Categories: Mirror Mirror

Jennifer Allen


By Jennifer Allen

“The thing about perfection is that it’s unknowable. It’s impossible, but it’s also right in front of us, all the time.” ~ Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), Tron: Legacy

Here we are… the ripe beginnings of yet another year with mentalities sharp as we seek the age-old concept of new year’s resolutions. The ambitious reasons for said lifestyle changes can be just as plentiful as the decisions themselves. Some even go in a rather quirky direction and note that their resolution is to not make one.

The most popular one by far today is the aspiration to lose weight either by changing one’s diet, taking up more exercise, or a combination of the two. This goal is so often chosen that (as expected) many fitness businesses offer special introductory pricing in January for potential new members. I’ll admit I did such a thing when I returned to martial arts six years ago, joining up shortly after the new year at the time.

The most common denominator in why so many choose this peculiar course of action is not to specifically take on a healthier lifestyle, but instead to achieve a more desirable body type. The true dilemma is that this ideal is in a constant state of flux. Physical features that are seen as popular today may come across as utterly grotesque in the future. Yet, with the resurgence of cosmetic surgery and the charisma of some internet influencers to look a certain way, these trends are more unpredictable than ever.

Even still, it was only a few short years ago when it seemed body diversity had become much more accepted. People of all sizes, skin tones, gender expressions, ages, and abilities had become more visible in fashion, beauty, entertainment, and music. This visibility was so gratifying as these industries seemed to finally accept and welcome more than the 0.5 percent of what the human population looks like.

We even witnessed a Miss Universe pageant with not only two transgender women in the running, but also the absolutely stunning Jane Dipka Garrett from Nepal. “As a woman who is curvy and who does not meet certain beauty standards, I’m here to represent women who are curvy, who struggle with weight gain, who struggle with hormonal issues — I believe that there is not only one type of beauty standard but every single woman is beautiful just as she is,” said the 22 year-old nurse upon winning Miss Nepal in September. While none of these ladies did make it to the final rounds, their presence alone was enough to spark dialogue and shed more positive light on beauty pageants in general.

Even in South Asian cinema, we witnessed a larger shift with films such as Chhatriwali, Farhana, Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway, and My Name is Shruthi as their female leads were given much more to do than to simply be a love interest. While the actresses in these portrayals are still held to a certain standard as far as their physical appearance (skin color, hair color, and body type specifically) this is a step in a more positive direction.

Polite Society from writer/director Nida Manzoor took this a step further with a story that focuses on two British-Pakistani sisters: Ria (Priya Kansara), who dreams of being a stuntwoman, and Lena (Ritu Arya), whose artistic aspirations have been recently crushed. They support each other’s “unconventional” goals, even when the rest of the world doesn’t. Hijinks then ensue in an entertaining mixture of action, extravagance, and laughs. It is an underrated comedy gem I suggest you seek out when you have the chance.

In a somewhat ironic twist, however, 2023 also ushered onto us the “Year of the Girl” – a social trend whereas some women tapped more into their feminine side and stepped away from a more “girl boss” attitude. The worldwide success of the Barbie movie helped boost this mentality by adding fuel to the fire of “reclaiming” the concept of being a girl. Beauty standards from 10 and even 20 years ago have resurfaced with slimmer cuts, pastel shades (especially pink), and tons of sequins to give consumers a more youthful façade.

All the glitter, bright colors, and girlhood wasn’t enough for influencers on streaming platforms either. Unrealistic beauty filters, a never-ending plethora of videos educating us about 20-step skincare routines to prevent wrinkles, and the sudden popularity of diabetes drug Ozempic as a means of quick weight loss have littered many a social media feed.

Various presentations by these online celebrities are depicted as moments of sincerity, but in truth are just masquerading as sponsored materialistic fodder. The constant focus on superficial goods obviously stereotypes how women post online in general; that every posted picture or video must be about something they wear, eat, or decorate their living space with. In so doing, this idealistic approach is meant by proxy to channel that person’s inner psyche.

An oxymoron to the highest degree: showing how authentic you are by means of affectation. Parading around like a peacock in designer jeans and a $300 handbag does not make one relatable. It makes you a hypocrite.

So, what is the solution to this problem? That, like beauty standards themselves, will always be in flux. The only new year’s resolution I can recommend is this… choose something that makes you happy. If that includes a newfound obligation to lose weight, then go for it. Just remember that we as people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and so forth.

Perfection is simply a word… and its definition is ultimately up to your own interpretation.

Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer, Graphic Artist, Gamer, Martial Arts Practitioner, and an all around Pop Culture Geek. You can reach her at [email protected].