In preparing for the Beauty of Age debate tonight, a number of themes have emerged that have really set me wondering as to where our contemporary emphasis on equating youth with beauty will lead. For example, growing interest in the ancient fairy tale, Snow White. Currently a number of films, ballets and television programmes are exploring the story of the sexual jealously of the older woman for that of the younger one. As the choreographer Angelin Preljocaj describes it:
“I think this is a very modern conflict. Everywhere I go, I see women of 45-50 out in the streets with their daughters. With modern medicine and nutrition these women appear very beautiful, sensual and young. But they no longer have their daughter’s youth and freshness… I think we are entering the Snow White complex.”
Similarly Julian Baggini explores the idea of how inherently bound up our notion of self is with the way we look. Julian speculates that if Marilyn Monroe looked like Anne Robinson then she wouldn’t have been the same person. These ideas take an interesting turn when coupled with David Foster Wallace’s comments that as human beings we respond and relate to those who are prettier and more attractive than ourselves, yet we are surrounded by mirrors and reproductions of ourselves, so jealousy and dissatisfaction with our looks creeps in. However these days, rather than taking our frustration out on someone as did Snow White’s wicked step mother, we take it out on ourselves by significantly altering our appearance. But if we do this how fundamentally do we affect the very person we are?