I can’t help but be bothered by how important a role beauty seems to play in falling in love. I much prefer Fiona falling in love with Shrek. I love that Spiderman is not some ultra-handsome boy and how Superman wears glasses and is a total geek. I like it when the emphasis is on character, not outer looks.
Yet so much love is based on beauty. I googled “beauty research” and came up with the following interesting facts: people tend to believe that physical beauty is a sign of inner beauty. They tend to like those who like them and to think that beautiful people are smarter, more successful, and happier.
The research also says: “Interestingly, while physical attractiveness appears to be the biggest correlator and predictor (for choosing a mate), it rarely appears as most important when directly asked of subjects. Attributes like personality and character usually rank higher. Either people are not aware of how important physical attractiveness is in their selection criteria, or they are not fully honest.”
Yet I believe Belle fell in love with the Beast before she knew how he looked as a prince. I believe that she could fall in love with the Beast because of his character, the inner beauty of his soul. But if the Beast could not talk, if he struggled with his wild side and could not show his true human nature to the girl, would she fall in love with him then?
I found this dilemma in the White Bear of Edith Pattou’s East whose wild side is stronger than his human part. The Bear does not remember his human name, and Rose, the girl he brings to his castle hoping she will break his enchantment sometimes suspects he looks at her as prey. Every night the bear climbs into bed beside Rose but does not talk to her or try to touch her, and he rarely talks during the day either. When Rose uses the candle given her by her mother and sees the bear in his beautiful human form, she does not yet realize that she is in love with him, but she feels an obligation to undertake the journey to rescue him from the Troll Castle east of the sun and west of the moon.
Because of his lingering silence, the White Bear remained a mystery to me throughout the novel. I could only pity him, and I wondered– did Rose fall in love with him because of his beauty that her candle revealed or because of some inner trait which escaped me?
Perhaps resisting physical attractiveness’ role in falling in love is not the way, but I will argue that beauty is not just what shows up on our body or face. It can be influenced by character, charm, a smile. I find people’s looks often “grow” on me as I get to know them, and then beauty really becomes “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Or maybe it’s the beholder’s eye.