Monday, April 1, 2013

World Building A to Z: Beauty and Beasts

Welcome to Day 2 or Day B of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. A big THANK YOU again to Arlee Bird and the group at Blogging from A to Z . My theme for this month involves sharing details I've seen in world building and establishment of setting.

Beauty: Contrary to popular belief, beauty isn't always an asset to its owner, especially if your good looks put you in the minority within a group. In The Twilight Zone's "Eye of the Beholder,"  a beautiful woman undergoes plastic surgery to become less attractive, but the surgery is unsuccessful, and she remains beautiful. So she suffers from being ostracized and treated with repulsion by a community of people with deformed facial features. Call it reverse discrimination if you will. 

Sometimes beauty is merely a commodity; in Suzanne Collins' MOCKINGJAY, the handsome Finnick reveals that he had to work as a prostitute for the Capitol. Beauty can also be seen as a nuisance; Helen of Troy is known for having the "face that launched a thousand ships" and instigating  the Trojan War. In Arthur Golden's MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, the young geishas are not allowed to enjoy their own beauty; the house mother slaps Hatsumomo  when she learns that the geisha has a secret boyfriend. 

(Here's a FUN FACT about myself: Years ago, I worked as an extra on the movie set for Memoirs of a Geisha. The film was shot at a couple of the tea gardens here in the Bay Area. I played a resort guest.)

Beasts: Hollywood brings us many loveable beasts- Sloth from The Goonies and Shrek, for example. But not all beasts are closet teddy bears. Take Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN for example. To be fair, the beast in the story starts off being all rainbows and unicorns, but the world isn't kind to him, and before long, the beast mirrors how the world treats him, and he becomes as monstrous as he is on the inside as he is on the outside.

The scariest kinds of beasts live inside physical bodies that appear normal. In
William Golden's THE LORD OF THE FLIES, the young boys stranded on the island, left without supervision, become as savage and beast-like as the unseen "beasts" they fear. The wolf in sheep's clothing often pops up in murder mysteries. Sometimes the identity of a cold-blooded murderer could be the last person anyone would suspect.

Can you think of any more examples of how beauty and beasts are perceived and presented in different books? 

28 comments:

Elise Fallson said...

How great you got to work as an extra on the set for Memoirs of a Geisha! That was such a great film. And yes, beauty and beast can take on many forms, how people react to it depends largely depends on pov.

Teresa Coltrin said...

Beauty is an asset but can also be a liability.

I once worked for someone where my coworkers called us Beauty (me) and the Beast (boss). He was not that bad, but I think my colleagues thought I was prettier.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Wow! Awesome you were an extra on a movie. So agree with Teresa and Elsie's points.

randi lee said...

I agree with Teresa-in certain conditions beauty can def. be a liability. And awesomeness on being a part of the movie!

Nick Wilford said...

Sometimes beauty can cause arrogance and the person to be a "beast" on the inside. eg Snow White's stepmother.

Jill Haugh said...

Hi Cynthia, Very insightful post. You've got me thinking...
I've noticed Hollywood always caves when it comes to book characters who are not supposed to be beautiful, but gorgeous actors are cast in the movie version anyway.
FOr example, Margaret Mitchell's first line to "GWTW": Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful..."
~Just Jill

John Wiswell said...

I prefer apparent ugliness or beauty to be handled in novel ways in plot, like how you describe Memoirs of a Geisha functioning. Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori has an ending that's just understated enough about the merit of disfigurement that it got to me, though I won't spoil it.

One obvious beauty/beast situation is H.G. Wells's Invisible Man. He goes insane based upon losing his physical appearance, weaving between considering it a kind of godhood and the ultimate ostracism. It's what turns him into a beast, because he cannot handle his internal feelings about the (albeit unrealistic) change in appearance.

Julie Luek said...

Fun post. I like John's example of The Invisible Man. (I used to listen to reruns of that show on the radio when I was little.) I think too many of us believe in the beast parts within ourselves and don't see the beauty. Like the Geisha, we've been reprimanded for our pride.

Mark Means said...

Great post and very cool that you were an extra in a movie. Now you can tell everyone you were on the silver screen :)

I think beauty is more sinister when a beast lurks beneath the pleasant look exterior. Dracula, Satan, and succubi are usually portrayed as beautiful...until they bare their fangs :)

Mina Burrows said...

Loved the beauty & the beast post. Being an extra can suck. I did that once.

S.P. Bowers said...

Interesting subject. Beauty, and ugliness, are in the eye of the beholder. Like the twilight zone you mentioned. Beauty is what we say it is and it changes over time. What we say is beautiful now may not be in 50 years. And what is beautiful to one person isn't always to another person.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Many romance novels use the Beauty and the Beast plot line. I also see it in teen shows where the pretty popular girl is actually the meany.

Guilie said...

Loved your post and voice, and will totally be back for more. Beauty can mislead, be a curse for its "owner". Like any other attribute, probably. But beauty--perhaps because our humanity tends to be so visually oriented--has a long history of being equated with "goodness", with purity, with decency. Even when the "pretty" girl is evil, you can see it--her "beauty" is portrayed as superficial, as somehow imperfect. And that brings us to another very interesting question: what is beauty, then? Is it perfection? Is it balance? When the definition strays from the human figure into, say, nature, what do we call a beautiful sky? A beautiful landscape? Is there a single combination of colors and elements that's needed in order to achieve "beautiful"? Seems unlikely. A view over the Amazon at sunrise, an icy landscape in the South Pole, a turquoise pool in Hawaii, fall in the Colorado mountains... They're all uniquely different. But they're all, undeniably, beautiful. Why can't we do the same with humanity?

Oooo-kay. Sorry for that mini-rant :)

Dana said...

It's so cool that you were an extra in Memoirs of a Geisha! I agree with Nick: sometimes the inside doesn't match the outside.

Enjoyed your post!

Christine Rains said...

Great B day! That's so neat your were an extra on the movie. Like many others who commented, I love how beauty and beasts are reacted different to by various people. Like one person finds scars sexy and another person finds them hideous. It's so subjective.

Adriana Dascalu said...

loved your B article! I love Beauty and the Beast. It's such a beautiful story about compassion and undertanding and empathy.

Jay Noel said...

I was on extra on a TV show. It was a lot of doing nothing, waiting my turn. But I can say I was on TV!

Going with the Beauty and the Beast theme, there's also Gaston, He's handsome - an alpha male in every way. Yet he is "ugly."

Cherie Reich said...

That's awesome you were an extra in the movie!

I loved your examples of beauties and beasts. :)

Cynthia said...

Elise: Yes, pov is important.

Teresa: I agree.

Natalie: Thanks!

Randi: Teresa had a good point, and thanks!

Nick: I know what you mean. Someones people can become less attractive the more you get to know them.

Jill: I know what you mean. How 'bout getting a real nerd to play a nerd, right?

John: Thanks for the book recommendation.

Julie: I agree with your notion that people should recognize their own strengths, but without being cocky about it, of course!

Mark: Actually, the scenes I worked in were cut. But it was still a neat experience to have.

Mina: Which movie/show were you an extra for?

Sara: At any given time, thick bushy eyebrows are seen as beautiful...until it becomes "trendy" to have thin eyebrows.

Susan: I feel that both pretty and un-pretty people can be capable of being mean.

Guilie: I think beauty can be interpreted in many different ways.

Dana: Looks can sometimes be deceiving.

Christine: It's up to the eye of the beholder.

Adriana: Thanks!

Jay: Which show was that?

Cherie: Thanks!

Cindy Dwyer said...

How cool to be an extra in a movie!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's really cool you were an extra!

Ella said...

I love that you were an extra! I met the author and have a book signed by him~ How fun-I'm so jealous right now ;D

Jeff Hargett said...

Loving the theme! So you're a movie star too! ;-)

Damyanti said...

I didn't realize the beauty and the beast theme was so pervasive in movies.

Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

Twitter: @AprilA2Z
#atozchallenge

Wendy LaPlaca said...

Love your theme! Also, great post. You might enjoy Stephen King's novels if you're interested in "the beast inside" novels. Not just the scary ones, but some of his others like Under the Dome :)

Margot said...

Dropping by from the A-Z list. Enjoyed your A and B posts. Neat theme idea for the month.

Blessings
Margot

Nicole said...

Neat fun fact! That must have been a cool experience.

The Wicked Writer said...

Certainly making me think today.

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