Make Paragon Glowie Again
- Feb 19, 2022
the other side
beauty, beyonce, perfect male bodies and incels
Nov 2, 2022
Last week, I wrote about how a Taylor Swift song, Anti Hero, seemed to me to inadvertently incapsulate aspects of the incel experience and how some parts of Taylor Swift’s real life actually weirdly mirrors what many incels’ talk about in their life. And I was pretty happy to see a user on an incel forum also made a thread about this same song and how they like it … so guess Taylor is incel now or something. One of the main narratives or mantras of incel spaces is how the incel experience is unique to incels, how others won’t get it, can’t get it and that’s why these spaces really have to be closed off. I recognise that feeling actually, it’s something groups of people feel a lot, that their experiences are unique to them and the group of people who are in the (supposed) exact same position. And there’s a lot to respect about that, we can’t all understand exactly what it feels to be a combat veteran, an immigrant, a different gender, to be an alcoholic, to have a mental illness, a certain physical illness… and there’s a lot to be said about spaces that are meant for people who are in the same situation to come together for that kind of support.
But there’s a reason why combat vets don’t just hang out with combat vets, why we as people branch out to others when we need support too, because we don’t just really want to cut ourselves off, to make ourselves real aliens and to be hostile to everyone else. It’s lonely, it feels like really being cut from the team of humanity. And because we’re all humans, you don’t always need to have gone through the exact same thing to understand the feelings of that thing. Or you can have another experience that mirrors others. You don’t have to be a combat vet to understand fear if you’ve been through fear, if you’ve felt fear, you don’t have to have a mental illness to understand frustration or isolation, you don’t have to be an incel to understand the pressures around relationships, society and appearance.
Beyonce made a song a few years ago called Pretty Hurts that I’m not sure a lot of people remember. It was a big song at the time and it really dealt with the theme of beauty in society and the pain we go through to get it. Although in the video she’s depicting the life of beauty queens and it is pretty female focused, there’s actually a lot in it that speaks to the universal experience -
We shine the light on whatever's worst
Perfection is a disease of a nation
Pretty hurts, pretty hurts
We shine the light on whatever's worst
You're tryna fix something
But you can't fix what you can't see
It's the soul that needs a surgery
It’s really great song and I think criticises society as a whole but the song is only really appealing and aimed towards women. I think the truth is that we as a society have gone through decades, centuries of viewing women through the lens of beauty and we still do, which is why a lot of these songs on these themes are directed at women. The irony is, even in incel spaces, which claim to criticise ‘lookism’, there’s also a heavy focus on women’s beauty and youth that comes straight from this book. But while songs and narratives that try to really criticise society’s obsession with beauty are aimed at females, there is room for this to be viewed in a non-gender specific way. Meaning, there is a space for there to be a song about the struggle of people who aren’t straight women and beauty, including actually, straight men, gay men and transgender people. Beyonce’s chorus attacks society’s obsession with beauty to the detriment of our happiness and this speaks directly as well to the incel experience.
Most comic book guys are very ripped
Understanding the experience of feeling pressured to look good is something a lot, most of us can understand. In the open, women feel more confident and free to finally talk about this stuff and that’s because there has been a concerted effort to really bring these ideas to the foreground and change them. But it’s also important to see now that actually guys too live in this beauty obsessed society and many guys, especially younger guys, really feel that pressure too. While women are often judged a lot more harshly on how they look, that doesn’t actually mean guys aren’t judged at all. Seeing men in Marvel movies you realise the subtle implications made that to be a hero, you are required to look a certain way a lot. There is an emphasis on being tall, having muscles, good hair, great skin, teeth, eyes and from porn, there’s an obvious tale as old as time thing about having a big ..yeah. And this is also in Netflix shows like Euphoria and in general male celebrities. But we do kind of ignore that this is creating a certain type of pressure on men and I think the thing is, even though we have male actors who aren’t physically super attractive, like Seth Rogan, it’s almost like that’s a bit of a swing the other way too (I love Seth though) and I can see how young guys looking at media would feel it’s a choice between Chris Hemsworth hot or being dorky, funny and physically less attractive Seth Rogan. And they don’t ever really believe women like Seth Rogan types anyway (they do though).
The closest to come to alternative messages around men’s appearance is the ‘dad bod’, a sort of backlash towards muscles that I think actually came from women more than men. Women who decided they liked a bit more of a chubbier, or out of shape look, started making TikToks and stuff to encourage that. The ‘dad bod’ did catch on in men’s circles and I think gave positive reinforcement to a lot of guys who are more on the slightly overweight side to feel more confident. ‘Short Kings’ also cropped up, encouraging shorter men to feel good about themselves and was also caught on by women who have a preference for shorter men and who just want men in general to be more confident in themselves. The support by women in men’s body image campaigns speaks to a sort of comradery under beauty oppression, on videos of men feeling and being confident in bodies that wouldn’t be objectively attractive, often the women in the comments will be in full support, from solidarity, inspiration, happiness to attraction. The lates example is the trend around Paddy Pimblett, standing at 5’8 and with hair that is basically a blond helmet (he also looks like the blonde guy from the Inbetweeners), Paddy doesn’t exactly meet the expectations of physically handsome but it’s his attitude that’s just really working out for him-