Adverse facets of culture-induced perceptions of beauty as seen in “Caramel.”

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).


Filed under Uncategorized

16 responses to “Adverse facets of culture-induced perceptions of beauty as seen in “Caramel.”

  1. aeernst

    I think it’s great that you’re using a completely outside source for your paper, and I really want to watch this movie now that you’re bringing up all of these interesting issues from it. I think it would be even more interesting if you focused a little more on the pressures and expectations for women to be beautiful and that mindset’s affect. Maybe you could even consider:
    4) What would be the consequences if a woman did not live up to the expectations of beauty or accept what standards have been set for her?

  2. smboehm

    Sounds like an interesting movie. I like the topic you chose a lot– it sounds like an unique way to go about the topic of beauty. I also think it would be interesting to explore how women who have followed these expectations have come to be.

    5) Do women that follow these expectations lead a happier life than the women who did not? Is it the society that’s happy for them, or was it their own choice therefore making them happy?

  3. I think your concept of addressing beauty as something more than just appearance is something Westerners are largely unfamiliar with. Although we value younger women to be more beautiful we generally think of older women as having the capacity to still be beautiful which is not true in other cultures as unmarried women after a certain age may be shunned in reference to #1.

    #6 I think it is important for you to define which cultures you’ll be using. Is it just Lebanese or is it women of other cultures as well? Do you plan to bring in outside knowledge for reader whom are unfamiliar with different cultures?

  4. stperry1

    I agree with the previous comment that its important to define the exact cultural concepts of beauty you are dealing with. Since beauty is such a broad concept its important to have a clear idea of where you are focusing so you don’t get off track and end up faltering. However, I think the idea in general is very interesting and the choice of an outside resource is very original.
    #7)Does “othering” act as a means for control for any of these women? If so, which ones utilize this defense?

  5. Samantha Cooke

    I like the idea of beauty as something other than the obvious, what we’re accustomed to. I’d like to address your first question by pointing out that even in western cultures, marital status is part of society’s perception of someone – think of the “crazy cat lady”, or the person who has had many husbands/wives.

    8. Is perception of beauty from other cultures apparent in the film?

  6. vrosengrant20

    The film sounds very interesting especially how the women must meet certain criteria in order to be accepted in the society. This is furthered by the question on a woman’s virginity, how it not only affects her but also her family. This can be furthered explored with a question like:
    9.) How do the limitations imposed upon the women affect their relationships with friends and family?

  7. I am not sure how the movie “Caramel” would tie in with the topics we have been discussing in class so just make sure you discuss it with Thomas first. Perhaps you could try to tie this in with a perception of beauty in a novel we have read in class. I have not seen the film so my suggestions may not be relevant but I think you could also ask:
    10. Are there any instances where women could be ostracized because they are ‘too’ beautiful?

  8. looloo14

    I have always wondered why women put themselves put themselves through discomfort (like wearing high-heels) to comply with society’s standards of beauty. Nevertheless, as a woman, I often comply with these standards without even thinking about the discomfort. Perhaps it is true that women are pressured by the people around them to follow these standards.
    11. Where do these beauty standards come from and how are they adapted into society?

  9. autumncassidy

    This sounds like a fascinating movie, one I would like to watch myself. However, being unfamiliar with the work, that is probably the most I can contribute. You appear to have a clear thesis and topics in mind, both of which are strong components for your paper.

    Question: To play off of your second question, why is it that “virginity” and “beauty” are interchangeable? How is this a sexist view of beauty? Is this concept applicable to both the future wife AND the future husband? Why or why not?

  10. Sophi

    I have never heard of this movie, but it sounds like it is packed with real-life issues that women of different ages, all over the world, come face-to-face with at some point in their lives. However, different places establish these societal “norms” for beauty in different ways. Perhaps you can touch on the media as a way that these standards are portrayed.
    13.) In the movie, are certain types of medias shown to give the viewer the impression that a woman is only beautiful when she is young (or a virgin, or married, etc.)? How does this affect the way both women AND men objectify women?

  11. I especially found question 10 interesting, because I actually had a friend in high school who is incredibly smart, but she’s also very attractive, and so many people would not take her very seriously. She was voted ‘Most Attractive’, and everyone congratulated her, even though she was actually hoping for ‘Most Likely to Succeed’. I think it would be good to examine both sides of the spectrum, what being beautiful and what being ugly does to the female sex.
    13. Who is more at fault for the standards of beauty in society, men or women?

  12. Oh wait, Sophi just sort of beat me to the punch, so my question is actually 14.

  13. I love this topic and the feministic view you apply to it. I think your paper will provide a good argument to what women have to deal with in today’s male dominant society. Also, I like that you are the first (I have seen so far) to use a film instead of texts in class. I have never heard of this film and with your insight of it, I now am interested in seeing it. A question I had is:
    14.) Are the issues the women experience in the film a result of men in general or does it hit home closer to friends/family?

  14. And you just beat me tedarcher16 lol. So mine is actually #15.

  15. ashleighbarraca

    What strikes me most about what you’ve written about Caramel is that it sounds like this film could have been set almost anywhere in the world. Feminine beauty is something that is valued, and consequently picked-upon by so many cultures that it is hard for me to think of someone who wouldn’t relate to the film.

    Another question is: 16) Do women themselves also have a Madonna/Whore complex? That is, a pure woman is supposed to be desirable, how can a woman stay pure AND sexually desirable? Do women judge other women based on this?

  16. I very much like your topic. This is something that has always interested me. I find it interesting that in other cultures, it is expected that a woman “save herself” for her husband and their wedding night, but the man is not upheld to the same expectations. This is why I am interested in your second question the most. Why is beauty (in some cultures) directly related to whether the woman is a virgin or not?

    17) Why aren’t men held to the same standards as women in these cultures? Is this apparent in the movie as well?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s