely acknowledge to each other that we’re not models or movie star beautiful. However, we also tell each other every day that we wouldn’t want to be with anyone else and that to each other, we are the most handsome/beautiful people in our lives. That’s all that really matters anyway.

There’s so much more to a person, and to a couple, than what’s on the surface. How many times have you heard of friends or acquaintances breaking up and you think, but they looked so perfect together? Well, good-looks don’t mean you’re nice, or smart, or trustworthy, or good at relationships, all thing that make a good significant other, in my opinion. In the end, beauty is all about perception. The old adage is true, in so many ways: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Take care and happy reading.

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4 Comments

Filed under Writing

4 responses to “Eye of the Beholder

  1. Heather

    For the record, you are “something special to the world at large”.

  2. Lady Falcon

    Yes, Hollywood and the publishing world tend to put their respective leads in the “cream of the crop” in the looks department. And maybe that is part of the point…at least for me, I watch certain shows and the majority of the books I read are all to have a little cheap vacation…to escape for a few minutes reality. That’s not to say my reality needs to be escaped from…I love my life and count my blessing and thank God every chance I remember. Even still, I like my escapes into alien worlds or back into a long gone century or in to worlds where vampires and wolves and witches, oh my, are real.

    Even with all that if I start to read a story and within the first couple paragraphs of a character intro i get a stat sheet I tend to click off the story or put the book back on the shelf or delete if from my Kindle. One of my favorite books of all time is by Sherrilyn Kenyon called “Night Play”. I’ve talked about this book before on T’s blog and the character of Bride McTierney. She is described in the book through some cruel words from her ex-boyfriend as a full figured woman. I love her because she is all woman. When her ex makes those comments she gives it right back to him. She cries later when he can’t see but she gives him a good send off. She stands up for those she loves despite being trampled on and she is absolutely a person I’d want to know.

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