The Evil Queen from Snow White and the Oscar Wilde’s classical icon Dorian Gray can teach us a thing or two about narcissism. Clue. It does not end well for the narcissistic person. Interestingly both tales use mediums that serve as tools to one’s vanity-a mirror and a portrait. Off-course in today’s world, mirrors need not be magical and portraits need not be enchanted for us to be vain. While mirrors sans magical powers prevail, portraits have been replaced by digitally touched up photography.
Note. I have nothing against people paying slight heed to their physical appearances or engaging in the art of photography. What I do have a problem with is people being obsessed with the whole idea of external beauty. Preening yourself for hours in front of a mirror and spending a lifetime seeking endless beautification regimes is not normal. Or healthy. Neither is constantly touching up normal digital photographs of yourself to present an image that isn’t true (speaks volumes of low self esteem).
Choosing the Evil Queen and Dorian Gray for this topic had a purpose. I was intrigued by the measures they took to ensure that their external beauty remained intact. While we argue that the measures they took were extreme (I mean really a poisoned apple and a Faustian bargain with the devil????), it’s not really different from the actions we take at the times we feel threatened (usually without any help from anyone), at least not anymore.
Let’s start with the Evil Queen. In order to maintain her position as the fairest in the land, she resorts to the vilest means possible to get rid of Snow White. Both the Disney version and the Brothers Grimm account for the Huntsman being the first mean, failing which the Evil Queen resorts to witchcraft and disguises herself as an old hag. Notice the irony. She wanted to become beautiful but she had to become ugly. The Brothers Grimm add a death-by-corset approach & killer comb before progressing to the famous poisoned apple, which Disney directly skipped to. Snow White survives and the Evil Queen dies horribly. The Brothers Grimm chose slow torture (meanies aren’t they?) preferring her to dance to her death in hot iron shoes, while Disney kept it quick pushing her off a cliff (which we’d like to do to a lot of people).
Switch back to the present. True, most of us (I use the words most of us) don’t resort to the Queen’s physically violent ways on the “Snow Whites of the World” (read skin deep beautiful people). We are equipped with means more sinister that makes the Evil Queen look like Bambi. Mass media and different sects of the beauty industry and the entertainment industry are inviting us all to be “Evil Queens”-to be obsessed with external beauty, to reject and humiliate others who don’t follow the modus operandi, setting it as the only standard by which the world will accept us and by which we will succeed. It is the message we are teaching the future generation. We are teaching our daughters that the only way they will get anywhere in life (especially landing a husband) is through external beauty. We are teaching our sons to love externally beautiful women.
The worst part is that on some level, even though we know this is wrong, this has been so deeply ingrained into our systems, into our societies and into the world at large that we are okay with it! Hell, we even agree with it!
Moving on to Dorian Gray. Very early on, Dorian’s innocence is destroyed and his vanity encouraged when Lord Henry leads him to believe that beauty and pleasure are the only things in life worth pursuing. Which makes him wish that the portrait the artist Basil paints will age in his stead, allowing him to lead a “beautiful” life. With the devil in the details, his wish is granted and every act of debauchery he pursues affects not his youth and beauty but mars and disfigures his portrait likeness (where the portrait loosely stands for his soul). In the end he tries to destroy the portrait (soul) but ends up destroying himself.
Back to the here and now. None of us are painting rosy pictures for our souls are we? We may look our best, but find that our inner selves may be giving Dorian’s portrait stiff competition. We are on a never-ending search for endless beauty enhancement options. Botox. Tucks. Lifts. Creams. Google search. Google search. Google search…… At least Dorian found just one option. We fear old age. We fear society’s judgement and that of our peers. We fear what people will say about us. Like Dorian we keep our “portraits” locked up.
We should not. Society has no power to judge us, but the power that we give them.
What’s the point of seeking beauty in the physical sense and neglecting it in the spiritual sense? This is the reason people in the world aren’t truly happy. Because they are fighting two different battles on the inside-between the outer appearance (body) and inner appearance (soul). Spiritually they realize the pointlessness of the course they are pursuing. They know something is missing.
There’s a lot more to you than meets the eye isn’t there? We need to start acting like it. We need to be beautiful on a skin-deep level. Develop your character, your inner child and your many talents. Love yourself for who you are and not who the world wants you to be.
If the world doesn’t accept you for who you, set their modern day portraits (touched up selfies) on fire. Or break a mirror.