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My Uncommon Face: A Look at Reader's Theory

Page history last edited by April Sopczak 12 years, 8 months ago

For quite some time, I've had difficulty seeing my own face. There's nothing wrong with my vision. Well, there was, but Lasik surgery corrected that and it's not the source of my problem anyway. Ever since I got to the age where I started looking at fashion magazines, things just didn't look right. It started with Seventeen Magazine and moved on through Cosmo, Vogue, Redbook - the usual girl collections of fashion do's and don'ts and most importantly, the determination of what is beautiful. I'd flip through page after page of beauty and never see a single face that resembled my own staring back out at me. My mind began to subconsciously speak the language of the magazine and I began to define myself in those terms.  If what was in the magazines defined beauty and I was nowhere to be found, how could I possibly begin to define myself as beautiful? I was now a Structuralist reader of my own face.


Structuralist theory is a kind of literary criticism that says that in order to be able to read something correctly, you must understand its language. The language is a system with rules and structures that must be followed in order to communicate properly. Beauty in a fashion magazine is defined in certain terms. Your features should be of a certain size, distance and shape to complement each other, the shape of your face and your ethnicity.  My face doesn't play by those rules. My Irish eyes smile a light shade of blue amid a face of pale skin that is topped with red hair. I have chubby cheeks, freckles and a small Irish mouth. These Irish features come from the face of my great grandmother and conflict in their arrangement with the Cherokee face of my great grandfather that I also wear. That light blue color looks out from deep set eyes and top a long Cherokee nose. My chubby cheeks are not complimented by a round face, but rather reside within a square profile complete with a high forehead.  As quite the departure from the rules, I couldn't read my own face; I didn't possess the language. Structuralist theory is classified as a kind of Reader's theory and as there are as many ways to read as there are things to be read, more than one kind of Reader's theory exists. I needed a new theory.


New Criticism says that the surface meaning of words can often lie, you should look to the images that the language creates. I had been letting the system define the images instead. The system had been so imbedded into my brain that I didn't know how to see my face any differently. I could stare for hours and never see it any differently. It took an unsuspecting glance for me to see the image. One night after working out, I ran into my bedroom to grab my robe and some clean clothes before jumping into the shower. I didn't flip the light on because a small desk lamp was already on and it's soft, low light was enough to locate what I needed. I glanced into the mirror and was shocked by what I saw. A glance turned into a stare and I began to see an image that completely changed how I read my own face. Red hair blazed against pale white, glistening skin setting my light blue eyes into a deep set glow. My square face and long nose looked strong with the pride of generations before me. I saw a beauty there that I had never seen before and everything suddenly fit. You cannot find my uncommon face among the frozen faces of a magazine. My face was alive with a beauty that could not be defined with the structure of fashion's language. My face painted an image that was strong enough to surpass the rules and break free of the structure.  Beauty is individual because the image created by the language of the face is individual. That image is the personal connection. That image is everything.


I think I prefer New Criticism.

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