Some of you have probably seen this image floating around recently:
If you’re reading that and wanting to give Jennifer Lawrence a high-five or a hug or a pony, let me note for the record that I’m right there with ya. I love Jennifer Lawrence. I loved her when she tripped at the Oscars, I love her when she makes slip-ups and goofy faces in interviews, and I love her when she is utterly flawed and utterly human and leaves the house anyway despite knowing that everything she does is going to be on the tabloid covers tomorrow.
And if you followed the link by clicking on that picture, let me note that I love Upworthy, their compulsion to put popups on every page notwithstanding. They have some great stuff there (some schlock, too, but that’s forgivable), and I spend more time than I care to admit sniffling over their videos and fist-pumping about their commentary on the World These Days.
But because I’m me, and because words are really important to me, I have to take a minute and have a minor tantrum about something that really stuck out to me in that Jennifer Lawrence quote–specifically, the part where she says that “we see this airbrushed perfect model”.
I know, I know, some of you are going to accuse me of splitting hairs in 3…2…1…but it seems to me that referring to the airbrushed version as “perfect” undermines her message just a touch. And lest you think I’m going after Ms. Lawrence here, please let me assure you that I’m not–I’m actually aiming this tantrum at society at large.
Here’s what happens: we tell ourselves, our kids, and each other that we should accept ourselves for how we are, regardless of how we look. We say that people should love themselves in whatever body they have. We say that people are a soul in a body, not a body with a soul. And then–without meaning any harm by it–we turn around and, sometimes in the same breath, refer to these art projects (what else would you call a sculpture, like a doll, or a painting done onscreen with airbrushes?) as “perfect”.
In other words, we say “no, no, sweetie, you’re fine. That over there is perfect, but you…you’ll do. I mean, I love you, and that’s what really matters”.
The last part of that sentiment is great, sure, but could we maybe try not accidentally drawing the unattainable parallel as we go?
I think this is what’s screwing us up, folks. We’re spending all our time going ’round and ’round in circles, trying to convince ourselves and each other that we’re all good enough, pretty enough, etc, while simultaneously holding up artwork as the ideal. But here’s the thing: art is art. People are people. They periodically have some things in common, but it’s certainly not frequent enough to make art a reasonable aspiration for your appearance on a random Tuesday.
And for that matter, why do The Powers That Be get to pick the artwork we want to resemble? Just because their voice is the loudest? Because they bought the most airtime? If I decided to live my entire life by the rule that He Who Advertises To Me Most Aggressively Wins, then I’d fall to pieces almost immediately just because I’d never be able to decide whether Coke or Pepsi was the best. I’d be like that thought experiment where you strap a piece of buttered-side-up toast to the back of a cat and drop it, since in theory neither side will ever hit the ground (note: do not do this, bananahead).
So to heck with them, I say. This is my life and my body and my sense of aesthetics shall rule the day. They don’t get to tell me that blonde hair is more “perfect” than brown, they don’t get to tell me that French manicures are more “perfect” than the natural unpolished look that I’m rockin’, and they don’t get to tell me that the artwork on the front of magazines is more “perfect” than the artwork I resemble.
And from here on out, I’m going to pay close attention to my language. I will try with all my might to avoid using the “p” word unless it’s in a clearly indicated statement of opinion (“Personally, I think this cheesecake is perfect”) or in reference to an objectively, scientifically measurable phenomenon (“That photograph is centered perfectly above the sofa”).
Human beings are not perfect, y’all. That’s all I’m saying. And the sooner we can strike that word from our vocabulary and decide collectively that the advertisers don’t get to buy our sense of aesthetics anymore, the sooner we can maybe start making some progress away from fat-shaming and skinny-slamming and people having surgery on their eyelids.
Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to go look at some more pictures of Jennifer Lawrence. That gal is not perfect, but she’s certainly aesthetically pleasing to my eye, and besides, she’s a hoot.