y Instagram cup runs over every morning with videos of influencers showing me how to duplicate a TikTok-famous way to apply foundation. Thanks to this absolute onslaught, I now own six new makeup brushes, which is five more than I owned about a year ago. This is not at all an attempt to sound like a cool, 40-something hipster who doesn’t care about how they look, because I have cared, desperately, since I was at least seven years old. It’s just that I didn’t know how to use what because we did not have Bina Khan’s helpful Covid days tutorials when I was growing up.
Look, whenever someone tells me I’m beautiful the way I am, I’m like yeah sure I know, but I can be better. Call it the pitfalls of coming of age in a consumerist culture within a capitalistic world in a cosmic future wrapped in Elon Musk’s dollar bills; we’ve all grown up knowing we can and should aspire to be more. It isn’t just enough that my skin is even-toned because the secrets of sunscreen all day, every day, have made themselves known, it is also that said skin should have naturally blurred pores and fewer freckles. It isn’t enough that the women hitting their mid-thirties and forties and approaching their fifties in no way resemble their own mothers at the same. They have to somehow appear like they got the perks – careers, kids, friends and a little more discernment towards life – without putting in the years.
Growing older is great, but it reveals seedier sides to the people you’ve known forever and your place in the world in horrific ways.
It’s no surprise then that horror has often turned to the myths and legends that surround the acquisition of beauty and youth. Deals with the devil are made and blood is spilled. Innocence is lost, never to be recovered, and as the viewer, you will sometimes find yourself in the deals and whispers and tears.
American Horror Stories, the anthology sister of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story did an alright season one, and is wrapping up a much more complex and satisfying season two. Spoilers are not cool, but the AHS universe as a whole tends to throw the tiniest of lights on the obsessions that plague us as a community and the consequences of any obsession tends to mete out.
American Horror Storiesthe anthology sister of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story did an alright season one, and is wrapping up a much more complex and satisfying season two. Spoilers are not cool, but the AHS universe as a whole tends to throw the tiniest of lights on the obsessions that plagued us as a community and the consequences of any obsession tends to mete out.
Facelift in particular comes at a time when we are at the receiving end of nonstop content, and a lot of discussion. Fans of skincare brand The Ordinary will find themselves scrolling through multi-product, multi-session routines. Everything is just a little more and a little more complicated. You can’t just pat on night cream and call it a night, you must layer a minimum of four products. You can’t just remove your makeup and wash your face, you must double cleanse. It isn’t enough anymore to look good for your age, you have to look good for 10 years minus your age.
And yet, aging is a truth we must look in the eye morning and night. And several times during the day, because who can stop looking into their front-facing cameras?
Judith Light plays the youth-obsessed Virginia in Facelift, who creaks and stretches her way out of bed in the morning to tend to her face. In so many ways, we can see glimpses of ourselves in her insecurities, but also recognize that perhaps her predicament isn’t how she looks, but how little she thinks of herself.
If youth and beauty are indeed currency, sooner or later, you’re bound to run out. Every social station, industry, and even emotional connection will require something in return for its acceptance. This is where being the funny one pays off, by the way. J/K. Being the funny one is exhausting, and humor is a currency you will eventually stop offering to the world at large of your own accord.
Perhaps it is time we start considering who put the currency system in place for perfectly basic things* like love, friendship and merit, and try to remember, and reinforce, that if you have to pay in youth, beauty or jokes, whatever it is, isn’t worth it.
*Guys, it’s always the patriarchy, okay? You’re not competing with anyone younger or prettier for anything, You’re competing for a person or entity’s attention, with yourself, and that’s a battle you won’t lose, because you’re constantly evolving into a better, worse, more complex, more refined version of yourself. Those patriarchy guys really love smoke, and especially mirrors.