Copyright © 2006 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.
The Changing Definition of Beauty
26 September 2006 (online)
C. W. David Chang, M.D. Karen H. Calhoun, M.D.
It is our pleasure as guest editors to present this issue of Facial Plastic Surgery. The topic of beauty is undoubtedly a highly debated and quite contentious issue discussed from Greek antiquity to modern day. The definition of beauty is a dynamic discourse that spans multiple disciplines. This issue endeavors to uncover the concepts of beauty from different angles and perspectives.
Our traditional surgical texts prescribe standards of facial proportions, with the subtext that these proportions define standard facial beauty. Is there truly one standard definition of beauty? We have often heard the phrase that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” an easy way to explain away the varied philosophical and aesthetic opinions that we hold. However, perhaps this is an overly naïve and nonconfrontational excuse to a highly complicated subject. Are there unifying or universal characteristics or features that attract members of the human race to beautiful people or beautiful objects? Studies in sociology and psychology suggest that there may be common beauty ideals.
On the flip side, as our society becomes increasingly transnational and our multicultural exposure increases, our Western ideals of facial beauty are being revised. One has only to look at the faces of fashion models to realize that aesthetically pleasing noses, eyes, and mouths come in all shapes and sizes. Media pictures shape our concepts and our patients' concepts of beauty. The facial ideal in our society's consciousness has seemingly moved away from a Western ideal and has embraced a more global one. Or has it? The movement is certainly not a “thoroughly-mixed” melting pot, as socially and economically advantaged mainstream media images-such as advertisements, pop stars, and celebrity icons-retain largely Anglo aesthetics.
Is beauty equally prized in all elements of society? As social individuals, we seek solace in some uniformity, but simultaneously our desire for individualism prevents us from complete homogeneity. Not everybody wants to look alike. Do fashions such as “grunge,” “goth,” and “shabby-chic” yearn for an antiaesthetic stance? Have artists-who are most concerned with individualism-deserted tradition (and thus beauty) to create uniqueness in their works?
We realize that this issue may spark more questions than answers, more divergence than convergence, and more confusion than clarity. Such is the nature of beauty.