America’s Obsession with Hair and Beauty

It’s nothing new. America has been obsessing over vanity for as long as we can remember, from the barroom showgirls of the old west to today’s modern movie stars. We copy their looks, envy their seemingly inherent beauty, and pore over pictures and articles, hoping to find some clue as to how we can look that good.

In the nineties, TV sitcom Friends was an instant smash hit. Perhaps the only thing greater than the success of the hit show was Jennifer Aniston’s hairdo. Millions of wannabes ran to their hairdresser crying for “The Rachel,” Aniston’s edgy and spunky cut.

It wasn’t too long before George Clooney had a similar effect on men all across America. His Caesar-style haircut was all the rage, especially after the release of Quentin Tarantino’s film From Dusk Till Dawn. Clooney’s popularity on TV drama ER didn’t hurt either but it was his hot new hairstyle that catapulted him into sex symbol status. His career took off and he became a Hollywood legend.

If a killer hairstyle can make or break a celebrity (television series Felicity actually went off the air after lead actress Keri Russell chopped off her locks), then what does a bad hairdo mean for the rest of us? What does no hair at all mean?

America’s obsession with hair and beauty is disturbing on several levels. First, it places emphasis on appearance rather than content or meaning. Sure, George Clooney and Jennifer Anniston are both excellent actors, and maybe if they weren’t, their hairstyles wouldn’t have caused such a big fuss. But it’s worthwhile to note that the public didn’t collectively move to New York with their five closest friends or enroll in med school. People went out and got the haircuts.

There’s nothing wrong with looking beautiful or wanting to look beautiful. Things and people that are aesthetically pleasing are a pleasure to regard and balance out much of the ugliness in the world. But when have we gone too far?

Today, television documentaries feature patients who have become obsessed with looking good through plastic surgery. Women die from getting breast implants on the cheap in Mexico, and men opt for fake ab implants rather than hit the gym every day for a few months. Everybody wants to look their best and many will risk their health or even their lives to achieve that goal.

Surgeries like these cost thousands and, collectively, millions of dollars. Perfectly attractive people have become so obsessed with looking perfect that they’ll go into debt, lose their car or their house, just to look a little bit better. Most of them already look fine.

Where could that time and money go instead? To curing cancer or aids? To mental health programs that promote a positive body image and help patients deal with severe cases of low self-esteem? To feed the hungry?

Spending money and resources on good looks is fine but it’s unhealthy to get carried away. Overweight stars like Oprah Winfrey and hair loss sufferers like Bruce Willis have achieved fame and success even greater than Anniston and Clooney and they aren’t going under the knife or running around doing their damnedest to look hotter than the latest supermodel to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Why? Because they know that what really matters is what’s inside. Sure, it sounds corny but we all know it’s true. No matter how sexy you are, everyone hates you if you’re a bad guy. And you can be the ugliest duckling in the bunch but everyone will still love you if you’ve got heart.


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