The Future of Pretty

The New York Times had an article today about how high-definition TV makes it harder for celebs to hide wrinkles and skin conditions. It contains the quote: “Celebrities are considered attractive at least in part because they’re suited to the technology of the age.”

Too true. Why should looks be any different from talent? After all, we don’t imagine Bill Gates amassing atonishing wealth if he’d been born back in the 12th century, or someone with Michael Jordan’s talents becoming a famous athlete in cricket-mad India. (I’ve seen him try to bat, after all.)

In Hollywood, the era of black and white had its high-cheekboned ice queens, and the current era of small screen rental seems to favor exaggerated features. Some of today’s beauties in HD may well look as bad as Jordan did swinging a bat.

But I’m not here to talk about anyone’s bad skin. What’s interesting to me is, what kind of pretties will emerge from the HD era? And how will that go on to affect our society’s ideas about beauty?

The Times article quotes a make-up artist who works in HD. She says the medium favors stars like Halle Berry, with her flawless skin. (The article also says that plastic surgery is problematic, leaving seams and ridges that the camera will capture and emphasize.)

Of course, TV will eventually do what movies do, and use CGI Vaseline to blur away every imperfection. (And eventually plastic surgery will become undetectible; the market will demand that it does.) But at some point in the race between digital fidelity and digital deception, I predict we’ll get a wave of movie stars with really amazing skin. Stars that won’t have to be fuzzed out to look good on HD. Stars that seem to glow on screen.

And when that happens, even people who don’t have to be on TV will emulate the celebs of the moment. And we will all obsess a little bit more than we already do over every zit.

Those of you who’ve read Uglies may remember that the pretty operation gives you perfect skin. As a marker of lifelong good health, clear skin is one of those things that evolution selects for. It seems to make people react positively, no matter what society we’re born into, like symmetry (mirror features) and neotony (big lips and eyes). But the images in our culture influence us to obsess over some factors more than others. Sometimes it’s neotony, sometimes symmetry.

So maybe the era of perfect skin is upon us.

Of course, when everyone has it, all that smooth skin may start to look really creepy . . .

13 thoughts on “The Future of Pretty

  1. Hmmm, I’ve been optimistically hoping that HD will help us learn to love our imperfections given that you can now see that even the most famous beauties have them.

    Me, I love HDTV. I love being able to see and read tattoos clearly, being able to count Tayshun Prince’s freckles. Freckles are fabulous. I love the mystery of the strange red marks up and down the spine of this boxer on HBO the other night. Symbiote? It’s so intimate—almost like seeing these people up close in the real world. And, frankly, I’d rather watch them on the tellie.

  2. It wasn’t HDTV, but I remember seeing Matrix: Reloaded on the IMAX screen at the Luxor in Las Vegas. This was the first IMAX theater I had been to that had near-vertical seating, and we were maybe fifty feet from the screen. The whole movie I kept thinking “my God, Laurence Fishburne sure has a lot of pits on his face” – they were like craters!

  3. But don’t you think we’ll just get used to seeing lumps and bumps on people’s faces and chill out about it? Isn’t part of the first time shock of IMAX and HDTV seeing what was previously hidden? We cope fine with the imperfections of our friends’ faces . . . (Though, obviously, all my friends and relatives have perfect skin. I’m just conjecturing. )

  4. I hope you don’t mind this o/t reply here. I just wanted you to know that I’ve only recently discovered your books and am falling in love with them. Your Midnighters Series has fast become a dear favorite of mine. (Crossing fingers that this story gets turned into a movie soon!) Thanks so much for sharing your imagination with us! Best Successes– Melody

  5. After all, we don’t imagine Bill Gates amassing atonishing wealth if he’d been born back in the 12th century, or someone with Michael Jordan’s talents becoming a famous athlete in cricket-mad India.

    Obviously you haven’t been reading the latest alternate history anthologies.

  6. This has nothing to do with scotts latest blog (sorry) But my friend Linda Alice Dewey has just released her first book called Aarons Crossing. Its about a ‘ghost’ named aaron who after passing away cannot get to the other side. This book is based on a true story and explains the journy oh how Linda helps Aaron through this time. You can see it here on her website at . Even if you are not interested in reading this book could you share it with people that might. It would give her writing career a great boost. thank you

    PS. Even though this book is based on a true story it is not corny or stupid.

  7. People already stive too much to make themselves perfect. I find it interesting to be an outsider in the whole cultural sceme of looks. You can really see through the advertisments and hypnosis that decides what people do these days. It’s really frightening if you think about it. Eventually, we probably will turn into obsessed zombies like in Uglies.

  8. This is another post that’s a bit off-topic, but the irony of this being your latest post and the events of my morning were too good not to mention. I came to the site this morning to check your email so I could drop you a line. I was reading “Uglies” on the train this morning, and I, Queen of Being-On-Time-If-Not-Early, as well as Reading-Everywhere-Possible, became so engrossed in the book that I not only MISSED my stop, but I didn’t realize it until I looked up and realized I was in BROOKLYN. Considering that I was coming from Queens to 14th St, not to mention that I read on the train everyday and have never missed my stop before, I thought that was quite an accomplishment.

    And of course, now I’m finally at work and Smoke has just been invaded and Tally has escaped and David still thinks she’s the cherry on the top of an ice cream sundae and we don’t know what happened to everyone else and all I want is to find out what happens! Ah, the difficulties of being employed when there is a book that needs finishing ….

    [Oh, speaking of being employed, this is the Sara from Books of Wonder, by the way. So really, there are no complaints on the reading/working front 😉 ]

    Anyhow, I just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying – obviously! – “Uglies”!!

  9. Sorry, this reply has nothing to do with Mr. Westerfeld’s latest blog, but I have to agree with Sara in that “Uglies” has the ability to make you lose yourself and your surroundings. I picked up my copy in an airport bookstore in Atlanta, and, expecting a two hour delay, I began reading. Before I knew it, I was the only one left in my gate, and I nearly missed my flight. “Uglies” captivated my attention more than any book I can remember, and I’m greatly looking forward to the release of “Pretties” in November.

    I just wanted to say thank you for providing us with such wonderful books!

  10. Uglies clearly has the power to make people miss transportation connections. Fortunately, my other books only give you hives.

  11. And hives are dreadfull on your complexion really. I AM hoping that “pretties” might have a better effect.

  12. I am 15 years old and I was so engrossed in your book that my mother gave it to me and 8 and a half hours later, without interruption, I finished it. I couldn’t put the book down! I would try and find some point to pause, but another captivating event would pull me back into the book. I LOVED IT!

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