Every time I scroll through Facebook, a friend or online acquaintance is told how beautiful she is by all her Facebook friends. Sometimes, I am just stopped in my tracks. Everyone is beautiful on Facebook. It’s an odd dichotomy in our beauty-obsessed world that the most significant commodity a woman has seems to be her looks. Look at Kim Kardashian or a million other stars or starlets, from football wives to models who peddle their cosmetically enhanced faces and bodies.
For all the #MeToo advocacy and significant advances by women, looks are still a huge issue. We know they shouldn’t matter. But we know they do. Tall men get ahead. People think attractive people are better adjusted and smarter. Beauty pervades society. Even in a recent promotion for a podcast about Ghislaine Maxwell, the former fugitive and socialite, now in prison in New York, she is billed as beautiful.
This controversy has reared its ugly head because the film reviewer Dennis Harvey questioned whether the actor Carey Mulligan had been miscast. According to his Varietyarticle, Mulligan wasn’t hot enough to star in Promising Young Woman. The lead, Cassie, is a femme fatale who lures abusive men to their well-deserved fate.
Mulligan may not possess the ethereal beauty of an Angelina Jolie. Still, she is a fabulously talented actor — and undoubtedly hot enough for any role. I am looking forward to watching her on Netflix in The Dig. This will be the highlight of my week after a food shopping trip to M&S.
We know for sure that we don’t judge men by the same standards. Imagine if a male journalist said that Tom Hanks wasn’t handsome enough to present the Inauguration Day special. We’d think it was silly, but nobody would get indignant. But calling a woman ugly is still one of the worst insults you could throw. Look at how Donald Trump used it.
Mulligan got an apology from Variety magazine this week for its use of “insensitive language and insinuation”. Quite right. “I think it’s important to call out those things because they seem small and they seem insignificant,” said Mulligan. “People around me at the time said, ‘Oh, you know, get over it. Whatever. It’s great – it’s a great review’. Or whatever: ‘People love the film.’ But it stuck with me because I think it’s this kind of everyday moments that add up.” She’s right, and that side of fame must be a nightmare.
What all this taps into is that beauty sells. It sells us a fantasy. Now more than ever, there is so much pressure on women to look great, dress well, aim high, and just be beautiful all the time. After a lifetime of being fed images of perfection, it’s hardly surprising that women and girls feel crushed by the constant aspiration. But it hardly seems to be going away.
Whether it’s on Facebook or Instagram, we know people project unattainable images that feed our desire for more…more cosmetic procedures, more weight loss, more designer labels, bigger and more expensive lifestyles.
Sooner or later, the worm turns. Carey Mulligan’s is a tip of the iceberg moment in a world of non-stop, preconceived notions about what we women should be. Surrounded by such ubiquitous pressures, finding that inner strength and belief in oneself is an uphill battle. We can never be successful enough, good enough, thin enough or beautiful enough — unless and until we tell the world: enough already!