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The Inside Cover

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein illustrates the impact of appearance. As the monster tries to show his good-hearted nature and intentions, his horrid face prohibits his actions from being seen as positive. Frankenstein’s monster is unable to escape the predetermined characterization that people give him solely based on how he looks. This is an issue that we see everyday. There is so much focus on aesthetic and outward appearance. From the sleekness of your laptop, to the shape of your nose, people cannot seem to escape initial judging of things based on sight. As Shelley shows Frankenstein’s monster’s fate as being so determined by his appearance, a great comparison forms in alliance with today’s society. Without technology Frankenstein’s monster could not look as realistic as he did, just as without plastic surgery nobody could alter their facial appearances. However, as cosmetology is used to repair damaged skin and enlarge lips, the question arises of how truly beneficial it is. Should we promote the ‘fixing’ of people in order to make everyone more ‘normal,’ or should we promote a culture that looks a little deeper?

The issue of tattoos and piercings revolves heavily around our roles in the workforce. Many employers think it unprofessional for people to have bold colors on their skin and crazy jewelry. Perhaps even more similarly to Frankenstein’s concerns for his monster, employers are more hesitant in hiring people with crazy hairstyles. Frankenstein gave his monster luxurious dark hair; he gave him normal hair. This would have ideally made him seem more typical in the eyes of humans. I cannot blame Frankenstein’s attention to the monster’s hair while knowing that I would not die my hair blue in the fear that it would hinder my opportunities.

Hairstyles, tattoos and piercings are all ways of accessorizing appearances. One might tattoo an image on their forearm just as another might choose to wear a different outfit. However, some cosmetic changes go a little further. Plastic surgery has the potential to completely transform one’s outer appearance, and the effect can be positive or negative. Many celebrities provide excellent examples of this. Michael Jackson may be the most well known of celebrity transformations gone wrong. A once handsome black man succumbed to the pressures of society, and if not for his music may have become unrecognizable. Now yes, Jackson did surpass the norm, but nonetheless society gave him the jumpstart. Why would he bleach his skin? I feel as if the most plausible answer is embedded in the ways people viewed black and white people.

Conversely, cosmetology can be incredibly beneficial. For the country singer Carrie Underwood, after an accident that broke her face, it was facial reconstruction that enabled her to repair damages well to remain on album covers and in music videos.  Burn victims, too, share similar benefits as Underwood, as they are able to replace damaged skin. It is cosmetic technology that allows these accident survivors to maintain normal appearances. However, did cosmetology actually save them here? Or did it provide yet another thing to pressure people into. Why can burn victims not bear their scars? Why must they cover them? Frankenstein’s monster might answer that it is the only way to avoid criticism and illfit characterization.

Would it not be better to allow people to prove their characters? Frankenstein’s monster did not try to murder a young girl. In fact, he tried to save her! Cosmetic technology and other aesthetic alterers are able to transform appearances. This alteration has been able to add to or take away from the degree of normality in the way people look. In doing so it may have made them more or less approachable, increased or decreased the amount of staring, and maybe even determined the outcome of a job application. However, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein highlighted the wrongness in having assumed the worst of the monster rather that giving him a chance. I believe that the option to take advantage of cosmetology should be available to people, just as they can choose to pierce their noses. However I think it even more important that we begin to shape a society that does not have such high standards of normality. We have created all this technology that enables us to change the way we look. The way we take advantage of that technology should not be determined by anyone other than ourselves. Furthermore, the way people look should not shape the way we think of them. First impressions should stem from personality and character. If Frankenstein’s creation had not been called a monster, then maybe people would not have applied monstrous stereotypes to him.

2 Comments

  1. James Gilmore

    Hello! Your title is very creative, and your beginning sentences definitely grabbed my attention. The question that I have is: why don’t we look beyond the cover? Any who, great post!!

  2. Caroline Epstein

    Dear Ali,

    I liked how your blog post connected Shelley’s book to modern aesthetic culture and the title is very creative.

    It might be interesting to expand more on why people change their appearance to avoid criticism.

    Sincerely,
    Caroline

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