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Tyoria
topic
12:12:56 PM Feb 16th 2013
edited by Tyoria
From the edit reasons: "This isn't an example. Exploring looks and femininity is not the same as being vain. Using Toph is especially awkward because she demonstrates the very opposite. "

Caring about what other people think of your appearance is vain. Toph and Katara bond a little when it is shown that Toph isn't as immune to what other people think as she usually projects (and in general, sincerely is). She's hurt when she's called ugly and Katara comes to her defense and cheers her up by saying she's actually pretty.

This particular example was protested in the YKTTW as well, but although I want to take it seriously I cannot shake the sense that Avatar: The Last Airbender being so often and at length lauded (and usually deservedly) on this wiki as a strongly female-positive show (have we mentioned the numerous Action Girls, the ease with which it passes The Bechdel Test, the aversion of Real Women Never Wear Dresses, et cetera?), people just naturally bristle to see it mentioned in conjunction with an Unfortunate Implications-laden trope unless it's to mark it out as an aversion. But this trope, while unfortunate, isn't always presented in an overtly obvious negative way. Toph and Katara connect here on this level of Toph's seldom-seen vulnerability. Aww. That's good Character Development right there. But ATLA chose to have this moment of vulnerability concerning what other people think of her appearance in the episode centered around Katara and Toph doing girly things together. It just seems to naturally fit that caring about what other people think of their appearance is expected and natural... of girls. I'm not calling the exploration of femininity, or even vanity itself, a bad thing, but I am pointing out that vanity and femininity were intentionally linked by the show. Which is the trope.
ScarletSpecter
05:01:03 PM Feb 18th 2013
edited by ScarletSpecter
No.

The definition of vanity is: "1.Excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements." Synonyms include: conceit, futility, pride, arrogance, etc.

Being vain is about making your looks first priority. It's about succumbing to that bloated hubris where a person draws conceit and self-absorption from their looks. Toph is the opposite in that looks are unimportant to her...being blind and all. Katara had just offered for a girl's day out and that just involved doing, what you personally see as girly.

And that example borders on insulting because when someone calls you ugly or derails you for your appearance...that hurts. People thinking crappy things about you can be painful especially over something that may be near impossible to control. Toph wasn't being conceited. She was being human. She's a strong warrior and an even stronger person, and the whole point was that Toph didn't care what people thought of her looks...or at least she didn't want to. Remember, she is blind. She doesn't know what she looks like, but those girls did and they made fun of her. That doesn't sound vain in the slightest, it just sounds heart-breaking.
Tyoria
07:53:22 PM Feb 18th 2013
edited by Tyoria
So basically you're giving me a point-blank rebuttal based on you not liking the way I'm using the word vanity?

If you have issue with the name of the trope, I can see where there might be cause for misunderstanding. I'm sorry about that and if you have a suggestion for a change or something or would like to take it to TRS for a rename I'm open to that.

But I think the entry is a valid one for the trope that's actually on the page, your issue with the name aside. The trope is about the preoccupation with one's looks and one's desirability to others. Women primp and preen and present themselves as objects of desirability. Doing so is "feminine". (Whether "feminine" itself is defined as a good or bad thing can vary.) It's a conceit that is ultimately dependent on the well-regard of other people. We call that "vain". As a word, that is a simplification of the entire, often dismissive, way in which the complex is presented... but if you think about it, that too is often an integral part of the trope. Why do women pack a week's worth of clothing for an overnight campout? They're "vain".

I don't think Toph was being vain in the sense that you describe, but that would be a strawman of the position I've staked out on it. Toph generally does not give a shit about presentation. Toph is not quite so immune to the preoccupation of what other people think of her as she ordinarily lets on. I think that's understandable. It's also a well-done moment of vulnerability. But I'm not the one who linked that whole exchange with having a girls day out which for heaven's sake is self-defined as girly. If it weren't girly it wouldn't be called a girl's day out, it would be the Self-Empowered Gender Neutral Day Out of Excessive Politically Correct Superlatives.

I can't see the scene playing out the same way with a man, not if the subject were whether or not he was actually "pretty" or "handsome". That would not be portrayed as heartbreaking. That would be portrayed as comedic. Because men aren't supposed to give a shit, that's a feminine-linked vulnerability, not a masculine one.
ScarletSpecter
10:08:25 PM Feb 18th 2013
edited by ScarletSpecter
"So basically you're giving me a point-blank rebuttal based on you not liking the way I'm using the word vanity?"

No, I just don't think you're using in the appropriate context.

Believe it or not, men will be preoccupied with their looks as well. Men shave as much as women. Men will wear business suits to make a good impression at work. Men will dress a certain way that may appeal to their sense of style. Some men work out to become muscular (more masculine). It's just not emphasized in the same way as it is with women. Using your logic, Sokka and Aang are more vain than Toph. Both were shaving in the beginning of that episode so that they would appear in the manner that pleases them. It's just that men are allowed to be more than their looks. When I think of this trope, I think of the mentality that "feminine" women/men, by default, are more prone to feeding off looks (something considered abitrary and inconsequential in the whole scheme of things) because women are passive creatures of habit. And since Men Act, Women Are, a girl's worth is measured in how pleasing she is because she can't actually work to deserve anything more. Femininity, therefore vanity, is being equated with shallowness due to lacking any actual worth as an individual. "Prettiness" is the one goal women should strive for instead of being content with who they are. That's why this trope is considered a Double Standard that borders on Unfortunate Implications especially regardng gay men.

Some boys will be bullied for the way they look (being fat, wearing glasses, looking dweebish). That could lead him to feel insecure or helpless because he's picked on for shallow reasons. He could be a target just for the way he looks. Does that make them vain? With Toph I just saw insecurity, not vanity. She can't be sure what she looks like, and the pressure incited by her encounter only made it worse. She doesn't want to feel a burden that she can't even grasp. And, to me, 1) being self-concious or caring about what people think of you =/= vain. Nor does wanting to be pleasing or presentable; it could just mean you want to make a good impression, feel included, or just feel secure in the fact that you're easy on the eyes. It's when you make it all about looks as if it's the only thing that makes you of worth that leads to vanity.

I just feel that it would at least be wise to evaluate what exactly counts as feminine and what qualifies as vanity.
Tyoria
05:21:11 AM Feb 19th 2013
''"So basically you're giving me a point-blank rebuttal based on you not liking the way I'm using the word vanity?"

No, I just don't think you're using in the appropriate context.''

Could you run that by me again? I think you forgot a noun in there. Using what in the inappropriate context — the trope, or the word vanity? If you mean the latter I don't understand how you disagreed with what I just said at all.

Believe it or not, men will be preoccupied with their looks as well.

Yeah, that's not the issue. The issue is how it's different the way a man preoccupied with how other people regard his looks is portrayed in media compared to how a woman preoccupied with how other people regard her looks will portrayed, based on an apparent presumption that it is more "natural" for women to have such a preoccupation or to take such a preoccupation to greater excess.

What I'd like to ask about the Toph scene is whether such a scenario could get genuinely Played for Drama in a similar fashion to a scene that wasn't between two girls. Because it seems like we're emphasizing that Toph is indeed a girl, though a tomboy, and she can connect to Katara, also a girl, on this issue of vulnerability because of the presumption. For the matter the girls that insult her seem to know exactly how to hit where it hurts in part because of the presumption.

Men shave as much as women. Men will wear business suits to make a good impression at work. Men will dress a certain way that may appeal to their sense of style. Some men work out to become muscular (more masculine). It's just not emphasized in the same way as it is with women.

Because the reasons for it are different. It being "emphasized" in a different way is exactly what I mean when I say it's played differently. Also, "I want to look a certain way" =/= "I need other people to find me attractive". Granted, statement 2 often leads to statement 1, but not necessarily the reverse. Wanting to look a certain way because it's just how you like to look and you don't necessarily care how other people think about it would not be invoking this trope.

Using your logic, Sokka and Aang are more vain than Toph. Both were shaving in the beginning of that episode so that they would appear in the manner that pleases them.

How is that my logic?

When I think of this trope, I think of the mentality that "feminine" women/men, by default, are more prone to feeding off looks (something considered abitrary and inconsequential in the whole scheme of things) because women are passive creatures of habit.

In context your emphasis of "mentality" throws me off. Are you suggesting my position is that the trope reflects on the reality that "feminine" women or men are more preoccupied with how others see them? In real life, most people of both genders care at least a little about how they are physically perceived by others, though to varying extents depending on the individual. In real life, I don't want to put too much of a value judgment on that, it's kind of complicated. (...I could go on.) But I do want to point out the trend in media assuming there's some kind of binary "masculine" / "feminine" division where "feminine" cares (and thus is "vain") and "masculine" does not care (and is "not vain"). The extrapolation in media is therefore that it is "natural" for women to be that way and "unnatural" for men. This is, in my opinion, baloney and host to a whole number of Unfortunate Implications tropes that go against both genders.

Some boys will be bullied for the way they look (being fat, wearing glasses, looking dweebish). That could lead him to feel insecure or helpless because he's picked on for shallow reasons. He could be a target just for the way he looks. Does that make them vain?

Define "abuse". In most stories boys who are teased, in verbal terms only, about that kind of thing would be told to shrug it off and not to care about what other people think. Taken to a level beyond "teasing", it's not an issue so much about caring whether people think they're attractive. If they're a "target" of something more severe, they're concerned about harassment or even violence. So the issue to which "vanity" would come into play is just plain irrelevant. Although I do think there's a tendency for media to tell boys more to "suck it up" and not care about other people's opinions even when it has actually progressed past that point, just for the fear of seeming to present an aesop that "it's okay to care what other people think of you".

I hadn't thought of this trope's application to bullying, actually, that's kind of a fascinating idea. I wonder if media isn't better at being able to identify the line between "shit other people will give you that you need to learn to shrug off as a part of growing up" and "shit other people will give you that's legitimately a problem you should tell adults about" when it comes to messages aimed at girls than boys, because of the "vanity is feminine" issue.

With Toph I just saw insecurity, not vanity.

I would say it was insecurity. My point was, the insecurity was presented as okay. Toph had hurt feelings because of what someone had said about her looks — but nothing else. Had she been a guy, I don't think that scene could have been played for drama the way it was.

And, to me, 1) being self-concious or caring about what people think of you =/= vain. Nor does wanting to be pleasing or presentable; it could just mean you want to make a good impression, feel included, or just feel secure in the fact that you're easy on the eyes. It's when you make it all about looks as if it's the only thing that makes you of worth that leads to vanity.

I don't really disagree with you, I honestly just think there's a disconnect because of the use of the word "vanity" and how that's says something intrinsically bad to you. The concept I was attempting to encapsulate was a lot broader and more complicated and difficult to categorize than "something that should be understood as intrinsically bad". The concept I'm getting at, I'm not putting a value judgment on — the binary gendered presentation of the concept, I am.
ScarletSpecter
09:29:55 AM Feb 19th 2013
edited by ScarletSpecter
Look, I just don't agree with your definition of Vanity. Basically you're saying simply wanting to be beautiful or caring what other people think of you is being Vain. I'm not saying vanity is uniformly bad; just that it's associated with shallowness and frivolity. This trope is a source of Double Standards that could lead to some real Unfortunate Implications if used inappropriately. What exactly counts as inappropriate is left to the viewer.

But, I do understand what you're getting at. Toph was acting more "feminine" than normal and, of course, that involved her looks being brought up. She reacted poorly to a bunch of girls comparing her to a monkey. The context is a source of contention for me. Anyone, male or female, would be just slightly miffed to be insulted that way. I guess ultimately all that mattered for Toph was that she was beautiful, but at the same time, she was determined to not care. Yes Toph, a Tomboy, may still secretly want to be pretty. But, I'm not sure if it necessarily counts against Toph, herself, as much as those girls who attacked her.

What I got from your example was that just being more effeminate (already a loaded word), made Toph "vain", therefore childish. Simply trying to be "girly" or being into makeup, by default, makes you a shallow, looks-obsessed bimbo. I know that's not what you meant. And I understand "vanity" means different things to us, but the main reason I found it so inappropriate was that it could imply that to explore femininity and looks, at all, counted as being vain (a word that carries a lot negative connotations and emotional baggage that is treated synonomously with girliness).

You've changed the description. But, I thought that for this trope to be legitamate, it needed to be asserted within the narrative that it's bad to be vain because its bad to be feminine. That episode showed that both Toph and Katara can connect on girly things and still be awesome warriors. Your definition of "vain", in this case isn't as bad, because it's just treated like a preference in the show; not something that a girl needs to be to be a girl. I thought for this trope to count, there had to be concious derision toward "vain" people (male or female) as frivolous drama queens. Because girliness is weakness. Girliness is lewd. If a person's girly, regardless of gender, they are shallow, vindicitive, and ineffectual at best.

Gay/effeminate men get hit with this especially hard, but, women also recieve spite as well. Some men will roll their eyes and scorn women because they're "shallow", but it's just natural and fine for them because they're women. They can't help being worthless. But, when a man acts like that, all of a sudden it's perverse and evil.
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