Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

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PERSONAL appearance is a rather valued quality among modern society. Generations of people are profoundly influenced by all elements of the media that promote a certain ‘image’. The question is, why do we regard our own, and each other’s personal exterior as such an important virtue?

Beauty can merely be defined as a combination of qualities that pleases the aesthetic senses. However, this majorly sought after trait is, nowadays, being defined by what we are told is beautiful.

Magazines, newspapers and television depict various valued attributes of celebrity figures, such as shape, colour or form. As purchasers, we are exposed to the wealth and success of celebrities and so we admire them and aspire to be like them in some form.

Undoubtedly, being attractive has some advantages and society validates this shallowness. Obtaining such an appearance coincides with a person’s self esteem; we are led to believe that if you look good, you feel good.

Vitruvius proclaimed the theory that a timeless notion of beauty could be learnt from the ‘truth of nature’, that nature’s designs were based on universal laws of proportion and symmetry. He believed that the body’s proportions could be used as a model of natural proportional perfection. Like this belief, more modern scientific theories have demonstrated that people are psychologically attracted to symmetrical faces.

Beauty has been shaped over time by many artists’ perceptions. The phrase; ‘the artist is the creator of beautiful things’ suggests to an extent that beauty is an illusion. Artists have the ability to distort a reality and create a dimension in which the modern definition of beauty has originated.

Conversely, Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is in many ways relatable to certain stereotypes of beauty in modern society. The novel significantly regards Dorian Gray’s priceless gift of beauty and the power his beauty beholds. Although, Wilde somewhat questions the happiness associated with Dorian’s appearance, in which he suggests that there is more beneath the surface. As the novel develops, Dorian’s beauty is corrupted by sins he has committed out of the eyes of society and judgement.

Society is, and has always been, obsessed about the way a person presents themselves and is perceived by their looks. During Wilde’s era, the appearance of the higher classes demonstrated their wealth and abundance, which is translated into modern society in the form of highly publicised celebrities.

Wilde’s theory suggests that beauty causes a reaction. Such reaction is a product of consumerism and materialism. It could be suggested that people that are thrown into the eyes of the public feel compelled to conform to a perfected facade. Is it that we have such a high expectation of beauty, that it can never be fulfilled? In some aspects, celebrities are both appraised and scrutinised, as society deems to judge those by their appearance no matter how good or bad.

In light of the thesis that beauty is merely one stereotype, in reality beauty comes in all types of genres. A person’s self-esteem is projected by their own self-expression. Aside from the outside pressures from the media, beauty has a different meaning to different people and within different cultures. After all, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.

LAURA FENWICK, Year 13