Tyra Banks Dreams Up Weird Sci-Fi Future That is Unintentionally Dystopian
Tyra Banks decided to try her hand at precognition today, and attempted to predict the beauty standards of the future. The thesis of the piece is that in the future, "traditional beauty will be less valuable-and more uniqueness will be heralded."
Here are a few excerpts that are fairly unobjectionable:
"Everyone will have at least one personal robot/assistant/companion... The robot will have super artificial intelligence and will be able to sense if its owner is having a low-self-esteem day and will then strategically give boosts of confidence to its owner."
We may be getting closer to creating a true artificial intelligence, and personal robot butlers don't seem at all out of the question. It's odd that the first task she can think of is boosting self esteem, but it's not impossible I suppose.
"Global warming will threaten our crops so natural food will be scarce. Hourglass, curvy bodies will be the aspirational beauty standard, representing that those women have access to bounties of fulfilling yet healthy food, which means they are affluent."
This is certainly not a new or groundbreaking idea, as many cultures have historically used heaviness as an indicator of high status. And it seems that crop yields will be negatively impacted by global warming, so this projection is not unreasonable.
"There will be no hair extensions. If one wants longer locks, a hair-growing serum is applied to the scalp, and the length and thickness of the hair will increase in 24 hours. The popular hair texture of choice will be curly."
I don't see how it follows that curly hair will become more popular, except that the general theme of the piece is that the future looks like opposite day.
Which brings us to the problematic part of the piece:
"Plastic surgery will be as easy and quick as going to the drugstore for Tylenol. Emphasis will be on how unique and interesting one can look, as opposed to a cookie-cutter look. People will be vying for that cutting-edge, distinct look in the way that today celebs reach for baby names that defy convention."
This is where she starts to assume that absolutely everything will be different in the future, including human nature. Many technological advancements have made it easier for us to try to look the same, including the advent of plastic surgery, and the human race as a whole still tries to conform to whatever standard of beauty exists in their respective cultures at that time. While the standards of beauty may change, this behavioral pattern likely won't.
The only similar prediction that could be made involves the idea of the Uncanny Valley. The theory of the Uncanny Valley postulates that people are creeped out by things that almost look like humans, but are perfectly comfortable with humans and things that look nothing like humans. If plastic surgery is more readily available, then there will be an increased number of people who take it too far and begin to look slightly inhuman, creating a creepy android-like effect. For example,studies have shown that one of the standards of beauty in Western cultures is symmetry, but the below picture shows that taking that maxim too far can turn attractiveness into creepiness.
But, this isn't really a prediction. We're already experiencing this phenomenon in celebrity culture. Fans are horrified by celebrities who undergo so much plastic surgery that they begin to look inhuman, but praise the beauty of celebrities who get just enough plastic surgery that it can potentially pass as natural. But either way, we still praise people who fall into a certain conventional standard of beauty.
Then she just gets contradictory:
"The features of one's baby will be as selectable as menu items at a fast-food drive-through window. Blue and green eyes will become so common that dark brown will become the rare and newly desired eye color."
"Skin color and features will mesh into a similar shade for the majority of people. Typical features and coloring will lean toward a Rihanna or Beyoncé or me kind of look. People with alabaster or ebony skin will be rare and heralded for that uniqueness."
"Because beauty will be so readily accessible and skin color and features will be similar, prejudices based on physical features will be nearly eradicated. Prejudice will be socioeconomically based."
Taken together, these three statements make absolutely no sense. While she's completely correct that the future is heading towards parents picking all of their baby's traits out of a catalog prior to implantation, she then tries to assert that "rare" features will be heralded. Even if that were true for a period of time, people would just pick those "heralded" traits for the next generation, and they would cease to be unique. So the most that she can argue is that the standards of beauty will go through cycles, which is already true, although these cycles may be more pronounced in the wake of a genetic engineering revolution.
She's obviously correct that prejudice in the future will be socioeconomically based, but physical beauty will most likely play a large role. Even if plastic surgery becomes cheaper and more commonplace, there will always be wealthier people who are able to afford more plastic surgery and more advanced designs for their babies. So prejudice based on physical features will likely never be eradicated, but rather there will be a privileged, beautiful master class and a less wealthy and less conventionally beautiful Other.
And then she proceeds to reinforce every negative stereotype about feminism that there is:
"Women's empowerment will be an irrelevant concept because the balance of power between the sexes will have shifted dramatically. Women, in control of when they can have children (up to age 120!), and having more degrees and education than men, will be in charge. Men will be responsible for 70% of cosmetics sales and plastic-surgery procedures world-wide. Why? Men will be vying for women's attention, obsessed with being attractive to females and snagging well-off ladies who can take care of them."
While reproductive freedom and education are obviously important within the women's movement, if the best we can hope for is that "women's empowerment will be an irrelevant concept" because it will need to be replaced with "men's empowerment," then the future looks very bleak indeed. (Not to mention, since she spends the entire article asserting that everything will be the opposite of the current state of affairs, the last sentence also reinforces the stereotype that all women are looking for strong men to take care of them.) Good try, though, Tyra.