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If there’s one thing I learned from Pygmalion, it’s that if I think women should be cold, lifeless eye candy and nothing more I will be richly rewarded. Judging by pop culture, I can see that most of my male brethren picked up on the same thing.

Pygmalion, Pygmalion, where do I even start. Originally an ancient Greek myth (later made more famous in Ovid’s Metamorphoses), the story of Pygmalion is about a young sculptor who, upon seeing prostitutes in the streets, becomes turned off to women entirely. Every day he returns to work on a statue, carved from marble, of a woman that he eventually falls in love with. He yearns for her day after day until, finally, Aphrodite takes pity on him and breathes life into his marble-woman. His heart filled with joy, Pygmalion weds the woman, now named Galatea, and they live happily ever after, giving birth to a son.

First of all, let’s just get this out of the way. Pygmalion bangs a statue. I know she’s alive when he does it, but it’s still messed up. Moving on.

Second, this man is rewarded for being appalled by humanity. I think we can all agree that prostitution is not, and has never been, very awesome, but despising all women simply because SOME of them choose or are forced into prostitution? That seems a little bit extreme. The idea that it’s okay to love something simply because it’s beautiful is one of those ideas I really don’t like in Greek myth and it’s one that comes up often. And before anyone gets up in arms, I realize that this concept pervades all human societies, not just the Ancient Greeks’. The thing that sucks is that the Ancient Greeks are the basis for a great deal of our modern practices and concepts here in the western world. As purveyors of this new-old culture, empire-nations like Britain and America have further entrenched the idea that beauty does only run skin-deep. I know it’s an obvious one, but just look at the fashion industry. Yuck.

It’s funny how little things like small stories from Ancient Greece and Rome compound on each other to form an unhealthy worldview for future generations.

The interesting thing is that the story is really quite a lot better right up until the end, if you read Ovid’s version of the tale. In it, Pygmalion is described more as being misogynistic and outwardly scornful of women and dedicating all his time to the statue. This whole affair is just a desperate attempt to correct the flaws he sees in women with his statue and when he is done, the unthinkable occurs. He falls in love, hopelessly and completely. In this way, Pygmalion is punished for his ridiculous behavior. He can’t love anyone but his statue and his statue will never love him back. But, of course, Pygmalion is given his reward in the end. Venus (Aphrodite) turns his love to flesh and the two wed. Everything works out in the end and it’s okay to love something just because it is beautiful.

Personally, I hope society gets out of its Pygmalion phase, sooner or later. It’s tiring to see people focus so much on outward beauty and less on intellectual and emotional contributions people bring into the world. While we can’t deny that attraction and beauty are things we, as humans, care about, they aren’t everything.

It would be terrible for society to wake up one day clinging to the metaphorical statue and wondering what became of substance.

Or maybe some God will just breathe life into the superficial beauty we cling to and everything will work out for the best.

Imagine that, fashion models coming to life. That would sure be something.

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