Thou Shalt Not Gun Down Beautiful Girls

Some airport-bookstall novel, I no longer remember which, features the following sentence: “She was beautiful, very beautiful, and I would do anything to keep her safe.” Can we imagine the adjective being replaced by “kind” or “intelligent”? We cannot. May we expect to read in another pot-boiler the variation: “She was well-read, very well-read, and I would do anything to keep her safe.” We may not. Beauty is a neural hack that compels us to respond with self-sacrificial devotion.

This principle may be seen per contraria in the cinematic genres of action, horror and torture porn. That is, whereas in real life we hold that beautiful girls are not to be harmed, whatever may be done to the rest, in our fantasy lives we are interested in nothing other than the endangerment of the beautiful. (I say “we” from outside; personally I avoid all three genres.) Bond girls have to be beautiful, not only so that we may take pleasure in imaginative identification with 007 when he beds them, but because they are so often in danger and need rescuing. No one would care about the bad guy threatening ugly women, any more than they would care about ugly women in the haunted house, or ugly women being chased by malignant hillbillies, or ugly women being tied up and dismembered by psychopaths.

The rewards for beauty can also be posthumous. Neda Agha-Soltan became the poster child for the failed Iranian revolution, not because she was the only victim, or the first, or the last, but because she was a beautiful young woman. Tariq Ali pointed out that on the very same day an American drone attack killed 15 equally innocent Pakistani villagers, but that this event never made it into our news at all. This he relates primarily to the Americans’ inability to understand their place in the world, but we might also imagine that if the Basij had killed only men, or ugly women, in Teheran that day, whereas one of the Pakistani villagers had been a beautiful young woman, and her death had been filmed and posted on the Net, she might today be as well-known as Neda.

Posted on January 15, 2017 at 10:49 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, The Life Beautiful

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  1. Written by James Beck
    on April 10, 2011 at 01:34

    There’s a shortage of ugly people in American film, so it’s hard to say. For the most part, even those chosen to play certain roles, like the made-up-to-look-overweight kidnapping victim in The Silence of the Lambs (Brooke Smith), or the archetypal ‘ugly duckling,’ are relatively photogenic. Consider American Ferrara (Ugly Betty) as an example of the latter.

    Not that there are no examples of ‘ugly’ in film. Pete Postlethwaite buys in Jurassic Park II. Linda Hunt, Danny Trejo, and Ron Perlman are all pretty ugly, too. They play character roles. Some others continue working despite not aging gracefully. Willem Dafoe and Christopher Walken spring to mind. Comedic players are often odd looking, but I wouldn’t describe most of them as ugly.

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