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Beauty in the Beast

Almost 60 years ago, a particularly prescient episode of The Twilight Zone predicted that in the future all young adults would undergo a process called “The Transformation.” This procedure would bestow some medical benefits (slower aging, immunity to disease), but would also alter each person’s body and face to match a selected beauty template—the title of the episode was “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” Every teenager eagerly anticipated his or her transformation—except Marilyn, who fought against the process, pleading and preaching, “when everyone is beautiful, no one will be.”

Although widespread use of facial recognition technology will soon be able to connect those with similar features and will likely solidify beauty ideals, as we noted in our previous post. Others will use the technology to seek out hyper-unique methods to differentiate themselves from their facial doppelgangers. Identifying similarities will allow these dissenters not to mimic, but rather to isolate the most effective facets of change, creating stunning displays of differentiation that break the beauty mold.

As the idea of individuality is overhauled, elaborate forms of temporary and permanent decoration will take center stage. This yearning for augmented differentiation has already appeared in the work of designers like Alexander McQueen and Prada who have experimented with mythical symbols: serpents, mermaids and, the ultimate symbol of rebirth, the phoenix. Some adventurous provocateurs, like Lady Gaga, have even gone so far as to add subdermal facial implants to create fantasy-inspired facial features like horns or hyper-sculpted cheekbones.

Given the rapid churn of beauty trends, even these currently fringe expressions may soon find their way into the mainstream, forcing those who wish to express their individuality to continue to push outward on the edges of beauty ideals. This evolution points to a time where the standard of beauty is no longer judged on human traits alone and instead incorporates aesthetics from both fauna and fantasy. Beauty has long been about seeking perfection in the human form—the future of beauty may seek to abandon that vessel in an attempt to explore “the other.”

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