On Being a Hot Babe (was Re: Hexwood -- Catchup)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Jan 30 16:08:58 EST 2002

On Tue, 29 Jan 2002 18:56:54 -0800 (PST), Ven wrote:

>Catherine compared Vierran's low opinion of her looks
>with Sophie's. It's true of Deep Secret's Marie as
>well. It seems to me that this sort of attitude is
>endemic in western society, especially among women.

It's endemic in fantasy fiction!  Notice how many female protagonists think
they're unattractive by comparison to someone else?  It almost always turns
out that they're pretty in an unconventional way, as opposed to some
arbitrary fixed standard of beauty--blond hair, tallness, plumpness,
skinniness, fair skin, rosy skin, etc.  And if they don't turn out to be
pretty after all, their personality is far preferable to whoever the
"beauty" is.

But my theory for *why* this is so common is related to how common a feeling
this is among women in our society.  If you don't think highly of your
looks, then it's comforting and reassuring to read about people who are
loved and desired despite their looks.  Not only is it comforting, it turns
out to be TRUE, and it's a powerful antidote to the popular image of beauty
(which, for our time, has shifted away from physical coloring and toward
body type).  So in my opinion, representing this attitude in fiction is a
subtle way of fighting it in the real world.

Hallie also wrote:
>Yes, I agree, but there is the apparent "confirmation" of Vierran's 
>looks in Reigner Three's little meditation on her.  Granted she's a 
>flaming bitch, but still, she does talk about the family good looks 
>and Vierran's not having got them.

My take on this is that Reigner Three, apart from being a flaming bitch,
only perceives beauty in a limited way.  If people don't look like her (i.e.
well-groomed, well-dressed, flamboyantly beautiful) they're not beautiful,
period.  Which makes sense, given how tenuous her own position is:  She
became Reigner Three by sleeping her way to the top, and her beauty is what
got her there.  If *Vierran* can be considered beautiful, then Reigner Three
is in trouble--not because Vierran is going to supplant her, but because
opening up the definition of beauty like that gives Reigner Three a wider
field of competition.  It sounds like cousin Siri is this kind of beautiful,
though with a better personality, so Reigner Three has "evidence" that her
kind of beauty does exist in the House of Guaranty and Vierran is just a
throwback to the dwarves, or what have you.

> I actually find it rather 
>refreshing to have a heroine who seems to be at least not 
>particularly attractive.  Similarly with Maree, though I can't 
>exactly remember Rupert's description of her looks as such - just his 
>thoughts about her horrible clothes, talons, attitude and all.

I like it too.  Aside from its being subversive (see above) it illustrates
just how much love does to change your perceptions; Maree, for one, doesn't
change much, but Rupert learns to love what she is.

Melissa Proffitt
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