Beauty, advertisements cause nearsightesness

Alex Sorondo/Staff Writer

I’m always conscious of it to some extent but I felt particularly aware, while watching the 2013 Golden Globe Awards, of how I didn’t look like any of the celebrities on screen. If I bore a resemblance to anybody, it was to the people being nominated for artistry or craft – crew members who, unburdened by the public eye, can afford to pay less attention to their appearance and endure the defilements of age with grace.

It seems most of the really famous people I can call to mind, apart from politicians and people of power, are exceptionally attractive. If they aren’t exceptionally attractive at the moment, they used to be, and it made them rich.

And then of course you have the people who, like certain “reality” stars, are famous for the spectacle that is made about how unattractive they are – which makes us feel better by comparison.

Most of the really famous pop-icons in the country, the household names who most frequently grace our screens and airwaves, are – by the public standard – almost physically flawless. The most common portrait of success that we’re exposed to while growing up is a body of certain proportions, the performance of spectacle on stage or screen, and the terrific financial gain that ensues.

Never as a child did I hear the name of a great architect or engineer; the only doctor I ever heard of was Jacob Kevorkian.

The reason we didn’t see these people is because they weren’t on TV, and the reason they weren’t on TV, for the most part, is that they weren’t attractive.

The media knows that we’re insecure about our appearance. That’s the goal. The more concerned you are about how you look, the more inclined you’ll be to buy the things that we’re told will make us look better: hair and skin products, designer labels, fancy cars, name brand electronics, sodas and candies.

Coke’s popularity and advertisement toward youth, its efforts to be the first soda we ever drink, is what leads us all to believing that this is how soda should taste. Similarly, a celebrity’s popularity is what leads us to think that this is how we should look, talk and behave.

Intellect doesn’t really have a place here. Advertisers have little use for an educated audience.

We grow up with this. We’re as much the victims of advertising as we are the products of it, and there’s no shaking the influence. We can’t blame ourselves for being vain from time to time, for sometimes sacrificing responsibilities or opportunities out of a concern for our appearance, but being in college, we should all be extolling the virtues of writers, craftsmen, innovators — the great thinkers.

And we do, in certain circles. My experience at the University shows that engineering majors know their engineers, law students their lawyers, finance majors their economists.

We emulate the pioneers of our field but do little to acquaint ourselves, if only in passing, with the faces and issues of other fields. Sometimes out of disinterest, sometimes fearing we won’t understand.

The more I acquaint myself with seniors on the brink of entering the workforce, the more impressed I become with how many of us have managed to become experts in our fields. It’s disheartening, though, to hear of everybody’s impulsive avoidance of subjects they aren’t versed in, whether in conversation or magazines or on TV.

A gritty truth about our ignorance is that people will take advantage of it, and in far more insidious ways than we know.