Mark Twain supposedly once said that “comparison is the death of joy.” And in his day and age, that was probably true.
Fortunately for Mr. Twain, he lived in a world before Instagram. He lived in a world before Fashion Police and TMZ began pitting every famous face and body against one another. He lived before a world before outfits were to be picked out months in advance, and before every body, every “look” and every wardrobe choice was scrutinized by every vulture with a pen or a microphone.
If Mark Twain lived in this day and age, he would realize that comparison was the death of far more than joy. He would realize that it is the death of countless relationships, of rising talent and of the self-esteem of millions upon millions of vulnerable media consumers.
Friendly competition is fun. Offering one’s opinion is fun. I’m a full supporter of freedom of speech, and I encourage people everywhere to speak their minds. But there is a fine line between neutrally expressing an opinion and using an opinion as a weapon that places one person’s value over another.
I’m sick of reading headlines that ask: “Who wore it better? ‘X’ or ‘Y’?” It’s not something I noticed when I was younger. I would never think twice about whether Julianne Moore or Gwyneth Paltrow looked better in a burnt orange strapless dress — In my mind, they’d both looked terrible! The two are impossible to compare.
(Who besides the Texas Longhorns men’s basketball team actually looks good in burnt orange?)
But today, these comparisons are everywhere. Every red carpet event generates hundreds of these types of articles and “news” pieces. It’s almost as if every single attendee should have to consult one another before picking outfits. I mean, if all of a sudden Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o both decide to wear hoop earrings to the Oscars, and it’s like: “Oh SNAP! J-Law and Lupita both seen wearing hoops at the Oscars red carpet — who wore them better?!”
And it doesn’t make sense. What does “who wore them better?” even mean? Since when did wearing jewelry become a competitive sport? It’s ridiculous to imagine Lupita sneering under her breath, whispering “I am SO much better at wearing hoops than that ‘Hunger Games’ b—-. It’s like the fool didn’t even try.”
But that’s the way the media portrays these people. This is a major reason why so many people despise celebrities — because they’re portrayed as vain, self-absorbed dummies. My guess is that most of them are regular people. Aside from a narcissistic few, my guess is that most red carpet attendees don’t give one crap about what everybody else wore — they just want to find out if they won an award.
Worse than all of that, however, is the effect these comparisons have on the people watching.
From a very early age, we’re all trained to judge people for the clothes we choose to wear. In the third grade, my parents sent me to school in a pair of white shoes every day for the entire year.
And every day, for the entire year, a vicious little girl whose name starts with “M” would make fun of me for wearing white after Labor Day.
In reality, the girl was probably only parroting a silly fashion law she heard from Clinton Kelly or the late Joan Rivers, but it still hurt my feelings. I spent every day of the third grade sitting Indian-style at my desk so nobody could see my feet. And to this day, I blame Joan Rivers for my weak and achey knees.
So let’s just stop. Let’s stop treating celebrities like prized squashes at the county fair. Let’s stop handing out blue ribbons and gold stars for getting dressed in the morning. Let’s just let people wear what they want — even if they’re committing social suicide.