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« Andrea del Sarto Reredux | Main | Oakeshott for a Day »

August 29, 2002

Symmetry, Classicism and Eros

Friedrich --

I've read, as who hasn't, news reports over the last few years about how evolutionary theorists have been thinking about beauty, about how beauty seems related to symmetry, and how both function (at the very least, I should think) as signs of reproductive health.

Throw all that and a little del Sarto and Han into my muddled brain, and you've got me thinking, Hmm, classical art at its sexiest seems to be a matter of symmetry crossed with something just a little bit off.

Why? Maybe symmetry represents design and conscious intention: Culture? Skill? Fantasy, desire, and the ideal? And maybe "something a little bit off" signifies "interest," "vitality," and "life." Put them together and you've got something that seems to fuse, in however unstable a mix, a hint of Ideal beauty together with its flawed incarnation in temporal life.

And I'm musing a bit about today's gal performers. Have performers ever looked so gorgeous or been in such great shape? They seem physically perfect, walking fantasies -- yet they do almost nothing for my religio-erotic centers, at least once past the first attention-dazzling minute. Kapow! Then my interest is all burned up, and I'm on to the next blast.

Cristina, Poppin' Out At You

Recently I was looking at web sites devoted to actresses from the '60s and '70s (Anna Karina, Stephanie Beacham, Susan George, etc). Gorgeous gals, though not tweaked, implanted, buffed and Photoshopped to anything like the high polish of today's performers.

Susan George, Inviting You In

And I was enchanted, partly because that was the era that imprinted itself on my then-still-malleable brain. But the enchantment also had to do with the actresses's imperfections -- the overbite, the too-small butt, the little scar on the temple. They didn't exist as pure fantasy and thereby usurp my erotic imagination; and images of them don't jump out at you either.

I find that these actresses (and images of them) stir the imagination while inviting me into the stuff of life: sorrow, beauty, transience, physicality. The result: I feel aroused, moved, touched, and exalted all at once. The sensation isn't of having my buttons pounded (and my soul hence flattened), but of being lured out of myself, there to contemplate the Larger Questions.

Cute as the Britneys, Cristinas, Shakiras and Taras are -- and I'm a fan of kiddieporn pop -- they never move me. Too much symmetry?

Do they move you?



posted by Michael at August 29, 2002


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