Thursday, September 15, 2016

Timeless Lust for Beauty

Share it Please
photo credit: Mario Martí 
I have done a couple projects lately looking at self-esteem and confidence. I have found that a lot of how people feel about themselves has to do with what they think others are thinking about them. With that in mind, I caution that my analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 106 might be considered as harsh because I don't agree with Shakespeare's perception of beauty. This description of beauty made me think a lot about how the world views and even lusts after beauty and love and dictates what beauty should be. While I do see the value and genius in Shakespeare's works, I am starting to think that his works have created unachievable levels of beauty that discourages readers and inspires unrealistic expectations for love.

Sonnet 106 
Shakespeare begins his poem talking about how he reads of beautiful people (men and women) in old literature and how none of them compare to this individual being describing. He appears to be trying to flatter this person through words. He talks about how literature of the past are just prophesying of this one individual. But to me it seems really surface level.

Backward View Perspective
When I say "Backward View Perspective," I am talking about a judging a person by their looks. Backwards because I don't feel like beauty and love should be based on a physical judgement. This idea of a backward view perspective comes from a study that I read called "Back View of Beauty: A bias in attractiveness judgement." In this study, they found "the average attractiveness of the back-view photographs was rated higher than the front-view photographs, though the bias depends on the combination of viewer and viewed person's gender. We found a stronger (and significant) bias in judgement of female attractiveness by male viewers; men tended to perceive or expect higher attractiveness of an unknown woman when he first sees her from behind." While I feel there is something to be said about the findings related to gender (this made me think about what this Sonnet would have looked like if it were written by a woman), the more important thing to not is what this teaches about beauty. To me this looks like lust.

If a person is only looking at the outward appearance of people (i.e., his or her judgements of beauty or social status of the other person), then he or she may, or may not attempt, to get to know that person based on what he or she sees. I think of this as window shopping for the "perfect boyfriend," "perfect girlfriend," or "perfect spouse." Studio C portrayed this phenomena in a skit/song, "Love from Afar." Of course this portrayal is exaggerated and appears to be extreme, but is it?

Physical beauty might fade, but does that mean a person can no longer be beautiful?

Dove has started a few campaigns to promote inner beauty including commercials, hashtags, and billboards that promote a more open view of what beauty is and how women should see themselves. This of course in opposition to how women should try to appear to be considered "beautiful" according to the world's view or to Shakespeare's standards.

So what does it matter? Is Shakespeare describing a fantasized person? At the time Shakespeare sees a "perfect" body, but this body will not last. The things of beauty that Shakespeare is praising, will fade and if a person tries to reach that level of "beauty" and lives for praise for being beautiful, then he or she will soon begin to fade in the chronicles of time like the "dead ladies" and "lovely knights." But not all readers can recognize this. And yet we still read this timeless sonnet, for what purpose? To fantasize that one day we will find someone that fits such a high description of beauty? Or can we appreciate the literature and separate it from what we see as beauty and what we look for in love.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting a link to the study about "Back View of Beauty." I was able to look it up and see how it worked along with your sonnet. I think that you found a good source to relate to your topic, and it blended well into your analysis.