Harry Reid’s assessment of Kirsten Gillibrand as “the hottest member” of the Senate was not exactly well-received, because one’s appearance is purely superficial, doncha know. The trouble with that stance is that it’s not in the nature of beauty to remain purely superficial:
We’re more complicated than that. We are too sensitive to other cues. We get to know people in too many other ways. We fall in love. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf describes a conversation between a couple. The man is saying, “You’re so beautiful.” And the woman is frustrated because she thinks he thinks that mostly because he loves her. And once he loves her, “you’re beautiful” just means “I love you,” and is therefore devalued. Because all of the value has been co-opted by the idea of objective, loveless beauty. The kind that can be universally recognized. The kind that makes the man fall in love in the first place, without knowing anything else about the woman.
The relationship between Reid and Gillibrand, I assume, is based purely upon need, as in “I need your vote.”
Jane Austen, of course, has been here before:
When Mr. Darcy sees Elizabeth Bennet for the first time in Pride and Prejudice (one of the funniest, most sarcastic, and most playful books ever written), he doesn’t think she’s very attractive. “She is tolerable,” he says. “But not handsome enough to tempt me.” Her sister, everyone agrees, is much, much better looking. But then Mr. Darcy sees a little more of Elizabeth’s personality. He hears her laugh a few more times. He encounters her after she’s been running through the mud in a very unladylike (but very daring and excitingly independent-minded) manner. And he begins to change his mind. By the end of the book, he thinks she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. Who cares if Darcy thought Elizabeth was hot when he met her? Well, I do, because that would make for a much less interesting story.
And when you get right down to it, we are attracted to different things, a fact lost on the promoters of beauty pageants, who have an unerring knack for finding several dozen women who look almost exactly alike.
When I saw Lord of the Rings, I thought that Samwise Gamgee was the hottest guy in the movies. Hands down. There were a bunch of girls who kept talking about Legolas, and I had no idea why. I mean, he was fine looking, but Sam — he was on a totally different level. Sturdy, manly, sweet, kind, expressive. And I have friends who think that skinny, practically malnourished, slightly bedraggled hipster look is the sexiest look that has ever been invented, and wonder aloud why it took guys so long to start wearing really, really tight jeans. We can’t seem to agree.
Then again, I figure I would have stood the best (by which is meant “least bad”) chance with Mary Bennet — until she actually opened her mouth.