In the1939 movie version of TheWizard of Oz
, Glinda, the good witch, appears to Dorothy resplendent in fluff and glitter challenging Dorothy’s belief that witches are ugly. Before she disappears in an aura of mystery inside her magic bubble, Glinda leaves instructions for Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road that will take her home.
Today we follow rocky roads that lead us anywhere but home - if home could be likened to our inborn looks. The roads we travel today are lined with cosmetics counters, hair salons, tanning salons, spas, nail technicians, and surgeons selling promises to dramatically change our appearance in an effort to deceive other people into believing our look is genetic.
Glossy photos of gaunt celebrities on magazine covers, awards given to the “Most Beautiful People,” and thousands of beauty pageants across the globe prove our love of all things glamorous. We find beautiful people, places, and things aesthetically appealing and worthy of imitation. And we pay an inordinate amount of attention to people we feel know more about our worth than we do - simply because they are beautiful.
Florenz Ziegfeld (producer of Ziegfield Follies) considered the actress who portrayed Glinda (Billie Burke) to be one of the ten most beautiful women of all time. Perhaps because he was Billie’s husband, Florenz may have been somewhat prejudiced. But he may also have influenced the rest of the world into accepting his judgment of her beauty - publicity was one of Florenz’s fortes.
Then again, maybe she was truly beautiful.
Aphrodite (Greek), Lakshmi (Hindu), Freya (Norse), Arianrhod (Welsh), Venus (Roman), and other mythological goddesses of beauty arouse adoration and admiration from the gods. If the gods adore and admire beauty, how much more do mere humans? Unlike gods, though, our definition of beauty develops and sometimes warps as we infiltrate and integrate society’s version of beauty with our own.
We first form our perceptions of beauty by an appreciation of what appeals to our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. But we re-form our perceptions unconsciously with filtered information and questionable opinions thrust into our subconscious by family, peers, commercials, and ads.
We begin to wonder if what we previously considered to be beautiful is in fact ugly. If Mommy says Hilda looks hideous without her makeup, for instance, little Johnny will question his eyesight and see his next-door neighbor differently. He will continue to challenge his own assessments and look elsewhere for validity on his opinions, because he can no longer trust his own judgment.
Cosmetics, surgical implants, and face and body lifts also influence our perceptions of beauty. By molding our definition of pretty and handsome into something society wants us to believe is beautiful, we fit in with society’s more socially acceptable view of what beauty is supposed to be. We deny our own assessment in favor of theirs.
Society’s power to influence us distorts our thoughts to the point where we engage in all kinds of volume purchasing to acquire the look that will make us beautiful and to feel all kinds of pity for those who are not.
We see a straggly-haired woman with only a few teeth in her mouth. We assume she is stupid. We know she is ugly. A simple change in hairstyle, though, can transform this hillbilly mountain scrag into an exotic beauty. And if you put a new set of teeth into her mouth, we can almost see her IQ rise by 100 points.
While over the years, youth has become the very essence of beauty, the older we get, the more synonymous with death we become. Anyone older than 39 becomes shockingly disgusting. As a result, many of us feel we must maintain that aura of youth in order to survive in this world.
But even youth comes with a price: bulimia and anorexia become a way of life for many teenagers and young adults who want a quick fix for what they perceive to be an ugly body, when in fact, what they have is an ugly body image.
And the image today is doll-like - plastic - with its unmovable foreheads and unsmiling mouths. We don’t consider the possibility that somebody who is physically attractive may have a diseased soul and that the longer we know him the more repulsive he becomes. We don’t give ourselves the opportunity to discover that someone, who at first appears unattractive, has a loving soul who grows more beautiful the longer we know her.
We forget that true beauty rises to the surface from an inner core of strength, integrity, love, and compassion. We’ve been listening to others and not trusting our own beliefs about who is and who is not beautiful.
Belief and trust include recognizing beauty in our selves. If our reflections don’t match the image we desire, if we reach the age of 30 with dread and sadness, we will never be able to recognize our own true beauty, the one that shines from within, because we will forever be trying to manipulate our looks to match the ones we find on magazine covers and television screens.
Leonard Murphy cast Billie Burke in the role of Glinda when Glinda was 53 years old. Whether or not Billie was a recipient of cosmetic surgery may remain as mysterious a notion as the bubble that transported her, but she died nearly two decades before the introduction of Botox.
Had she been alive when it was introduced, might she have used the product? Might she have felt the need to use it? And would Dorothy have thought the 53 year-old Good Witch was beautiful today or would society have successfully managed to delude her into believing that society’s image of beauty, a more youthful beauty, was more believable than her own?
Quoting from a previous associatedcontent.com article I wrote, entitled Beauty Defined:
“We first sense beauty with our eyes and delight in our appreciation of it. Beyond outward appearances, however, at least in terms of human beings, we should probably consider another intangible component that plays an important role in how we view beauty: presence. Some indefinable and unexplainable ‘something’ causes us to find a person attractive. Children have an innate ability to perceive an inner glow that shines through the surface, a glow that adults, blinded by what society deems acceptable, no longer see or choose to ignore.
Another intangible aspect of beauty is the emotion we attach to it. A child might find beauty in an old tattered recliner if she felt loved when she was being cuddled in daddy’s chair. A father might find a ceramic bowl created by his child to be one of his most treasured and beautiful belongings.
Beauty, though, does not exist without something to compare itself. In a forest of green, splashes of color attract our attention. When, during the fall season, the magnificent evergreen stands next to the multi-colored maple, do we notice the evergreen or does it become the backdrop for the more colorful maples?
Does your elderly curly gray-haired wrinkly aunt get even a second glance when standing next to a willowy young blonde woman? Beauty should be grateful for plain, because if not for the plain or the ugly, nobody would recognize beauty.”
Beauty products that enhance our natural beauty are fun and oftentimes practical, especially when they provide health benefits, as in protection from the sun. But beauty resides in the heart, the mind, and the soul and recognizing its intrinsic value is the most appealing feature of all.
The Yellow Brick Road today is lined with sales professionals, products, and surgeons holding distorted mirrors and promises. Wait until you get to Oz before you decide to buy into the lies, because when you open the curtain, you’ll discover that the Wizard is you.