How did we get to the point of putting so much value on a person’s appearance. Sure, sex sells, and it always did. We’ve always been kind of hung up on looks, but not so much that we viewed unattractiveness as a sort of physical handicap that leaves someone incapable of talent. I think it started back in the 80’s when video allegedly killed the radio star (no formal charges were ever filed). Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to be talented. You also had to be photogenic. Through the years, more and more of the focus went to style over substance. Eventually, the music industry became more about looks than musical talent.
It isn’t just the music industry, either. Attractive people with the same skill sets are more likely to land a job than their less appealing looking counterparts. Being a great actor doesn’t get you any acting gigs, and being a talented athlete might get you a contract with a professional sport franchise, but it won’t get you any endorsements, which is where the real money is. This not only happens on a pro level with adults, but it also happens at the lowest levels of competition, with children being subjected to this beauty bias. Recently, my fiancé went to a friend’s home to help her daughter do her hair and makeup for a gymnastic competition.
“Why?” I asked her.
“Her mom isn’t great with that stuff,” she told me.
“No. You misunderstood the question. I meant, why does a nine year old need to have her hair and makeup done for an athletic competition? Is it Toddlers and Tiaras with a balance beam?”
“She’s eleven, and I don’t know why. I guess they get judged on that stuff. You know, that doesn’t really seem right when you put it like that.”
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it seems wrong when you stop and think about it, but it happens so early and so often that most of us never do. We’re used to it. It’s accepted. Are little girls at gymnastic competitions being judged more on their looks than whether they can stick a landing or not? Technically, I doubt it. Realistically, maybe subconsciously, I’m sure of it. This is where it starts, and this is where it can, hopefully, end. Let’s stop turning everything into a beauty pageant, especially when it involves children. Maybe they’ll grow up to be the ones that reverse this awful trend, and put art back in the hands of the most capable artists, instead of the most attractive ones.