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Race And Beauty In A Media Contrived Society

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Race and Beauty in a Media Contrived Society

Throughout Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye, she captures, with vivid insight, the plight of a young African American girl and what she would be subjected to in a media contrived society that places its ideal of beauty on the e quintessential blue-eyed, blonde woman. The idea of what is beautiful has been stereotyped in the mass media since the beginning and creates a mental and emotional damage to self and soul. This oppression to the soul creates a socio-economic displacement causing a cycle of dysfunction and abuses. Morrison takes us through the agonizing story of just such a young girl, Pecola Breedlove, and her aching desire to have what is considered beautiful - blue eyes. Racial stereotypes of beauty contrived and nourished by the mass media contribute to the status at which young African American girls find themselves early on and throughout their lives.

While the ideal of beauty is mass marketed the damage it does to society is devastating. By idealizing and pronouncing only one absolute standard of the "blonde and blue-eyed" as beautiful and good, it fosters the opposite and negative belief that young black girls would be defined as the opposite. For a young girl internalizing this it would be defined as the opposite. For a young girl internalizing this it would certainly develop a negative sense of self and worth. With black skin and brown eyes the young girl would find herself in a world where she could never find acceptance as someone physically beautiful and special. This stigma produces a feeling of absolute subservience and lesser purpose and worth creating a mindset of needlessness. A young African American girl would begin to feel invisible in these isolating conditions and create a world where esteem was non-existent. As noted by Gurleen Grewal:

As Pecola demonstrates, this socially mandated charade of being something she is not (middle-class white girl) and of not being something one is (working-class black girl) makes one invisible, while the split mentality it entails approaches insanity (26).

This belief that one is not worthy of a stereotype is completely devastating to the soul and eventual quality of life.

The creation and belief in the mind of such a negative self-concept would produce a shame and anger oppressing the spirit of its true purpose by yielding to society's standards. This anger and shame keeps the soul lacking in hope and belief. According to Jill Matus, it is theorized by psychologists that one's dignity is violated when the feeling of shame takes over; s one begins to feel diminished in other's views (39). Matus also notes:

Profoundly interpersonal, the experience of shame is also therefore social and cultural. Shame is the result of feeling deficient, whether in relation to a parent, an admired friend, or a more powerful social group (39).

We can easily see the effect of this stereotyping in the diminishment of self with Pecola's desire for blue eyes just to be considered beautiful enough to love.

A negative self-concept fostered by societal beliefs creates a profound sense of self-loathing for those who don't fit into a certain standard, which can transcend to the belief that familial connections are also guilty of the same abhorrence of not fitting into societal stereotyping. The inherent belief that one is not worthy and they come from a bloodline also unworthy diminishes the mind of any positive thinking and forms a person ready for abuse and disregard. In Trudier Harris' view, "The cycle, vicious in its repetitiveness, is one that is too ingrained to be broken" (47). Harris also points out the oppression faced by a young girl like Pecola:

...Morrison explores in the novel [and] centers upon the standard of beauty by which white women are judged in this country. They are taught that their blonde hair, blue eyes, and creamy skins are not only wonderful, but they are the surface manifestations of the very best character God and nature ever molded. ...[A] place of honor light years away from Pecola Breedlove (43).

The negative self-concept created by such a feeling of true worthlessness will create a socio-economic disparity beginning with the superficial view that what is considered socially acceptable and what is considered socially repulsive.

At the time Pecola is most in need of self-assurance and belief in her self she is horribly abused at the hands of family and her greatest male influence. Without the self-assurance needed to guide her through the physical and mental traumas she would have nowhere to turn for help. Thus creating a mindset of loneliness, mistrust and self-loathing. Not believing in her self and having nowhere to turn is devastating, but not as devastating as the standard set by the media that can never be met. Looking outside for some sense of connection and belonging is met with rejection and revulsion. Looking in the mirror of society would be a painful rejection when never being able to meet that standard. Pecola is branded in her own mind and cannot escape to the pain of her life. As Miner explains in heart-wrenching words, "By covering ears, eyes, and nose Pecola attempts to shut out the testimony in her senses. Reminded of her own ugliness



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