Last class Dr. McCoy asked us to share our favorite line of the assigned reading from “Big Machine” by Victor Lavalle and I immediately knew what that line was:
“Men grow handsomer over time; women just mature.”
Adele says this after she meets Solomon Clay. She admires his ability to appear attractive even at the age of seventy.
After having the quote being repeated during the class discussion, I noticed how many of my classmates had different reasons as to why this line was their favorite. This particular line caught my attention because it seems like maturing is not enough for women since Adele says “just mature” as if it were not something that gives them value as a person. I then came to the realization that there are many forms of art in which women question the diminishment of their external beauty over anything else. In this blog post, I will shortly analyze how different female artist and characters value beauty.
In the chorus of Lana Del Rey’s song, “Young and Beautiful,” she sings:
Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will, I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Del Rey constantly asks her boyfriend if he will still love her even after her beauty fades away. She then reassures her self by repeating “I know you will” but then follows that by still questioning his love for her. In the last line of the chorus, she decides to not use young, only beautiful, which brings me to understand that Del Rey is saying that one cannot be beautiful without being young.
A few lines further into the song Del Rey describes her boyfriend in a more positive way than she does herself. She describes him as having a “pretty face and electric soul.” Unlike Del Rey’s “aching soul,” her boyfriend seems to have the beauty and personality she seems to be losing. She sings “All that grace, all that body/ All that face makes [her] wanna party.” Looking at these lines I am amazed as to how Del Rey questions her boyfriend’s ability to still love her after she is no longer beautiful but seems to focus more on his physical attributes more than his personality, and even when she does, his personality is described in a more positive manner.
A character that I can see saying something similar to that of what Adele says is Clarissa Dalloway from Virginia Woolf’s, “Mrs. Dalloway.” Clarissa, the main character of the novel constantly questions the meaning of life especially now that she is becoming older. Towards the beginning of the novel, Clarissa finds out that her husband, Mr. Dalloway, is having lunch with a friend, Lady Bruton. Instantly, Clarissa starts questioning what could be wrong. She believes that “year by year her share was sliced; how little the margin that remained was capable any longer of stretching,” (56) feeling that her beauty was being cut into pieces and she was close to having none. In a moment of realization “She could see what she lacked. It was not beauty; it was not mind. (57) While Clarissa strides away from blaming her lack of beauty for her problems, “she could not resist sometimes yielding to the charm of a woman.” (57) This brings me back to Del Rey’s song where she questions herself, reassures herself but cannot help but to keep questioning her boyfriend’s ability to lover her.
The last piece I will discuss in relation to what Adele says is Disney’s animated film,Tangled. For those that do not know of the film, Tangled is the revamped version of Rapunzel. In this version of the movie, Rapunzel has magical long blonde hair that provides eternal youth, and the evil Gothel uses this power to keep herself young. Although the evil Gothel is smart enough to kidnap Rapunzel and keep her hidden for 18 years, nothing is more important than staying young and beautiful. Throughout the film, she is constantly protecting Rapunzel’s hair in order to protect her beauty and youth in hopes to never age.
Looking back at the song, novel, and film I can see how this is an ongoing trend. As a young woman, I think it is sometimes very easy to think that beauty should not be the only thing that defines me. It is a very hard thing to get away from and personally, I think this happens because some men can still charm a younger woman but having an older woman charm a younger man does not happen as often.