The recent dustup over Ashley Judd highlights the fact that our culture seems to have taken what has always been a fault in humanity too far: the worship of superficial beauty.
L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, famously said, “Beautiful things may be admired, if not loved.” Today, everyone seems happy and even desperate to claim this “admiration” over sincere love, actually mistaking, and even replacing love for its fleeting regard. We seem to be forgetting, as Phineas Fletcher said, “Love built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies.” Humanity has always regarded and admired beauty, and it certainly has its purpose, signifying health, fertility, and even strength and athleticism. However, in the past, beauty never seemed to eclipse all other attributes valued by an entire society and culture as it does today.
Ashley Judd recently wrote in The Daily Beast how disturbed and frankly disappointed she is with the media’s negative reactions to her appearance. She challenges us to rise above the harmful, overbearing, and ultimately unrealistic standards by which we measure women’s (and often men’s) value based on their physical appearance. This is disturbing. How superfical and downright embarassing that Ashley Judd's "puff face" is considered news.
That celebrities, mostly famous women, face these pressures is nothing new. Judy Garland suffered from eating disorders and was prescribed “appetite suppressants,” told to lose weight at only 17 years old. Jamie Lee Curtis has been somewhat of an alternative leader in embracing her natural self, and wrote about the crushing self-esteem issues she has faced and the plastic surgery that just “didn’t work.” This objectification and over-sexualization is also increasingly impacting men. But unrealistic standards of beauty and our society’s obsession with sex don't just impact celebrities; what is most frightening is that all individuals objectify one another.
The sheer saturation of porn in our culture, Facebook narcissism, and the fact thatLady Gaga and the stars of MTV's “Jersey Shore” are role models are not the problem, but merely the evidence. That these have become so acceptable and deemed “normal” is is breaking our society. Teen suicide, divorce rates, drug and alcohol abuseare not just statistics; they are signs of people in pain. They are tragedies, and they will not disappear with good therapy. Our society needs to stop idolizing beauty and swagger and start admiring character, intelligence, leadership, and sacrifice. We cannot love ourselves or one another if love is measured by physical allure.
I admire Ashley Judd for the issues she addressed in her article; she did not get petty or internalize the problem too much, so as to miss the big picture. This is not just a celebrity’s problem, but a cultural problem. We cannot fix the pain in the world or the problems in our country if our confidence and self esteem is hinged on being a size 2 or having a body builder physique.