Portrayal of Beauty in Film


Sally Brown

Film has an influential role in how we view ourselves and others. However, the industry has used this immense power to portray a negative image. How will this affect future generations?

Christy Cohen, Staff Writer

Film throughout the world tends to focus on different sides of the idea of beauty. Films have different focuses, in which some highlight the scenery rather than the actual people in the movie. Other films showcase the drama and plot of the movie. There are also films that have a focus on the physical appearance of the actors and actresses and use that to appeal to audiences. In the United States, many movies portray beauty as something unrealistic, setting standards for the masses that are difficult or even harmful to achieve. In addition, there are gender differences in the film industry as to what beauty looks like. Women are particularly targeted in these standards, in which many films objectify them with their appearances. Many animated movies such as Disney’s Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty portray the “beauty is good” stereotype, in which there is the belief that attractiveness is more important in females than in males. Younger children who grow up watching movies like these may develop the idea that beauty is mainly found in the physical appearance of oneself.

The media can be very destructive, and films being a part of media can add to this. Movies often focus more on getting people who fit beauty stereotypes, male or female. In more recent years, there is an increasing number of films made that have a focus on showing beauty in all different types of appearances and trying to spread the message that true beauty is found in the heart and not based on one’s physical appearance. Still, there are gender differences in the portrayal of beauty among men and women. Some beauty standards among women are the exact opposite among men. For instance, men are often criticized for being skinny and told instead that they need to have muscle. Women are often told they need to be skinny to be attractive. However, many women are still criticized sometimes for being “too skinny.” Beauty standards for men and women are constantly changing. Years ago, Marylin Monroe was considered the most attractive woman alive. The notable aspect about this is the idea that the standards she was held to were completely different than those of the present day. For instance, the reasoning that people have as to why models of today are attractive is completely different than the reasoning given as to why Marylin Monroe was attractive to people.

A notable aspect of the film industry is that movies in America will often portray people who committed crimes as physically attractive, whether they were according to beauty standards or not. For example, the movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, used Zac Efron, an idolized actor that many people find very attractive, to play Ted Bundy, a serial killer. The reason why the film industry did this was to appeal to a wider range of people. They believed that more people would want to watch the movie if it featured an “attractive” actor, even though he was playing a serial killer. Several other movies follow suit with this idea, whether dealing with males or females. This further emphasizes the idea physical attractiveness of actors and actresses being very important to people in the film industry, even more so than the character and heart of a person.

In the United Kingdom, films are often about prejudice, discrimination, coming of age, and life in difficult parts of the country. Most British films are realistic and confined to certain genres. They often have more of a focus on the plot of the film rather than the physical appearances of the characters themselves. British films are often more relaxed in terms of filming and show scenes from further away to allow viewers to form their own ideas about what is important to focus on in each of the scenes. Filmmakers tend to stray away from hiring actors and actresses for their physical appearance, and instead chose people for their capabilities in terms of if they can accurately portray the character. This differs from many films in the American industry since there appears to be a large focus on having “attractive” actors and actresses to entice people to watch the movies. Whereas, in British films, beauty is often portrayed in the scenery shown in the film or the story itself, rather than in the characters. This does not mean that beauty does not exist within the characters, however, the focus is on other aspects of the movie.

In the film industry of Bollywood in India, there are beauty standards for women in which they are often objectified. Many films will often have a focus on getting “attractive” young women to appeal to more people. However, there will often be older male actors playing the love interest in the films since many popular male actors tend to stay out of retirement for a long time. This brings attention to the focus on showcasing beauty in women rather than in men, which like the American industry, adds to stereotypes and unrealistic beauty standards. Many men in India do not have as many interactions with women as movies portray them to have, so they will often learn about how a woman “should” be treated through movies. Unfortunately, many of these movies portray men treating women as objects to look at and use for their benefit, which is unjust and shows the unequal treatment of men and women in Indian society. Many Bollywood movies will normalize the stalking and harassment of women, as well as to glorify rape to show it as acceptable. These standards and aspects of the portrayal of beauty in the film industry can harm people’s safety in Indian society.

Physical attractiveness is often emphasized as more important than the actual character and heart of a person, which is displayed in several films. Some films displayed physical and inner beauty as being important. Cinderella was a movie about a girl who lived with an evil stepmother. She was kind and tried her best to survive under the cruel treatment of her stepmother. When going to a royal ball, she was transformed into having a “beautiful” appearance, which appealed to the prince. In this case, it was important for Cinderella to be physically beautiful as well as have inner beauty. This can teach young children who watch movies like this that inner beauty is not enough, and that they must look physically attractive to be fully considered beautiful.

Over the years, the portrayal of what beauty is has heavily changed. No matter how much it has changed, there is no justification for holding women and men to standards of beauty. People should not have to feel like they need to look a certain way. If these standards and stereotypes of beauty were eliminated, people would become physically and mentally healthier. For this to be done in the film industry, films would have to take a turn to not display actors and actresses in movies as achieving unrealistic beauty standards, and instead perhaps showcase their physical flaws, while emphasizing inner beauty. This would show people that physical attractiveness is not necessary to truly be beautiful.