Sunday, December 23, 2007

Normal People

Not a knitting post, but certainly an aesthetics post. I was paying bills, updating the check book (debit cards can mess you up if you don't keep track of what you spend!) during the McLaughlin Group (PBS) this morning, after which comes Now, after which comes reruns of the Lawrence Welk show. I started watching the McLaughlin Group years ago mainly to watch someone else yell at Tony Blankly besides me (he's not even a smart Republican hack - barely smarter than Limbaugh - and don't get me started on the Moonie-owned Washington Times), and so I generally turn it on Sundays. Well, McLaughlin finished up, Now finished up, and I'm almost done when I realize there's the Lawrence Welk holiday special. Not my thing musically, mind you - not bizarre enough to be interesting, not bad enough to be funny. But the show looked to be from the 1970's, early 1970's. All the main players were introducing their families. And I was totally blown away by how normal all these people looked. There were big noses, prominent teeth, close-set eyes, and the wives and children weren't the least bit interchangeable - they all looked like individuals. Not in any radical way (mohawks, etc.), but if they stood next to each others you could tell them apart by something besides hair color. It was very trippy and depressing to realize how we seem to be losing more and more visual diversity in the population. Even if there are regional differences in how people dress, or class differences, populations within those groups are very conformist. Even the rebels have uniforms (e.g.tattoos, piercings) which eventually get coopted by other groups. Prominent noses are corrected by surgery; everyone gets braces at some point. Yes, straight teeth are nicer that seriously crooked teeth, but there was a time when only folks with seriously messed up teeth endured orthodontia. I don't mind people making the effort to improve their looks, but it seems that our culture has adopted some pretty narrow standards of what actually looks good, so it's not enough to simply take what you've got and find a way to make it attractive or interesting; now you've got to make it conform to the standard.

In spite of the ugly '70's clothes and hairstyles, these were some of the most individual-looking and interesting-looking folks I've seen in ages. They looked like real humans. What a Stepford country we've become.


Liska said...

I've been wondering about that lately, too, there's some silly pageant going on and the announcements are on the TV every now and then. And, I happen to be staying at parents who do have a TV.

All the women are the same. But for the hair, they come from one mould - is there a factory for them somewhere?

Jane said...

My guess is there are two factories - one in New Jersey, and one in Stockton, CA. It's amazing how much more conformist people are now than they were 30 years ago, and how they really think they are not.

Liska said...

And when I hear comments from people, like, Hey, that would be a nice girl if she lost 10 kilos, had a different nose, straight hair, wore more normal clothes etc..... it makes me sick. As if there was something immoral about big nose or curly hair.
Okay, that girl with dreadlocks who studies at our department is a nuisance because her highly original hairdo stinks. That's too much non-comformist for me, I admit.

Jane said...

I too get tired of people commenting about someone's appearance, as if being identical is somehow better (it reminds me of "The Stepford Wives" where all the women are turned into minor variations on the same boring theme).

We have someone at work who's growing dreads, but she's considerate enough to not use the stinky technique. Smell is the only issue I tend to have regarding judging people - that and comb-overs. There's nothing wrong with being bald!

catsmum said...

Hi feraljane
- followed over from ravelry Red Dwarf group

and I think that the 'everyone has braces' mentality really only exists in the U.S.
In Europe and here in Australia, braces are only for necessary correction, plastic surgery is unusual, and people are still individuals. The homogenisation of population hasn't hit here yet.
Thank God.

Jane said...

I'm glad the scourge of soulless perfection hasn't overwhelmed the rest of the world!

Glad you found your way from Red Dwarf - welcome!