13 May 2004
What's a Grecian urn?
Up to now, efforts to quantify physical attractiveness have relied on arbitrary measures like the millihelen, which is defined as that quantity of beauty required to launch one ship.
Obviously something this banal wouldn't do for People's 50 Most Beautiful People: they must have science, and indeed they do. Per Dr Francis Palmer's point system, you get 75% of the points for your cheekbones, 10% for eyes/eyebrows, 7% for lips, and 2% each for jaw, chin, and neck; sleek nose; clear skin; and "general harmony of features."
There are, I think, major problems with this formula. For one thing, it makes me look a lot better than I actually do: the cheekbone/jowl conflict doesn't compute. More to the point, it makes the preposterous assumption that every last bit of visual appeal is located in areas north of the clavicle. A certain consistency is to be desired, I suppose I'm not all prepared for someone who looks like Sharon Stone from here down and like Broderick Crawford from there up but as a practical matter, not everyone's best feature is facial. Sometimes it's not even tangible.