One of my favorite foreign films is the Arabic movie, “Caramel.” It is a bittersweet love(s) story concerning four women who all know each other from the local beauty salon in Beirut, Lebanon. The film deals with some very potent issues such as pre-marital sex, lesbianism, extra-marital affairs, self-sacrifice, and so on. What I would like to explore is the concept of beauty and how it is perceived/portrayed within the Lebanese context of the film. And especially the negative effects these “standards” of beauty have on the individual woman.
Some strong aspects presented in the film I would like to address:
1. Beauty perceived as a marital status. For many non-western cultures, if a woman is not married by certain age, how is she perceived? (strange, useless, unwanted?)
2. Beauty perceived as virginity. Family honor (and the future husband’s!) is usually tied to the bride’s purity. What may this entail for a bride who has already secretly lost her virginity? (deception, hymenoplasty?)
3. Beauty perceived as youth. This is something common to the world over, and it is explored in “Caramel.” How can an older woman deal with the desertion of her husband for another (excruciatingly younger) woman, face menopause, and deal with signs of aging?
It is my opinion that the women who are experiencing these issues are victims of others’ (their families, lovers, society, culture) expectations. How this affects their lives will be the subject of exploration in my paper. Here is the trailer for the movie (the movie has English subtitles).