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Expecting People to Conform is Not Love} ?> Over the course of my life, I’ve developed a mold in my head for the ideal way to live. I often think I know better than others, with opinions about how they should act, what job they should have, etc. When someone doesn’t fit into this mold, I’ve disassociated with them or tried to cram them into it. Subconsciously, I’ve thought of these people as “uglies”—a term from the YouTube dystopian short film by David Armsby called Being Pretty.
Being Pretty is a three-minute video that’s gained over three million views. In the video, “pretty” doesn’t mean physically attractive, but refers to conformity into the artificial intelligence-controlled city of Autodale. The first half of the short is a public service announcement, given by a Handyman (a robotic sentinel), explaining to children that their dad is “pretty” because he reads the newspaper, kicks his feet up after a hard day’s work, and provides for his family; their mom is “pretty” because her cooking is great, she keeps the house clean, and reads them bedtime stories. The Handyman tells the children they will grow up to be “just like” one of their parents and reminds them to “stay pretty.”
In Autodale, anyone who doesn’t conform is considered “ugly.” The second half of the film reveals that “uglies” include anyone old, gay, crippled, sterile, disfigured, fat, or even those who suffer from depression—and the Handymen brutally discard them like trash.
This chilling tale made me think, “Do I see people as ‘uglies’ and discard them out of my life?”
If we consider beauty as something more than physical appearance, the phrase “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” takes on new meaning. Someone I consider “pretty” because of their actions or personality may be “ugly” in another person’s eyes and vice versa. In Disney’s Pocahontas, Pocahontas had a similar discussion with John Smith about savages. I think the same conclusion is applicable. Perhaps people I think are “ugly” just aren’t like me.
Ashamedly, I’ve avoided people or spoken behind their back because without realizing it, in my mind, I considered them an “ugly.” I’ve thought of people who don’t share my religion as “uglies.” Recently, I had a great conversation with a Buddhist about her faith. I asked her a lot of questions about reincarnation and Nirvana. We spoke about the commonalities between our religions. Though I still don’t believe inthe Buddhist faith, I found it enlightening to hear about it from a Buddhist as opposed to a textbook or someone not of the faith. I realized if I don’t want to be criticized for my faith, I shouldn’t judge hers.
I’ve had a past employer judge me because she’s vehemently against Christianity. I’ve had family members slip snide remarks into dinner conversation during holidays about my choices of employment and even what hand I use to write. But I know I’m not the only one they treat this way. They’ve gossiped to me about others who don’t fit into their “mold.”
Trying to convince others to be more like me does more harm than good, even if it’s an unintentional response. There is a place for encouraging others out of dangerous habits and destructive attitudes, but it needs to come out of a trusting relationship and not out of judgement.
Often I just don’t know what to do around people who are different than me. I’m afraid of offending them, or I’m uncomfortable, or I don’t know what to say when they have an opinion different from mine. Maybe I need to relax and just think less of what’s different and more of what’s the same. “If there’s an us, that means there’s a them,” says Mare in the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. Maybe I need to stop thinking of us and them—pretties and uglies—and more about how I can love others by accepting them as they are.