Beauty As Power

Ocean's Song of the Siren tells the ancient story of a Mermaid and a Sailor in the hypnotic throes of love and lust

Beauty as Power

When Beauty Equals Danger
The Anthropologic and Mythic Effects of Great Beauty on Society

   by Ocean

One reason the sirens" songs lured sailors to their doom was the inherent danger associated with extremes - in this case, with extreme beauty. ( See Sirens)
And double the beauty - like not only from form but also from sound, and you have a truly potent force, for good or for evil.

Long considered dangerous, later on, during the periods of the Inquisition and other fundamentalist -ruled times, many witches were killed only because they had been born with such beauty or allure that it was decided by the masses that only evil forces could have created such intoxicating beauty.
In fact, those who had extremes of either beauty or disfigurement were lumpedtogether as anathemae to societal harmony.

Beauty is stunning - stops some in their tracks like a heady dose of something lethal.
A strong force, nothing of Godliness - it was thought then and still is by many,  could so tempt someone that he or she would even forget morality, or goodness, or ordinary behavior.

See "Rain" with the ultra-gorgeous Joan Crawford as a wayward, lost soul, a down-trodden tramp from the Depression Era who, on a voyage to the Pacific, presumably to escape charges, she encounters a preacher, a missionary, on the ship who, on embarkment in a Polynesian isle, proceeds first to save her soul, and then, to rape her, throwing her even deeper into a spiritual decline. Her beauty was so compelling that this previously holy man damned his soul and then committed suicide merely in order to seize the beauty he could not resist, even at the ultimate costs.

The sin was all-too-often, however, projected nto the cause of the stimulation, not upon the perpetrator of thesensual thought or the crimes committed. How fair is that ? Yet another factor in the objectification of pretmen and women.

This much beauty was such a lethal weapon, they deemed, that nothing good could come of it.

So the songs sirens sang - holding such power over people merely by their beauty - were seen to be of the dark forces.

Lines from such sources as Inge's play,  "Picnic" , which 
has the mother recite to the pretty daughter , Madge, played compellingly by Kim Novak in the screen version,  "You can have the power of kings !..." ,telling her not to be ruled by an even greater power - her love-lust for a penniless boy gone wrong for whom she will throw over everything and everyone, including the rich boy the mother has hoped she'd marry. 
He, too, played by the gorgeous hunk, William Holden, whose character's life had been ruined by his hypnotic looks and virility.

Much stronger than other brews, except for addictions, which are akin (extremes in life, experientially dangerous things, bringing both beauty and the depths of depravity in turn), beauty is to be fought, so the fables have told us, with everything the soul can muster.

And the Bible tells us that the devil comes in "pleasing forms". 
After all, wasn't Lucifer the most beautiful of all the Angels ?

Thankfully, most incredible beauties are not nefarious - or at least 
not consciously so.

And there are only a few who are that extremely beautiful in every large region.

Legendary beauties, who even stand apart in corrals-full of bewitching men and women, like in Hollywood, are ever-entrancing, like Liz Taylor, for instance, whose looks have only gotten her into trouble, whose life has been an exercise in goodness, really, but who has been alternately vilified and idolized all her life.

She did not ask to be born that beautiful. She had no need of plastic surgery, unlike most of the Hollywood elite of today.

She's of that type of compelling beauty whose looks are so sensational that they are seen to be magical - to her very eye color, which is the most rare hue of lavender !

Rarity itself is seen as dangerous and yet is so alluring that the majority find it threatening.

And don't people usually vent envy as anger or scorn ? don't 
they too often blame the person born with such loveliness - although how could he or she help being that way ?

The norm holds most in its' sway, and many yield to the pressure of peers, inviting no envy, going with the herd mentality in most things, never rocking the boat.

When you add the aspect - the gift - of rebellion and intelligence 
- to the mix, you have then exquisite beauty and the primal attraction of wildness to contend with.

Iconically beautiful men like Che Guevara felt the wrath not so much of his politics - he was a doctor and a kind man who wanted to help the poor, after all - but of the packs and hordes of men who could not stand the fact that he was so gorgeous. Had he not been so blessed, would they have had to hunt him down, as did gangs of revelers in the ancient world hunt down their quarry of sacrificial beautiful boys, and kill him ? Probably not.

Tennesse Williams deals with this theme in the powerful play, "Orpheus Descending", (made into an unforgettable film starring the great Anna Magnani and a young, hot Brando, who was too beautiful for his own good ), wherein the hero cannot be allowed to live - so assaultive is his mere presence. A very handsome and wayward man upset the balance in their little prosaic town and had to be killed to assuage the extreme envy of the men and the lust he excited in their women.

The otherness of both those characters had not only exiled them, but they - as aliens - had been perceived as evil presences in the stagnant, backwater town, especially since they were both passion-ruled.

And yet, the title, speaking of Orpheus, who himself knew well the dangers of being too attractive - and is in fact, along with Andonis and even Osiris, one of the long line of sacrificial gods of the old world, who were just too hot for this world. The group mentality held that as a dangerous trait to stability, mainly, and thought they belonged in heaven anyway, among the other godlike creatures, but also, as usual, beauty is aligned with evil, somehow, in most myths, because it carries always with it a great power.

Although Helen of Troy was a personification of the Hellenic race, the dignity and identity of the Greek people, and not a real person - Hellene means a Greek in the ancient tongue - this made a great tale of woe caused by the beauty of one single woman, couple with her unfeelingness, another theme attributed to the very hottest among us, and to the mermaids in general. 
And yet, doesn't it make sense that in order not to be seen as wanton, womenand girls - especially the hot ones - have of necessity learned to be demurearound men ? And wouldn't this be misinterpreted as loftiness or self-importance or self-absorption? No matter how they behave, they're usuallyseen by others as vain and cruel. on-lookers resent the unavailaility of great beauties - that's why Marilyn Monroe was such a sensation.

Born beauties are very different from the self-made varities, like MarilynMonroe. Those to the office born, feted and glorified all their lives havevery different feelings about themselves and an easy comfort that thecounterfiet variety can only envy.
Unable to like herself the way she was, Monroe not only underwent extreme makeovers including even jaw-chopping along with nose-jobbing, also carried on in vulgar displays of open sensuality which made the beauties around her in tinseltown blanch in horror. Marilyn made herself seem absolutely available to anyone. The tragedy of Monroe
is that she mistook the fool's gold of beauty as the only means by which she couldattain self-love and acceptance by others. Her standards were low along with mostof the rest of society, even now.

The great play written by her playwrite husband, Arthur Miller,
"After the Fall", had the character most like her say that she was
for truckers and workers and just anyone, essentially, which was 
how Monroe chose to portray herself in order to rise above the ranks of lovelies in Hollywood. She was vastly more popular than the others - popular, from the word for the populus, the people.
And yet she had not been born the way she turned out.
She'd had lots of plastic surgery which could not repair
her inner self-image. She needed to do more to gain attention,
she felt. Her intense competitive urge was always 
apparent, even when she was playing the victim. 
Truly beautiful girls really don't have to work that hard.
They must fend off attention. They don't need to court it.
They're seen as iconic property and are born rather 
more than themselves and more than is good for them, as in
the Helen myth.

The story of the Greeks having had to savagely redeem their honor - 
as the Asia Minor city-state of Troy had raped and pillaged and plundered their own city-state of Athens, seen as a female realm as all cities of the West still are - was told in the allegorical way, brought down to size to wrest every bit of feeling out of the listeners.

Huge notions of honor and bravery become personified at times.

This is the machinery behind the sacrificial ritualistic killings of those seen to be not of this world - too beautiful or handsome - that goes back into the dawns of time. And the press and media attacksthat go on every day targeting those we envy most carry on thetradition, making them pay for being too beautiful and rich and
famous. If they've paid the price, then they're allowed to incite
our envy.

Kings in ancient times were killed in times of famine - standing in 
for the tribe itself - and his body cut up and scattered in the fields 
so that, this time, they would yield and save their lives.

They were elected in those days for traits other than just warriorism or blood-line. They were almost born into it by their looks and gifts of charisma.

Those seen as rather more blessed by the Gods than others are not only a threat to the balances of societies, but even if they do only good, suspect of having been the gifts of the wrong divinities, on the wrong side.

Even before plastic surgery and other tricks of the beauty trade, being born with that much beauty was seen to have been asked for - conjured - by the beauty him or herself - and not just to have happened.

So he or she was guilty by design, so they thought. Thus the tale of, forinstance, Robert Johnson, the greatest of the bluesmen, having conjuredhis talent unfairly by summoning Legbo, the Voudoun diety, at the cross-roads, to give him a leg up on the other musicians. Great talent, beauty,wealth, and anything else we collectively crave invites not only envy
but the threat that they can at any moment be condemned as cavortingwith satanic forces.These primitve urges are alive and well and there is reason that the most famous among us must have bodyguards.

We haven't evolved much past the ancient days in too many respects.
Still, the seething fury that great beauty awakens is seen in the pop press, as they turn this way and that and pick apart celebrities - and they have to grin and bear it, and bear lots of fangs in the process.

Smiling is de rigeur ( to the nauseating look of feral rigor mortis, in my opinion - give me the closed-mouth dignity of Europeans any day over the crazed cheerleaderiness that the Americans demand of their celebs ), in the pop culture, and - few know this who have not studied anthropology, but smiles are this - baring fangs, yes, to show that there is power there, but in a form of demeaning, degrading supplication - like the omega dog, proving that he's harmless.

We see closed-mouthedness as aggression, and delight in the safe feeling that erupts when someone we might envy is forced into an apologetic smile.

Then, inconspicuous consumption, which kept the masses at bay, exclusionary behavior, and baring their miseries and supposed woes to the public further acts as a safety barrier, lest we otherwise, in fits of envy, tear them apart with bare hands as did frenzied groups of old.

So, if you really believe the celebs and honorees of acclaim are suffering, you're pretty naive.

They have to appear to not be laughing their ways to the banks in order to survive !

There's no such thing as bad press, as all media babies know, and the spotlight confers not only status, but power.

Taken down a bit, the great beauties, in order to be tolerated, we make them heel in sanctioned ways, but pity the unfamous ones who are too beautiful or handsome, for they're right there in the pit, fighting for their very lives and livelihood among the ordinariness of the masses who dictate the norm.

Normal is not stunningly gorgeous, hence, the discomfort and fear attached to beauty.

Although the best way to compete is with oneself - seeking to become more beautiful in relation to the realities of the cheekbones one was born with and so on - we all know our limitations, and our ranks in the packs we run with are all-too-often dictated by our own allure or lack of.

Yes, beauty is a medium of exchange and a great equalizer.

Yes, the very gorgeous can rise to power on wings of gifts bestowed seemingly by the Gods, but that power, that glory, is a knife which cuts both ways, whether originally wielded by a Beverly Hills surgeon or not !

So, whatever your looks or fortune, bless what you have - especially if you're able-bodied, and adopt the philosophical approach that teaches us that we in some way asked for the life-lessons and conditions into which we were born and live, accept that many things can be changed by our own dedication, and be glad and grateful, no matter what.

Then, throw darts at the TV screen if you must !