Remember that (horrible) movie “Shallow Hal” from 2001? It’s the one where Jack Black is this incredibly vapid asshole (Hal) who refuses to pursue any woman who’s not tall, thin and pretty in that Victoria’s Secret way? Then he gets a curse put on him so he can only see people’s “inner beauty,” which leads him to believe that women who are overweight or have crooked teeth look like the average supermodel. He winds up meeting Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Rosemary who looks like Paltrow in his eyes, but in “actuality,” is very overweight. Because of the curse, he gives her a chance and falls for her, then gets freaked out when he realizes she’s fat, then figures out he loves her and they end up together and Jason Alexander has a tail.
So what that he treated her like shit? He learned a lesson! Redemption! He’s so totally not an asshole now! Revelations are the best!
The whole focus of the film is supposed to be the importance of “inner beauty,” but in actuality, it just projects a single message: If you are overweight or have non-straight teeth or are somehow not standardly beautiful, then you better have an exquisite personality because no fish are gonna bite otherwise. Basically, if you are fat, men will only fall in love with you if they’re under a fucking curse.
Obviously, women have been told to look, dress, act and exist in particular ways according to societal standards. One of those standards, despite varying throughout history, has been the “ideal body.” Hundreds of years ago, this ideal was considerably plumper than it is these days, as weighing more was a sign of good health and a wealthier class. Last century, this fluctuated considerably, from idealizing a straight shape in the 1920s to desiring wider, “childbearing hips” in the 50s to Twiggy to supermodels to whatever we recognize as beautiful these days. But regardless of its exact properties, there has always been an ideal.
The problem with having any kind of “ideal body” is obvious: women will feel the need to change accordingly. Many will not change simply because they want healthy lifestyles or because it will positively affect certain aspects of their systems; they’ll be changing because looking a certain way is seen as superior to looking another. Regardless of whether or not they’re already healthy, many women alter their appearances to fit into this ideal–but we all already know that.
Beauty ideals are changing once again, but in a new way: all sorts of different body types, rather than one ideal, are being seen as beautiful. This is fantastic, but with it also arrives a new kind of obnoxious behavior.