By now you have probably seen the untouched and unphotoshopped photo of Cindy Crawford that is shooting around online. In it, you’ll see the famous beauty in all her raw and natural glory. It’s hard to resist staring non-stop at this diva, who in the mid 90’s made the moniker ’super model’ a pop culture revelation. She alongside the Lindas, Naomis and Christies of the time, embodied and shaped the role that modern media would play in creating today’s beauty standards. Now, 20 years later, at the peak of photographic digitalization, we the common people, have been liberated from the chains of magazine monopolies and can peer behind the veil and actually ’see’ how the divinities we worship are actually ageing.
Now that is a scary word for that industry, who lusts after the perfection of youth. But the wizard has been exposed, out behind from his curtain there is no going back. In this digital age, we are blessed, as we’re offered truths than can bring down icons. The implications are biblical in proportion. We no longer have to be slaves to the images of perfection which have plagued and haunted, chased and chastised us, for we now have access to what’s ’real’.
We ’know’ intellectually that the photos are altered to such a degree that they barely resemble the original shot. We ’know’ that blemishes and wrinkles, disfigurements or blotches are all smoothed out with the magical wand that erases everything that is truly human. Yet, we continue to consume them, with a voraciousness that the industry cannot keep up with.
As with the Greek gods, we humans are obsessed with their escapades and triumphs, but more riveted by their falls and defeats. We simply cannot look away. Why? Because we are transfixed by our own mortality.
Those perfect images we see of the beautiful and perfect, the eternally young, are addictive because we search those bodies and faces for a trace of humanity, for the stink of death. The very thing that terrifies us and spellbinds us in an instant, is that unrelenting fear caused by having one day to face our own mortalities.
When images are that perfect, they are almost divine because they show no sign of aging, of dying or waning. They are supra-human images of our perfect selves, not only of how we’d like to be, but of how we might defeat our deaths. It’s only for a moment, but that suspension of belief allows us to taste immortality. Simultaneously we are repulsed by that same perfection, we look to criticize it, to find imperfections, because the lack of them signifies something sinister. The impact is so visceral, so innate and so immediate that the love/hate, attraction/repulsion reaction to these images is as old as humanity itself.
Why does Cindy’s aging photo resonate with us so much? For the very fact that possibly as a society we have burned ourselves out and that the inundation of images of the perfect are now profane. And the quest for ’true’ or real images has begun to take place in our societies, in a way to make peace with our own eventual deaths.
Seeing her imperfect body, is like seeing the flaws in the divine. It’s liberating because we are no longer expecting ourselves as a society to live up to those impossible standards, and at the same time, it allows us to comes to terms with the fact that even deities can die.
Somehow, this appeases us and makes living, which is an imperfect process in itself, a little more bearable.
So bear it all Cindy! We are all watching.