Why is the city of angels so hellbent on destroying its female population?
~ Hank Moody, Californication (Pilot, Season 1).
At its most basic, Hank’s comment is a reference to how society has distorted the natural beauty of the female form. It’s about body image and body shaming. It’s a lament about the women who are carving themselves up and redesigning what they see as ‘imperfections’ because their perception of self has become so distorted.
Hollywood and glossy magazines have long been our looking glasses. Reflecting back images that many strive to emulate. But, are we like Hank Moody in that we can still see real from artifice? Or has our vision grown distorted to the point that airbrushed artifice is an integral aspect of our personal ideology? Can we see how extreme and distorted plastic surgery has become? Or do we actually see it as a palatable solution to our inherent body-shame? Which begs the rhetorical question, then, what if our body-shame is terminal? How far are we willing to go to correct the imperfections? When will we realise we have gone too far? I would say we’ve gone too far already. If Hollywood and magazines are still our measuring tools. If they are still our reliable looking glass, then I would say we have undeniably gone too far.
Which begs another rhetorical question. If body shame is the ailment, then what is the source? Can we heal the ailment without addressing the source? I would say no.
I know a bit about this. I had an eating disorder for over a decade. I have exercised obsessively in a poor attempt at silencing the critical voice in my head. There was a time when I didn’t love a single thing about my physical appearance. In my first year at drama school I sat in a circle with 15 other people and had to name 1 physical feature I liked about myself. Everyone had at least 1. Except me. I had a list of things I hated and wanted to change. In that moment, the mirror of the group’s reaction reflected back at me. That’s when I realised I had a real fucking problem. But it took me another 2 decades to heal that distorted self-image. In truth, I’m still working on it.
In my experience, body image is no different to a psychological malaise. There is a root, a source, an originating wound, that must be addressed in order to begin the journey of healing.
Which brings me back to my question about our individual reflections. What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see imperfections? A long list of items to criticise, improve, enhance and change. Or do you see beauty? This is the difference between fear and love. Fear makes comparisons. It tells us we are not enough. It is critical. It distorts. Love sees clearly. Love sees the undistorted truth. Love sees the beauty.
There is so much more to say on this subject, and this is just the start.