Defining Beauty

by Ellen Parsons

What makes someone pretty? Is it some combination one’s hair, skin, face, waist, et cetera- or is it something else? Is there only one way to define beauty? Who decides what is ‘pretty’ and what is not? What does trying to be ‘pretty’ do to a person? These are some of the questions I am asking myself as I read The Uglies series.

Before I picked up the first book, I explored what it meant to be ‘ugly’ in my own experience: I have been called ugly, fat, unattractive, unclean, pepperoni face, sloppy, bushy eyebrows, and an abundance of other slurs aimed at my appearance. These share a common trait in that they were meant to make me think I was ugly and that I needed to change something about my self. In the books, we learn about an operation that makes you ‘pretty’, correcting things like ‘bad’ teeth, eye spacing, weight (over or under), and other things that are considered ugly. A committee decided what traits are desirable, and thus pretty, and what traits are not, and considered ugly. Taking this concept and applying it to the real world, I wonder if the committee would be our pop media. If  magazines stopped airbrushing and photoshopping  so many of their models, and were diverse with whom they displayed in their magazines (in regards to body type, skin type, and so on) would this ideal change? What if we started looking at people in terms other than appearance? What would happen, I wonder, if we started to see other as ‘pretty’ in Look Pretty - a distortion mirror picture by dichohecho on Flickrterms of personality, confidence, or other non-physical traits? At risk of sounding cheesy or cliché, I think everyone would be ‘pretty in their own right.’

When people see the modified models in magazines, advertisements, the media in general- mediums that often feature people in completely unrealistic terms, it can be devastating to their self image. To quote David from the first book, “That’s the worst thing they do to you, any of you. Whatever those brain lessons are all about, the worst damage is done before they even pick up the knife: You’re all brainwashed into believing you’re ugly.” If we do not meet the high (and sometimes impossible) standards put out for us, we are told we are ugly. Truth be told, I think there are unlimited ways to be ‘pretty’- in appearance and a myriad of other categories.

We all have different body types and all body types should be equally valued, no matter what.

Want to discuss this topic and/or the book? Come join us at The Uglies series book discussion on October 17th!