Are The Beauty Standards In The Room With Us Now?
They're not bad, they're just drawn that way.
I think about the time I spend thinking about being in a body the way people think about the money they spend on frivolous purchases, like one month of a Peacock subscription, daily treats, or renter’s insurance. It’s energy that could be better budgeted. They’re not necessarily bad body thoughts, but it’s also not good body thoughts. My thoughts are more the ilk of: How am I meant to fit into what, and Is this supposed to be shaped that way, and It wasn’t shaped like that yesterday, was it? It’s a lot of Hmmm and also Uhhhhh. (Also, I just scoured the internet for a swimsuitand if there is anything that will put your whole body-brain through it, it’s selecting what stupid, special little outfit you will wear to visit a body of water.)
The sheer number of minutes spent pondering my body is staggering. Not that I’m alone in this. But the fact that *Whitney Houston Voice* I’m every woman when it comes to this line of thinking also is . I am reminded of this every time I need to squeeze into a narrow subway space or between tables in a restaurant and I see womanly ankles twisting under crossed legs, squeezing themselves more tightly together like retreating vines — not that it necessarily makes it any easier to pass, but it’s that the instinct to shrink oneself for the convenience of another is so reflexive.
Shrinking is generally the classic transfiguration of choice for women, but lately, we’ve been experimenting with different shapes, sculptures, and proportions. Things that were once prized for their smallness are now made lustfully large. And things that have otherwise remained blind to critical eyes, are being scrutinized to be made more compact, more angular, and somehow also more curvaceous at the same time.
The silhouette of the moment is a largely familiar one to me, nostalgic through the lens of animation. The stretched proportions that would seem impossible IRL are now possible in our age of Big Knife Little Body. In our surveillance era, we’re convinced that no one beautiful on the internet is purely flesh and blood. Those angles don’t just happen naturally; everyone must be playing surgical chess with their body fat, injecting liquid puppet strings, or elsewise playing God: Hot Edition® via aesthetic self-flagellation. I’m not saying that it’s not pleasurable, satisfying, or worthwhile, just that at a certain level, one must submit to violence to reap the most saleable assets that Beauty™ has to offer (the more violent, the more expensive as well). My body dysmorphia is simply visual merchandising.
The status we chase through beauty doesn’t necessarily keep currency with the speed at which new trends command new desires and new goals. But given that screens are now the de facto beauty well from which we drink, it makes sense to me that the reflections we pursue originated there as well — the big screen, the tube, the cinema, the telly!
Perhaps there may be a cushion of disbelief from the inter-species renderings but if you want to get to the root of unrealistic beauty standards, the blueprint was always cartoons. Wealthy celebs and influencers are mere mortals, physically incapable of possessing these larger-than-life proportions I grew up with in the pre-Lara Croft, pre-Barbie bodification era. You can’t entirely blame them for maxing their assets in an appearance-driven industry (but you can ignore them, which you probably should if you find it at all annoying). After all, even they are far from ‘perfection’ in this hot cartoon-driven world. But before video game vixens, there were…
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How is it possible that a fish is so sexy? How does she put on eye shadow and lipstick under the sea? Also, aren’t Beta fish meant to be aggressive? Shouldn’t she be absolutely beating the shit out of these other fish? No, instead she does a sexy lil swim about it. This segment of Fantasia had me absolutely rapt as a child. Disney does a sexy fish call back in the 1940 animated Pinocchio with Cleo. Who is this guy drawing such alluring and gorgeous fish?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
No one can speak of impossible beauty and not mention Jessica Rabbit. (Again, lavender eyeshadow and red lipstick, hmmm) I do not remember Who Framed Roger Rabbit at all, despite seeing the film several times throughout my childhood and adolescence. All I remember is Jessica Rabbit. One could describe her body type today as what would be considered slim-thick, her face snatched, the originator of TikTok’s siren eye trend. All respect to Jessica going fringeless with a fivehead though.
Again with the purple eyeshadow and red lipstick. It’s official: 3 makes it a pattern!! Greta Gremlin is not technically a cartoon, but I’ll make a stay for movie puppets because “the hot gremlin” had such a hold on our psyche (still does). What is the purpose of making a film’s non-human antagonist so damn sexy? As far as I am concerned, this is the first woman in STEM.
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One of the great things about the internet is that just when you think about the past and go Was I the only one who… The Internet will always tell you No, you silly bitch, there are no unique experiences to be had. And one of which for the longest time was that I thought I’d dreamt this movie but no, it turns out that yet again I was allowed to watch an animated film despite the subject matter not being suitable for children after all. Its aesthetics and heavily sexualized modus operadi imprinted onto my mush mind at the ripe age of… was it 7? 8? Way too young to even understand the full premise of this film in which an incarcerated illustrator gets transported into his illustrated creations’ dimension where his main drawing, Holli Would, tries to seduce him so she can become real. Also, Brad Pitt plays a cartoon cop.
As far as I am concerned, Holli Would will always be Her. They took a two-dimensional character and chose to give her unbridled sexual chaos as a third dimension. How original. This movie raised a lot of questions for me, like: what does it mean to be "real?" Why does sex make cartoons real, but only death makes noids (humans) toons? How does no one remember Brad Pitt was in this? Anyway, this movie has a 4% on Rotten Tomatoes despite the fact that it spawned a video game and became a cult favorite, proving that yet again, sometimes things do not have to be good to be...something.
I was 10 when Space Jam came out — the same year The Spice Girls’ debut album SPICE was released, demonstrating the sporty extension pack for the whole being a girl experience. Lola Bunny was as sexyas she was good at basketball, which I think was meant to be empowering for girls, but mostly it made me want a jersey crop top sooo bad. After 2 years of being on the junior and then junior varsity cheerleading squad, I still do not fully know the rules of how basketball is played (and even less for football); I was more concerned with nailing the choreo and the particular swish of our matching pleated polyester skirts. Also, having a windbreaker with my name embroidered on the chest, hehe.
Once you start dissociating the pressures of beauty standards as just horny dude scribblings, they become a lot sillier and pointless. And then once you discover that anyone and anything can be sexy if you just plop some false lash strips on it, you begin to understand how the construct of femininity is a farce. Not to say it isn’t fun and capable of real effects in our “real” world. Sometimes, when I’m doing my face and head for the day, and possibly beautying too close to the sun, my brain will automatically start screeching some deranged version of that tell-tale brass intro 🎷 Bah bah-da da-da BAH BAH 🎷 and a voice in my head says: Let’s go girls 😎. Once the Shania worms enter your brain you’ll never be the same, meaning you’ll never be able to think about beauty and being a woman with a straight face ever again. But if I ever do decide to take beauty seriously ever again, at least I know now that lavender eyeshadow and red lipstick is a foolproof combo.
Thank you for your patience with the slow drip of Hard Feelings that have been output in the past six-to-eight weeks. As it turns out, not being able to smell things — which I haven’t fully been able to for the past month plus — has the unwanted side effect of not being able to produce a single thought worthy of note! (Anosmia is linked to cognitive decline and earlier onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia, don’t you know). Also, after finishing and submitting the first round of edits for my book manuscript in a matter of five weeks, I was so burnt that I fell ill not once but twice.
I hate to leave you hanging! And I love writing for you! So as a fun bit, if you feel so inclined, please participate in this poll feature in which I’ve scoured all my unfinished draft titles for your intrigue and delight:
(Titles may change upon completion of draft, depending on where it goes.)
Once again, thank you for reading! xo
I have a conspiracy theory that the absolute e-comm domination of cheeky-style bikini bottoms that are half thong, half brief is just shrinkflation masquerading as pro-hoery.
Even more so when you break it down into above the neck vs. below the neck.
Meanwhile, the MTA has to remind men to keep their damn legs shut.
Especially since the Green M&M wore flats to work one day and subsequently caused an internet controversy. Those boots were made for keeping the peace.
Much like Ms. Green M&M, Lola Bunny did not resurrect in recent years without inciting riotous displeasure from the conservative right, who would very much like to make America sexy again.
Excellent history of animation "beauty," and woah, what IS up with the lavender eyeshadow & red lip? Thanks Chica, it was a lot first thing in the morning but definitely all true and a very real commentary on patriarchy, which is why we must *dismantle* it (alongside white supremacy, racism, anti-transism, anti-disableisn, AAPI hate, etc)
Hilarious that Greta Gremlin made an appearance because I s2g a few weeks ago I compared myself to a gremlin (cheekily and in a smol creature sorta way, I'm not THAT self-deprecating) in convo with a guy and his response was "if you're a gremlin, you're the excruciatingly hot girl one"
So yes, it absolutely does translate