Looks Are Everything

I’m intrigued by the way in which physical appearance can often direct a person’s life; things happen differently for a beautiful woman/[man] than for a plain one.
–         Penelope Lively

Over the weekend, my sister and my cousin continually encouraged me to binge-watch on Netflix a popular television show: Gossip Girl. Other than my girl crush on Blake Lively (which has existed since her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants days) and my very real man crush on Penn Badgley (which has existed since his John Tucker Must Die days), I believed the show would hold little interest for me. Really, what would I have in common with those living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan? I’m a few million dollars short on being able to relate to their lifestyle. Plus, I’m 25, and I’m going to tune in to a show that covers characters in high school? Then again, I do find myself watching reruns of One Tree Hill, and any true fan knows the high school episodes were by far the best ones (away with you, psycho Nanny Carrie).

And so I succumbed to the will of my sister and cousin. “I promise you that you’ll love it!” That statement was uttered over and over, and because I trust them with my life, I figured I could trust them enough to recommend a television show. And thus began my descent into addiction. I watched the Pilot on Saturday – it is now Wednesday, and I am into Season 2…I really have no comment other than they were completely right. The show is ridiculously entertaining, and every single character is hot, hot, hot. While I’m still in my obsession zone, can someone please teach me to be as brilliantly bitchy as Blair Waldorf?

Blair 2

But because there is an exception to every rule, I found myself becoming constantly irritated by one Chuck Bass (and he happened to break the “hot, hot, hot” rule because quite frankly, I do not find him very physically attractive from the episodes I have watched so far). The hair in Season 1 is too much for me to even discuss. And upon voicing my opinion to my cousin and sister, they immediately launched into defense mode over Chuck Bass. “Sam, just wait! The obsession with him is so real.” My response: utter confusion. Throughout Season 1, this character is a complete jackass, and an ugly jackass at that. Which leads me to the whole point of this post: physical appearances are tremendously important in getting ahead in life.


While this is a sad, sad fact – it is, undeniably, a fact. Prettier people receive far more privileges than the not so pretty ones. From getting free drinks to getting girls, your looks can propel you forward in life – like it or not. I, personally, am not a huge fan of this, but I couldn’t help but wonder why attractive individuals need only their outward appearance to get ahead?

Now that’s not to say that looks will get you everywhere – obviously, we need to be somewhat adept at our job, school, flirting, or whatever – but your looks definitely help you get your foot in the door, that space at the front of the line, or in the sheets of another’s bed. But how exactly does this thought process relate to Gossip Girl? Again, cue Chuck Bass. Because my sister was a huge fan of the show and watched it weekly when it was airing on the CW, I do know that he gets far more attractive. The hair is much tamer after Seasons 1 and 2. Yet his behavior never changes – he is still arrogant, conceited, egotistical, and a jackass. But because he physically is attractive, he is able to get away with his behavior. In fact, women (*cough*cough*Blair*ahem*) almost find this endearing and can’t help but fall for what I believe can’t possibly be a pick up line, but somehow is: “I’m Chuck Bass.”

But actually.

But actually.

The truth of the matter is that society will typically overlook a person’s ass-y ways if their looks can compensate enough. It all goes back to what I like to call the Bad Boy Syndrome. Millions of women suffer from this need to date or sleep with the typical “bad boy” – a guy that is good looking, but has a fairly awful personality. I can say from experience that I have suffered from it, and I voluntarily suffered from it for nearly two years of my life. I was willing to look past the indecencies of this person because he had stellar blue eyes and a killer body. Essentially, I wasn’t blinded by love necessarily, but by his looks.

But Western society has done nothing but emphasize the importance of physical appearance. Far more than dressing in an acceptable outfit picked out at Bendel’s or Bergdorf’s, we also need to look a certain way. So much so that over 90% of women in America would like to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. So much so that 80% of ten-year-old girls in America fear becoming overweight. So much so that over 40% of American men would be willing to deduct a year from their life to have a nice body. It’s no wonder why, in 2013 alone, over 15 million different plastic surgeries and cosmetic procedures were performed.

While many of us do not relish in the fact that we as a society make snap judgments about others solely based on physical appearances, there are not even half as many of us fighting to change this outlook. In fact, we continue to condone this thought process. If a person is overweight, society associates them with being lazy, slow, and sloppy. And studies show that attractive (and by attractive, I mean thin, tall, and young) employees, specifically women, earn more money and advance faster in their careers than those that might be categorized as obese. Attractive women earn ten percent more than those that are average looking or deemed unattractive.

A typical response.

A typical response.

Author Malcom Gladwell has coined the entirety of this cycle as an “unconscious prejudice,” one that we as a society reach without even thinking about it. It just is. It’s just a way of life, and that’s that. The fates have spoken, and we accept their will. Gladwell points out in his book Blink that ironically, over half of America’s top CEOs stand at six feet tall (and wasn’t that one of the criteria for being attractive?).

So what can we do to stop the sabotage of our success? What can we do to break free from these negative stereotypes and associations? When did hard work and skill become secondary to being a Hottie McHottie? Obviously I am not pushing for us to all undergo plastic surgery to gain the looks and physical appearance we want, but at the end of the day, society as a collective whole has to come together and be willing to acknowledge that while yes, an attractive person is nice to look at, looks don’t make the entire package. Okay, for some, they do. And for now, the cold and harsh reality is that we may have to suck it up, love the way we look, embrace our appearance, and continue kicking ass and taking names. Whether we are the Chuck Bass’s of the world or not.

Excuse me while I find an attractive jerk to sleep with.

Excuse me while I find an attractive jerk to sleep with.

You know you love me.



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