Only Skin Deep
The Channel 4 documentary series, Beauty & The Beast: Ugly Face of Prejudice may have been viewed for different reasons, though mainly, I would assume, out of sheer curiosity to see how the people featured fare in leading their normal, everyday lives.
This was the case with me, but I also found a real, quiet satisfaction watching the programme, from the surprise that one like it hadn't been done before but, mostly from its refreshing take on beauty and whilst appearances count, is it only to a very certain extent? After all, as the show proved, when faced with large billboards of physically impaired people advertising underwear, most people said they would still go out and buy it.
Granted, that is a generalisation and people may have been told to say that they'd still go and buy underwear purely for the purposes of TV but it still speaks a lot about our society. It seems so obvious, but what someone looks like shouldn't determine whether we buy an object or not; surely if it's a basic commodity we need? However, as a media student, I am well informed about the advertising industry's tactic of creating a certain ideal to surround an object, making us think if we buy it, it will increase our popularity, sexiness, chances of success etc..
Perfect images of perfect bodies that saturate the media are given as the reason behind us developing body hang-ups that result in low self-confidence, with the media counter-argument taking the form of Gok Wan and Trinny & Susanna, who tell us that it's OK to look the way we do, and that we can still look good. Whether you find this kind of programme a beneficial presence on TV, or just downright annoying, it's surely a positive step in helping remind us that for a lot of people, their appearance is sometimes a constant source of distress, that can in turn affect other aspects of their lives.
I think we probably all know someone who isn't happy with their appearance and no amount of reassurance from us that they look great will persuade them otherwise. This I think strikes a chord with something Leo from the show said, who suffered third degree burns in an accident, that there is a beast out there feeding on people's insecurities and will continue to, so long as people continue to feel inadequate because of images the media present of apparent perfection.
But, ultimately and reassuringly, the fundamental point the programme illustrated is that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and that maybe the old-school philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon was onto something when he said, "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion".