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 . . .