[Letters] A society of lookism

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[Letters] A society of lookism


While I was watching TV the other day, I saw an interesting experiment. It was about a good looking man who was sent to a mall as a shoeshine boy to see how much he would earn in an hour. The result was $54. Then he put a fake ugly nose on his face and was sent to the same mall again for an hour. Surprisingly, he earned only $4. Though I cannot say that this experiment was done scientifically, it has given us a chance to think about lookism in our modern society.

These days, many celebrities confess to having had plastic surgery in public, as if this was a big issue. There are also TV programs such as “Cinderella” that give a normal person a huge makeover from head to toe. These programs tend to make people think that beauty is good and ugliness is bad, which is likely to pressure people to have plastic surgery.

Personally, I do not believe that plastic surgery is always wrong. It sometimes gives people who have been hurt in an accident or have physical disabilities the chance to gain confidence for a brighter future. However, the problem is that common people are becoming obsessed with the desire to become more beautiful, and are being harmed mentally and physically when the results turn out to be negative.

The preference of luxury goods is categorized as a type of lookism, too. In the past, possessing luxury goods was a symbol of wealth. Nowadays, whether you are rich or not, it has become a fashion trend for people to want to have one luxury good or more both to show that they are different from others and to fit in with the wealthy.

Traditionally, lookism was thought to concern only women. Nowadays, men are also interested in their appearance and sometimes have plastic surgery or wear fine clothes to improve their looks. Lookism is a huge concern for teenagers, equal to that of their studies. There are well-known cases of some students being humiliated for the way they look, so they choose to go on a strict diet, or get plastic surgery even though their bodies are not fully grown. Additionally, many students proudly carry luxury goods, and some even buy fake luxuries in order to fit in.

Lookism often prevents us from making good judgments. It is dangerous to judge people based on their facial features and fancy accessories, and ignore the saying “Do not judge a book by its cover.” About two years ago, I watched a movie called “The Devil Wears Prada” in which the main character has a fabulous job in the luxury fashion industry that many women would be jealous of. However, as the story develops, we learn that the superficial splendor of luxury may conceal some pretense and hypocrisy.

Having lived in the United States for several years, I feel that most Americans are plainly dressed because they believe that a $30 pair of jeans and a $20 T-shirt is a fair style for casual clothes. Some of my Korean-American friends said that they can judge how long a Korean immigrant has been living in the U.S. just by looking at what brand of clothes he or she is wearing, because a newcomer tends to prefer more expensive brands.

Personal appearance is subject to frequent change. There is a Korean saying: “No matter how pretty a flower is, it cannot last for more than 10 days.” I believe that the true long lasting beauty comes from our own intrinsic personalities. I wonder whether we still weigh other people on the very scales of “Pride and Prejudice” that Jane Austen satirized 200 years ago.

Hwang Da-young, Gwacheon Foreign Language High School
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