Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Back on my high horse again. Here's a cool online comic, and more about materialism

Remember a few posts ago where I said, in reference to the vicious materialist "gotta have a bigger flat screen TV than my next-door neighbour" cycle:

I just wonder how many never bothered to stop and ask "do I actually LIKE spending so much of my life-energy on the opinions of people who don't love me anyway"?

Here's an online comic that almost perfectly expresses what I was trying to say.

Also, go check out the movie Supersize Me. Seriously. Before you eat another whopper meal or big mac, go watch it.

It seems like I'm experiencing materialism culture shock right now. Here are a few things:

Chindogu is an interesting, slightly subversive kind of invention. It's a useless or cumbersome tool designed to solve a simple everyday problem -- one that solves a problem, but usually creates other problems along the way. I talked about these in class, and found out more about it online. It's a charming channel of creative thinking. The concept was developed by a journalist who got tired of materialist society -- why must we ask "is it useful?" "is it profitable" of every invention? He set out to develop useless inventions, to improve his creativity rather than just to line his pockets. (Ironically, he then made a bundle by writing a book about chindogu.)

Here's the other thing. I want to know what you think.

The thing I hate about materialism is that it's an entire way of thinking, an ideal, that's designed to foster self-hatred. Advertisers know that if I hate something in my life, I'll spend money to fix it, so they present me with TV ads and characters that show people who are richer, more beautiful, more WHATEVER than I am. That's the insidious thing about beauty magazines and TV commercials -- they introduce a measuring stick to my life that I can't possibly measure up to, and thus make me vulnerable to being sold the "solution" to my fabricated "problem".

Here in Korea, one area where this has really been getting at me is in beauty culture. It's so disgusting to me that advertisers have created a beauty ideal (Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz) that is genetically out of most Korean women's reach, and then (implicitly) made lots of perfectly nice, perfectly attractive women feel ashamed for having a single instead of a double eyelid, for having black instead of blue eyes, straight black instead of curly, red, or blonde hair, for having a smaller, less curvy frame than those voluptuous northern-european-blooded women can manage.

There's a harsh stigma against ugly and overweight women in Korea: "Lazy girl isn't willing to do the work needed to take care of herself!" This link is to a synopsis/review/trailer/clip of a recent Korean movie about a fat, ugly girl who gets $60 000 of plastic surgery to become a beauty, and then gets everything she wants -- it's a cute, charming, funny movie (the review's right about that) but the message -- "If you're a woman, you can only have a happy ending if you're beautiful" is the most disgusting subtext I've ever heard, and teen-aged girls are eating it up. Korea is known around Asia as a plastic surgery hotspot -- cheaper than Japan, better quality than China, and it's common for women to get their eyelids done as a high school graduation gift.

The other thing is: by setting up the western beauty as an ideal in Korea, the best Korean women can ever do is attain to a near-facsimile, a "best possible imitation" of the western ideal, because of the aforementioned DNA issues. Instead of saying "This is what we are, and THIS is beautiful," too many people idealize the impossible, and come off making poor imitations of what ISN'T, instead of celebrating what IS.

You can't tell me that this:

Is more beautiful than this:

Anyway, I wish people would celebrate who they are, instead of longing for what they're NOT -- in terms of beauty, talent, success and wealth, and all that stuff.


bradj said...

The issue is that we've set a beauty standard that's higher than anyone can match. Even supermodels have famously said that they can't live up to their own image. They've said that in such a way as to educate the populace about how shallow the fantasy is. But people don't want to accept such rubbish, and open the cultural consumption throttles ever wider. It's impossible to even keep up with one's own expectations anymore.

I find it fascinating that North America's biggest export is this idiocy (not that it's trying all that hard to export it, mind you). It's also fascinating that the new conspicuous consumption slips a costume under the skin. People talk about how liberated they feel in terms of "boosted confidence" like they're surprised. Is it really surprising that they'd feel this way when they're donning a body-mask? (Think of the abandon you'd feel if you wore a mask every day!) Not to me.

The chief source of depression in all of this is that despite how much I recognise this for what it is, I'm still ensnared by it. Are we all doomed to frustrated despair? I'm not just limiting my point to the so-called beauty industry -- I'm enlarging it to every single way that humans are competitive. Right down to "Who's more spiritual?"

Just keep in mind that under the skin, we're all just blood and guts. Yep, pretty icky.

tamie marie said...

the chindogu site is really funny. and you are amazing and wonderful.

TBW said...

Randomly came across your entry - agree with you 110%

The commodification of beauty is reaching more sickening levels every day. Just recently read up on a cream sold in India called Fair & Lovely, which is supposed to make your skin tone lighter, so you can be successful, rich, marry well, etc. People all over the world are being subjected to not only the idea of being beautiful, but also being beautiful by western standards...sickening.

When will people learn to cherish/appreciate what they have and who they are?

Roboseyo said...

Hi, Feline. Thanks for stopping by!

Personally, I have a pet theory: I think humans are hardwired by natural selection to wish/want/yearn for more than we have. The human-like-primate that climbed down from the trees did so because it imagined it could live a better life on the plains and in caves; the ones that started hunting in packs and gathering in socially organized tribes did so because they thought it would make their lives better.

It worked, so now that same striving for "something better than I have now" -- the very ability to imagine "something better" has been hardwired into the human brain, and now, when we ARE safe and comfortable and protected from tigers and poisonous spiders and rancid drinking water by different human innovations, it STILL won't leave us alone, and leads to greed, plastic surgery, and all these other ugly things.

Maybe cherishing what we are instead of grasping at what we aren't will be the next step in evolution. . . but maybe losing that drive would eventually lead to the stagnation and extinction of humans, as we no longer felt the urge to keep the race alive (even though right now, out-of-control greed/consumption is sure as shootin' leading us to an environmental meltdown).

That's MY pet theory. What's yours?