Something I have never fully understood, yet have always been fascinated with is the concept of beauty standards. The initial description went something like: either a woman look like a Barbie doll or she isn’t attractive. While the initial description is almost entirely focused on physical attraction in women, I think beauty standards as a concept runs deeper and in parallel with the idea of aesthetics.
Everything that is attractive, in any way, shape or form, has an aesthetic. This is to say that everything with beauty has certain principles, or standards, that underly, guide and structure the beauty or appeal of the medium or entity. Perhaps the aesthetic is overtly about physical and sexual attraction, perhaps the aesthetic is comedic and playful, or perhaps the aesthetic is thought-provoking and curious.
Aesthetics in Civilization and Nature
A fox and eagle can both be seen as beautiful animals, but not necessarily in the same way. Achaemenid Persia, Egypt, The Roman Empire, The Byzantine Empire, The Holy Roman Empire, The Russian Empire, The German Empire, Nazi Germany, Poland, Prussia, Mexico, Albania, Montenegro, a plethora of Native American tribes, the United States, and many other nation-states all use or have used the Eagle as symbol of nationalism and strength. Only Algeria (partially) uses the Fennec Fox. Alternatively, the fox has been a symbol of everything but mischief to playfulness to seduction to wisdom to heroism. In both Disney’s depiction of Robin Hood as a fox or the playable, anthropomorphic Fox McCloud in Nintendo’s StarFox series, the fox also has an aesthetic, and while both can be viewed as heroic and beautiful, the fox does so by appearing more agile and playful, where the Eagle does so by appearing bold and powerful.
Very few nation states use the fox as a representative of their civilizations as the fox has never maintained the standard of beauty and the proper aesthetic of what they are trying to illustrate. Likewise, the eagle is rarely used as a symbol for wittiness, agility or youthfulness, and likewise, very stories have likened them to tricksters and mischievous heroes. The standards of beauty in their forms lend themselves to different vastly different ideals.
All aesthetics lead towards ideal ways of expressing something. A scenic countryside in southern France, with calm twilight does not convey the same excitement or boldness that Napoleon crossing the Alps does, but it does maintain it’s own aesthetic, for its own beauty.
But what would happen if a fox was trying to be an eagle, or a portrait of Napoleon was drafted to show his meekness? I’ll be touching on the ideas of individual aesthetics in part two of this post, and I hope you’ll check that one out.
Until next time,