Aesthetics Chez Glinda

I’ve always been fascinated and appalled by this moment. And yet I do believe that Beauty is a mark of both the True and the Good. So why is this so obviously wrong?
Perhaps because the sort of beauty on offer is so shallow, so unrelated to the ontological beauty of allowing one’s truth and goodness to be perceptible.
Yet I’m afraid that what Glinda means by beauty is what most people mean by beauty. We all know what’s meant by the “beauty department” in a store or a “beauty magazine.” Does this mean that Glinda’s equation is what most people think when they’re told there’s a connection between the Beautiful, the True, and the Good? Scary, if true.

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About Laura A. Smit

Teaching theology in the academy and the church View all posts by Laura A. Smit

3 responses to “Aesthetics Chez Glinda

  • Scholiast

    Perhaps it’s part of how the internal bleeds into the external in much fantasy (esp. anything as early as Oz)? That is, the outwardly beautiful is likely to be good, especially in the case of witches. The dark and hideous is likely to be bad. These visible qualities are mirrors of the internal in the world of the fantastic and apply only to witches.

    Not that modern fantasy hasn’t subverted this idea, mind you — and Tolkien took it to task at times, with Aragorn as Strider and with the polychromic beauty of Saruman. Yet the beauty of the Elves and lack thereof in the goblins is, nevertheless, a manifestation of this idea.

    • Laura A. Smit

      Thanks for this. You’re quite right that in a fantasy context Glinda’s comment is very different than it would be in a contemporary story. But I don’t think that I ever characterized The Wizard of Oz as a fantasy, at least not the movie, not even when I was a child. There’s none of the feeling of Faerie about it. It’s just Kansas seen through a dream, and we all know that here in Kansas (or Michigan, or wherever you are) the connection between beauty and goodness is broken, that there are lots of nasty people who look great and wonderful people who are homely, that inner beauty and outer beauty don’t always track well with one another.

      The Tolkien comparison is telling, since that doesn’t hit me in the same way at all. The connection between Galadriel’s beauty and her goodness has never offended me. I guess when I read such things I assume that the rules are different in Faeire, that there’s a holistic connection between the inner self and outer self, which is a symptom of a rightly ordered world. That’s the way things ought to be in Kansas too, but they’re not.

      Now I’m wondering which of these reactions – my offense at Glinda or my lack of offense at Galadriel – needs rethinking. Hmmm.

  • Jack

    Beautiful women are more powerful than any Witch could ever be–whether in those fantasy/dream stories or our own world full of Pickwickian normalcy. I say that being terrified of that Green Witch on TV as a kid (why didn’t she just wear a rain jacket–most likely the same reason superman doesn’t where a lead lined body-suite.

    Those that are true witches, those that float (read Python), are those that don’t use their Beauty powers against ill-trained boyish men, who have abdicated their proper place as Men with chests, to become dashed upon rocks and eaten in the forest-tale sense; something they deserve (in the harsh fairy-tale land) to let ‘good’ restore the kingdom. The real witches today are those females that control the universe by using their powers for good. The common people have no powers–dare I say are more likely to indwell in sin.

    I am reminded of Jonathan Edwards once told a man pursuing his daughter that he thought he could do better because she had too many angry streaks. There appears to be in the literature on Beauty, that pretty gets you favor. So beauty that is only skin deep might be all that is required in our land.

    OK this is just rambling on a Friday…late afternoon without energy to make a tight argument…should be more a conversation over a beer.

    cheers,

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