A beautiful beast – what we think about them
We love stories – and we love them all the more when we think they have social messages woven into them. For this reason (and many others, no doubt Emma Watson being one of them!) the enchanting beauty and the hideous beast struck a chord with many of us.
We loved the whole – beauty falling in love with the beast and seeing him for what he is rather than how he looks. Yes, inner beauty is what matters and not the outwardly appearance, we tell our children.
But, here’s my question. Would the idea be as appealing if the beast was a lady? I am not so sure. The truth, unfortunately, is that a lady beast would not be as comely and appealing as the male beast. For a woman, being beautiful is one of the many attributes that gets directly linked to her womanhood. That’s the sad truth.
A voluptuous beast
Let’s backtrack a little and look at one of iconic movies of the 1970s – Satyam Shivam Sundaram. The smart and handsome male protagonist falls in love with the leading lady who has been disfigured in a childhood accident. She is an exceptionally talented singer however that is not her only gift that is on display. We get a generous view of the actress’s ample bosom and thighs and we are in for a visual treat as the gifted singer frolics underneath a water stream clad in a see-through white sari. While the protagonist redeems himself in the climax with a change of heart admitting how shallow he was for having been blind towards the ‘inner beauty’ of the lady, we are left with unanswered lingering questions about the skin show that dominates this celluloid drama. What if the ugly beast did not have a toned and buxom body to boast of? Will her ‘inner beauty or talent’ still be acceptable then?
All is fair in the beauty industry
Apart from objectification that reduces a woman to merely her body, the obsession with fair skin is another predicament many women have to endure. The fairness cream market is a multi-billion-dollar industry not just in India but across the globe too. Celebrities still endorse fairness cream brands with little regard for the impact and social message this sends to people. Recently a German skin care brand received severe backlash from the public for a fairness campaign that propagated white is purity. While the makers have withdrawn the commercial ever since, the stigma associated with dark skin is a problem many women deal with on a daily basis.
Closer home, fairness cream has seen its fair share of conversations in the past few days. Recently, Abhay Deol spoke out against endorsing of such products and received retorts in the process (which, in turn, got their own reactions – it’s a long story!)
The point is, that by being constantly shown advertisements where we see women winning accolades with escalating confidence levels as their skin tone whitens, we are sending a message – and it’s the wrong one – that you need to be pretty and fair to climb up the ladder. This leads many women to go to extreme lengths to look light skinned in order to be socially acceptable (get married, get a great job, you name it).
Handsome is as handsome does
So, coming back to our original question about the beast being the woman – I doubt a woman would have found acceptance as a beast. So if you take your kids to see the movie, just slip in the idea that beauty is what we are on the inside, no matter what the gender (trust me, as your kids turn into teenagers, this message will he harder to put across to them!)
And oh, let them know what you think about fairness creams – no matter what John Abrahim says.
By Bharti Sridhar