Friday, July 7, 2017

What Does a Mirror Know?

     I found it very interesting in the original Snow White tale that the honest mirror proclaimed the queen to be the fairest in the land.

     The mirror is supposed to tell only the truth -- a fact that is demonstrated by the fact that it switches to Snow White as she grows in beauty.  It was not swayed by the queen's position or power.  And I like that about the mirror.  Apparently the queen did, too, or she would have smashed it.

      But here is where I am confused.  Who is to say what beauty is?  Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?

     How do we define beauty?  Is it a set of physical features?  Is it that attractive quality in a person?  Is it measured by inner goodness?  What is beauty?

    If it is physical features, who dictates what those features are?  Haven't the ideas of "ideal beauty" changed through the centuries and various cultures?  For me, I look at each of these pictures that I have posted in this entry, and I see great physical beauty in all of them.  But do they all look the same? No!  I love all hair colors and lengths.  I like thick eyebrows and thin ones.  I like Anne noses and Tzeitel noses and every other nose.  I like mild facial features and bold ones.  Pretty much every girl that I see, everywhere I go, is gorgeous.

So if all facial features are actually beautiful, what else can define beauty?  Is it that attractive quality?  Somebody that you admire and want to be around?

We've all seen the perfectly painted girl who was no fun to be around.  She is so caught up in herself or in her own insecurities or in her lack of consideration for the needs of others that any elements of physical beauty fade away and you no longer find her attractive.

By the same token, we've all met people who didn't look like the current supermodel standard, but they were so fun or so caring or so happy or so confident that you couldn't help but admire them.
These kinds of beauty are the most attractive to me, partly because they don't fade with age or circumstance.  I could look at a pretty painting all day long, but if I'm going to hang out with the subject I want her to be pleasant and kind.  I'd rather have the homeliest friend in the world if she was happy and confident and truly cared about me.

So maybe beauty is measured by goodness?  We've all read tales of some plain-faced old woman who was so good and self-less and kind that, by the end of the story, someone pronounces her the most beautiful woman they have ever met.

     And, I know I've been talking mostly about girls, but let me say something about the menfolk, too.  Do you know what attracts me to a guy?  His attitude and demeanor.  Does he stand tall and carry himself with confidence?  Or does he slink in like a whipped puppy (or a slimy eel, for that matter)?  Will he look me in the eye?  Or do his eyes shift around?  Does he stand up for what he believes in?  Or will he just go with the flow?  Does he treat people with respect or does he belittle them?  Is he at ease or is he full of insecurities?  Does he look out for others?  Or can he think only of himself?
     My idea of a real man -- the sort I respect and admire (and the type that I am glad I married) -- has nothing to do with how suave his hair looks and whether his jawline resembles my favorite music artist.
     And the same applies to my idea of a real woman.  I think beauty is a combination of all these things: physical features, attitude, demeanor, values, heart.  And I don't think it can be achieved by only one person at a time.

       Which leads me back to my original question: what does a mirror know?  How could it choose one set of features to be more beautiful than another?  I find its logic very flawed indeed...


  1. Oh I loved this, you got me thinking too, about how I am going to incorporate the mirror into my story, but Yes! Beauty is so subjective. Great post!

    1. I'm always surprised by the beauty scale that some people measure by. It makes no sense to me.
      Hope you're having fun with your story!

  2. And yet, since the mirror is obviously not just a sheet of glass with silver painted on the back, mightn't its animus come from a source outside nature? It could well be evil, since if an evil queen has it in her keeping, where else is it likely to have come from? But it could also be good. In which case it might see with God's eyes and be able to discern the transcendent Beauty that we can only see imperfectly. I like to think of it as being a bit cheeky (okay, that's a funny mental picture) and only answering half her question. "Oh yes, Your Majesty, you're very pretty. . ." and then not adding what it knows to be true "but that doesn't count for anything seeing you're so evil."

    In my story I contrast the mirror with a portrait of Snow White's dead mother, and how the mirror signifies being focused on one's self, whereas the portrait is more about giving to others. It's kind of fun that way.

    1. Ooh, I like your insight into the mirror and the way you give it personality.

      I also LOVE the comparison between the mirror and the portrait. That's poignant and genius. Great way to set that up!