Wielding beauty with grace for self-preservation

Beauty wielded poorly is as much a curse as it is a gift.  It creates an unstable pattern in your support base, between sudden waves of irrational and inexplicable love and support, followed by equally sudden and confusing resentment, defection, and harsh opposition.

Beauty here is really a stand-in for any type of attractiveness, and there are many types.  People can have gravity of all sorts.

Being attractive gives you tremendous power over other people.  And nobody likes being in someone else’s power.  Handle it badly and soon enough, they won’t like you.

One of the best examples of someone who wields their attractiveness gracefully, in a way that stabilizes and advances their interests rather than undermining and sabotaging them, is fictional, Daenerys Targaryen.

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The things people like about you are beasts that must be managed, or they can flame out of control and come back to bite you.  Or you could not give a shit and let them burn everything.

Daenerys’ beauty is one of the instruments of her political rule.  People follow her not only because she has military strength, or because she is passionate, or because she has a noble bloodline, or because she is just or stands for the people.  All of these things are multiplied by her beauty.  It’s true that all of these things alone wouldn’t be the same without each other, none of these things would be enough just by themselves.  All of the explicitly political factors intermesh with her person, and her personality intermeshes with her appearance.

It’s important to note that Daenerys is not even actively trying to use her beauty as part of her political rule, like someone manipulatively and actively climbing a corporate ladder, or something like that.  It naturally exudes from who she is as a passive trait.  If anything, like her dragons, her beauty is a gorgeous monster that she simply possesses which will spiral out of control and damage herself and others, if she doesn’t continuously manage all the emotions people project onto her because of it.  This is an important quality of regality: the ruler simply projects power; they don’t even have to try.

Daenerys is not cruel in petty ways.  She does not toy with people, as Cercei does.  If Daenerys is sometimes a bit of a brat, it’s because she’s on a crusade to save the world and thinks the world should follow her model of right and wrong, not because she’s rubbing how hot she is in the world’s face.  She’s not hurting or taunting people with her looks, consciously or unconsciously.  That’s not in her character.

Nor is she exactly modest, however, nor hiding.  Her bearing is about as proud and upright as it could get and she rocks those long platinum locks let down for the world to see.

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Beauty hurts.

The way she handles her beauty glides in a perfect middle which reflects her personality.

The hard truth is that the mere existence of beauty literally hurts people.  Beautiful people hurt to look at; see above.  The other forms of attractiveness cause people pain as well.  If someone is too quick-witted, it can just be painful to even be in their presence.  Therefore it makes sense that forms of attractiveness are something that have to be managed in order to prevent yourself trouble, even though that may feel completely unfair, like a burden that was thrust upon you which you never asked for.

To reiterate: Seemingly positive qualities are not straightforward assets, but sources of dynamic instability which can both help or harm their possessors by creating both attraction and resentment.  This instability must be managed.

Daenerys is so beautiful it hurts, but she is not resented for it, in fact only loved, because she makes it visible that she’s not trying to hurt anyone, in fact she is trying not to, because she shows them what consideration she can.

By analogy, she is a raging, murderous ruler willing to conquer cities, nail people to crosses, and melt ships with dragonfire, but also overwhelmingly driven by compassion, frees slaves, and gives attentive audience to her subjects.

When Daenerys gives audience to her subjects, interacts with advisors, or people in her personal life, the attention she gives all of them is specific, personal, and sincere.  And at times she becomes understandably exhausted.

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Daenerys’ beauty places people under her spell.  And when people are under someone’s spell in such a way, most people have a realistic understanding that Daenerys is a queen, and a queen doesn’t really have all the time in the world for every ordinary person like themselves.  But they want to be shown basic consideration.  If they get that, they understand that this is as much as they are realistically going to get, and they appreciate it.  It means a lot to them.  As much as she can, she actually does give them that.

If they don’t get that basic consideration, the enchantment turns sour, and becomes resentment.

Does all this relationship-maintenance require a lot of extra emotional labor of attending to people?  Well, sure.  The alternative is being perceived as withdrawn, snobbish, and too good for everyone.  It is entirely possible that your periphery of people is far too large to give everyone even basic consideration!  Perhaps you can give people token, proxy gestures?

It also depends on what your goals are.  If you are engaging in politics or career advancement, then obviously you know that these are things that come with effort anyway and putting work into relationships is something you probably had in mind regardless.  If you just want to survive as an ordinary person, it may just be wise for you to keep in mind that life is always a bit of a game, and the traits with which you were born may have simply made you more centrally and socially engaged than you wished to be, and this is not really something you can escape, so you might as well get good at dealing with it.

Or you could live on the wild side.  You could just let the dragons run free.  You could flaunt your shit and be cruel and not care who you hurt while you do it.  Just know what you’re doing and don’t act like a victim when people throw it back in your face for being an asshole.

In reality we all probably selectively do a little bit of both now and then.  We all need to maintain relationships.  And we all need to cut loose.  Balance, there’s an idea.

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