For those like myself who are obsessed with the Twilight Zone, you may remember this particularly interesting episode. My sister and I have a tradition of watching the marathons, usually played over the New Year holiday, and this has always been a favorite episode of mine. I was actually talking to her about it this morning, and how I feel that it fits with society today, and I felt inspired to write it out. One of the things that makes the show so interesting is that many episodes can be seen as almost prophetic, with their skewed versions of “future society” coming true in time. As the years progress, it becomes more and more apparent how fortuitous this particular episode really was.
The premise of the episode is a society where individuality is forbidden, and when people reach a certain age they are required to go through what is called “the Transformation”. This procedure is like their coming of age in this society, and they are forced to choose their new appearance from premade designs, like picking an outfit from a catalogue. They select the number that they want, then undergo the transformation and come out as this new “person”. It even changes their personality, making them more happy and cheerful and erasing any of their individual emotions.
The protagonist of this episode is a young girl who has reached the proper age, but she doesn’t want to look like everybody else and is trying desperately to cling to her own face and body. Her friends and family are trying to persuade her to make a decision, insisting that everyone is happier when they look the same. Throughout the episode, she talks to different people about why she is fighting, and why she wants to keep everything that makes her unique. She doesn’t want to be happy all the time, she wants her emotions. She doesn’t want to look like her best friend, she wants to keep the face and body that she was born with. She wants to hold onto everything that makes her, her.
But no matter how she explains it to them, or how much she fights, they refuse to let her stay the way she is and in the end she is forcefully “transformed”. Of course, in Twilight Zone fashion the twist is that now she is happy as the #8, because she is “normal” and one of the crowd. It bears the questions that people have always faced: Accept who you are as an individual, flaws and all, or blend in and be what society tells you that you should be? And are you truly happy either way?
Now, you may be wondering why I just gave you the breakdown of a Twilight Zone episode that is over 50 years old. But I think that this message is extremely powerful in this day and age, especially when I look at the younger crowd. And I will tell you now, if you are amongst those that lives your every day based on what a YouTube guru tells you, you’re not going to like where I go with this. I am not meaning to be rude, or come off in a way that you may perceive as attacking your preferences. I have seen subject matter like this cause arguments before, and that is not my intention. I am not here to tell anybody that they are wrong, but to merely offer my observations.
In my opinion, and the opinion of many others that I have spoken to, we’ve reached this point in society where people are getting this warped sense of “perfection”. Young people are more impressionable, because this is the time when they are still forming into the person that they will be and they are soaking in the world they see. In an age where the majority of what they see is now online, often times through social media and YouTube, unfortunately it seems that the information that they are absorbing is more detrimental than anything. And though it affects everybody, and as a makeup artist and lover it hurts me to say this, I find that young girls are getting the brunt of it through the current state of the makeup world.
I see girls, sometimes not even old enough to drive, using more product on their face just to go to school than I would for a film or photoshoot. They sit in front of their computers for hours, learning how to contour their nose to look just like so and so’s, or shape their face to look like their favorite “celebrity”. Of course the prime example is the Kim K contour, one of the most recreated techniques that has ever existed. People have been obsessed with this for years now, I can’t even tell you how many pale pink skinned girls would come into CRC for Banana powder. I would try to explain why it wasn’t meant for their skin, but they wouldn’t listen and then would return it for being too yellow. Then we all saw the horrendous aftermath of the Kylie Jenner “lip challenge”, just because these girls HAD to have her lips and someone told them that this was how to achieve it. Unfortunately, her lips were actually created with injections and these girls caused a lot of harm to themselves in the pursuit of perfection. And now they have moved on to overdrawing their lips, in a less harmful but sometimes equally absurd means to achieve the “fuller” look. I have seen it done well, and it can look nice. But sometimes it is overdone and it is just too obvious.
The popularity of the “Instagram eyebrows” is another trend that frustrates me, because this shape and style is not fit for every face. Eyebrows are meant to compliment individual face shapes, eye shapes, etc. The same style is not going to be flattering on every single person. Yet the more people that try it and post it to social media, the more people keep doing it. Not because it is what is best for them as an individual, but because someone with a lot of followers said so.
It has gotten to the point where they think that this is just how they are supposed to look, otherwise they are hideous. I see girls post pictures on Facebook and Instagram, actually apologizing for their faces. They feel the need to add a disclaimer if they don’t have their 10 pound layer of makeup on.
“Sorry about my ugly no makeup face, but check out this lip color!”
“Excuse my awful skin, but what do you think of my eyebrows?”
They don’t even want to look real anymore. Sometimes when I see the makeup and people that they idolize, I cringe. You might as well be a leper if you have pores or texture to your skin. I once had an art teacher tell me that my still life drawing was “too perfect”, because I had drawn and blended it so cleanly that it didn’t look real. It didn’t capture the life, it looked like a picture. That is how I feel about these girls from Instagram, they use blurring filters so that there is not even the slightest bit of texture on their skin. Young girls then look at themselves in the mirror, and think they are ugly because they have large pores or blemishes. It is expected in magazines, airbrushing is nothing new. But these girls present it as though this is just their every day look. So these young fans see this and think that's how they are supposed to look at the beach, or driving to the grocery store. Can they really be blamed for this warped sense of reality?
The worst part is that now, the people that they worship don’t even know what they are doing. This gal above is a perfect example. I have seen what she looks like normally, and she is absolutely stunning. But she packs on the makeup to the point of looking like a wax doll, and she doesn’t even use colors that fit her tone. She is still pretty, and I'll admit that she blends well. But nothing on her face is real, it is all an optical illusion. The sad part is that people realize this and rather than thinking “Hm, I already have a very thin nose so I probably don’t need to contour like that.” They think “I have to do exactly what she does because she is perfect and I must be too.”
So, this is where we are now: Girls are attempting to reshape their bone structure and face shape, overdrawing their lips for the so called perfect pout, painting on eyebrows that looks like they have passed around a stencil and can of spray paint, wearing fake spikey lashes on both the top and bottom of their eyes, wearing the exact same winged liner every day, and are now even wearing colored contacts daily. The results have become a mixture of drag queen and cartoon. When did we get so low as a society that girls feel that they can’t even look like themselves to be accepted? It is not a new thing to be inspired by celebrities or people of influence. But recreating a smokey eye that you saw in a magazine or at an awards show is a lot different than actually trying to turn your face into theirs.
You may be understanding now why I brought the Twilight Zone episode up. I feel as though society has gotten to a point where these girls would happily pick their face and body from a list if they could. If we gave them a catalogue with their favorite YouTube or Instagram gurus when they hit 16, and told them to pick their new face, I think that the next day we would wake up to 5 million Jaclyn Hills. This might seem funny, but in reality I see it as a serious problem. If you cannot look at your own face in the mirror and accept it, then I believe that there is a much deeper issue. I am in no way meaning to imply that everyone who contours their face is crazy, or anything to that effect. Makeup is fun, and is a form of expression. I know that many people just like doing these things for the hell of it! I am talking more about the girls who cannot leave the house without over lining their lips. The ones who are ashamed to be seen without a perfectly chiseled face. I feel that these girls have been hit hard by the negative effects of the InstaArtist.
I may not be the most beautiful person on the planet, and I too started playing with makeup at a young age because I wanted to be a makeup artist like my mother. Never did I ever think that I NEEDED makeup, or that I was ugly without it. Makeup is supposed to be fun, it is supposed to be a way to enhance your features. It is not supposed to be a mask that you wear every single day, and feel the need to apologize if you don’t. When you’re a kid, you play in your mother’s makeup and try ridiculous looks based on what you see around you. In my day, I was guilty of gold glitter up to my brow bone because of the Spice Girls. But now, girls are overloaded with so much more to look at and be “inspired” by, and see the same things that girls thousands of miles away do. So instead of just you and your close circle of friends making embarrassing makeup mistakes, it is millions upon millions of people doing the exact same thing. As Val says in the episode (seen above), "Is that good, being like everybody? Isn't that the same as being nobody?"
Most people have things that they do not like about themselves, and I am no different. I am not better than anyone else when it comes to how I feel about my looks. Do I wish that my lips were a bit fuller? Absolutely! I also have bags under my eyes, I have big pores, my skin breaks out, and if I want to be super nitpicky, I think that the tip of my nose is too big and round! But you know what else? My mother has the same round ski slope nose that I do, but I have a little mole on the tip that I got from my father. I got the protruding bone on the bridge of my nose from my father as well, and my thin lips are exactly the same as my mother’s. I am such an equal blend of the two, and I love seeing their features when I look at my face. I think it is what makes me interesting. Though I may not like certain things, I’m not getting a nose job or lip injections, and I don’t feel the need to do this with makeup either. Again, I am not saying that I am better than anyone, I just look at it in a different way than others might because of how I was taught and what I was exposed to growing up. I want to encourage people to accept their features, accept what makes them unique.
Recently some brands have been taking a stand, using “real women” or even publishing unphotoshopped images. And while people my age and older see this and say “Yes, finally!”, unfortunately the younger people don’t read or view the same things as us. Until the websites and apps that they are glued to start to do the same things, all they are seeing is the fake perfection. The powers that be as a whole need to stop forcing the ideas of perfection on people from birth. Right now it seems that we're moving in the wrong direction, but I am happy to see others working diligently to undo it and let people know that it is okay to be comfortable in their own skin. Hopefully more and more people will accept this, only then do I believe that they can begin to be truly happy with themselves.
I hope that nobody is offended, and that this will bring about more conversation than argument. I am not pointing fingers and saying that anybody is wrong, these are just my observations of society as a whole. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!