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Do you endorse ‘lookism’?
  • Kim Young-min, cub-reporter
  • 승인 2018.03.20 00:38
  • 호수 246
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The Shape of Water, a drama, fantasy and romance film with the background set in Baltimore 1962 was released on 22nd of February 2018. The story revolves around three characters. Elisa Esposito is the main character of the movie that is a mute orphan found in a river with wounds on her neck and later in life, works as a cleaning-woman at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore during the Cold War. Her friends are her next-door neighbor Giles, a struggling advertising illustrator who shares a strong bond with her, and her co-worker Zelda, an African-American woman who also serves as her interpreter at work (because she can’t speak).

One day while working in the facility, Elisa discovers a humanoid amphibian captured by Colonel Richard Strickland from a South American river. She begins visiting the creature in secret, and the two forms a close bond until the antagonist, General Frank Hoyt, orders Strickland to vivisect it with the intention of exploiting it for an American advantage in the space race. However, one scientist, Dr. Robert Hoffstetler who is actually an undercover Soviet spy named Dimitri Mosenkov, pleads unsuccessfully to keep it alive for further study, although he was ordered to euthanize the creature from his Soviet handlers. When Elisa learns of this, she persuades Giles to help her free the amphibian. Mosenkov discovers Elisa's plot and chooses to help her. Though initially reluctant, Zelda becomes involved in the escape, which is successful. Afterwards Elisa keeps the creature with her for a while and plans to release it into a nearby canal. Soon, Elisa and the creature become romantically involved and have sex in her bathroom. Various conflicts delay the time they try to release the creature. At the canal, Elisa and Giles bid farewell to the amphibian, but Strickland arrives and attacks them all. Strickland knocks Giles down and shoots the creature and Elisa, who both appear to die. However, the creature heals himself and slashes Strickland's throat, killing him. As police arrive on the scene with Zelda, the creature takes Elisa and jumps into the canal, where, deep under water, he heals her. When he applies his healing touch to the scars on her neck, she starts to breathe through gills. At the end, Giles indirectly conveys his belief that Elisa lived "happily ever after" with the creature.

Scrutinizing the plot, pure love of human beings is underlined throughout the whole movie. A woman without a voice loves a creature that does not even look like an ordinary human being. The importance of outward appearances was completely absent in their relationship. In contemporary society however, it is difficult to find this kind of beautiful romance. With the growing number of celebrities with idealistic looks a new concept is developing called ‘lookism’ which is a set of standards people look to for beauty and appearances. Due to this phenomenon, lots of people become ‘wannabes’ where they also want to be like stars. Now beauty has become one of the most important conditions when looking at each other. People are living in a society where a person’s beauty essentially determines his or her economic power. Therefore, according to a ‘teenager’s appearance perception survey’ implemented by one of the cosmetic companies in Korea, 49% of the people surveyed have tried to go on a diet to become slim and 59% of the people desire to get plastic surgery to become better looking. However, is beauty everything in life? Oprah Winfrey was a broadcaster who was mocked by everyone just because of her looks, but, instead of being distressed by her appearance and making efforts to change her outer self, she focused on improving her confidence and speech skills. As a result, she found her true beautiful color by becoming the “Queen of talk-show”. Unfortunately ‘lookism’ still prevails in our society and a few students from CWNU provided their opinions on the matter:

Eun-ju Choi from the Department of English Language & Literature:

In my opinion, the concept of ‘lookism’ originated from the importance of first impressions. Firstly, when looking at various types of interviews, blind dates, or an entertainment business of our society, they all require a good first impression. For instance, in interviews, within only a few minutes, applicants have to try to fully portray themselves to interviewers to get the job. Secondly, when people meet each other for the first time, the first impression again plays a great role to be seen as an attractive person. Thus, in my opinion, outward appearances include looks, the aura of a person, and a person’s behavior. Leaving a positive first impression could be an extremely crucial thing because that’s what remains in people’s mind for a long time. These factors seem to influence people to worship good looks. How people look certainly cannot be excluded when judging other people. In my opinion, however, what’s behind the mask is the true beauty. Good looks may leave a great first impression but cannot do much throughout the rest of the relationship.

Young-hoo Lim from the School of Nano & Advanced Materials Engineering:

In the past, my words contradicted what I practiced. I criticized ‘lookism’ due to its unequal and unfair features, but I, myself judged other people based on their looks. “He seems to be a scary person” or “She seems to be a very outgoing person”; every time I met different people, thoughts like these crossed my mind stimulated by their first impressions. When we focus our attention to movies, SNS, or dramas, people with fierce appearances act as antagonists and good-looking actors usually play the protagonists. Mass media has engraved this perception in our minds. I have a lot of different dating experiences with girls. Nevertheless, I’ve never met a girl that has suited my ideal type. From several blind dates, just by looking at their pictures, I wanted to hang out with them, but those relationships never last longer than a week. Therefore, outward appearances may be a second thought but should never be the primary factor.

Su-yeon Kim from the department of Cultural science technology

I partially endorse ‘lookism’, but not as whole. The standard of beauty may differ from person to person and for me, outward appearance includes not only how a person looks, but also every feature that is physically exposed by the person such as expressions, one’s way of speaking, and posture. Even though the person just fits my idealistic type, if he shows even one bit of immoral behavior, I don’t waste any more time on him. Beauty could be the first gateway to learning about a person but there should be more than one gateway to fully know an individual. Thus, beauty is just one of the factors to consider before meeting a person, and to me it could comprise much more aspects. But that doesn’t mean I support the concept of ‘lookism’. I may put appearances before personality traits but I am very aware of the fact that outward appearances could never represent the entire individual.

▲ The movie poster of ‘The shape of water’.
▲ The humanoid amphibian with the mute woman.
▲ Elisa starting to bond with the creature.

Kim Young-min, cub-reporter  dnl2874@naver.com

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