Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” for all its efforts to rebuff the singularly-defined beauty ideal, doesn’t solve any problems. Trainor, tired of an unrealistic standard, claims that “every inch of you is perfect,” and, besides, “boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” It’s not that she isn’t doing something good. She is. Deconstructing the current beauty monopoly occupied by the impossibly-thin and shiny-haired is admirable. Recent Dove commercials are doing similar things, to the praise of many. Admittedly, both replace unrealistic standards with realistic ones. But the way the game is played is still the same.
Now it’s ‘the booty’ that guarantees men’s affections. And the venom towards “stick-figured silicone Barbie dolls” sounds an awful lot like the stereotypes we project onto those given modern beauty, when they look down on “fat slobs.” Trainor claims to have left the game, but really she’s just switched teams. Beauty is still a means to secure men’s’ love and a reason to belittle those who don’t live up to the new “standard.”
I think Trainor wants to quit the game, but outside of the gospel, no such out exists. In an incredibly helpful talk, Andrew Wilson says that the way beauty works is antithetical to the gospel. The world tells us, “If you are beautiful, then you can be loved,” and so we desperately crave a definition of beauty that we can fit into ourselves. The gospel tells us, “You are loved, therefore you are beautiful.”
Even though Trainor tells us to “not worry about our size” and that “every inch of you is perfect,” she rings a little hollow when it’s only the “boom boom” and “the right junk, in the right places” that makes the boys chase. Beauty – however she defines it – is still a prerequisite to love. But the gospel frees us from both the enslaving demands of beauty and the self-righteous condemnation towards those not like us.
Trainor promises release from the pressures of “magazines working that Photoshop,” but ends up giving us new standards we might not live up to. Now the question is what happens when we neither have “that bass” nor the “36-24-36” body. What happens when we don’t accept our bodies? What happens when, no matter what, we just know we are not beautiful?
When that happens, give the gospel. (Andrew Wilson, again, is really helpful here.) The truth is that Christian beauty isn’t found, it’s made. God doesn’t find you beautiful and decide to love you; he makes you beautiful because he loves you.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV)
Notice that Jesus loves the church, dies for the church, and cleanses the church before she is beautiful. In other words, her beauty isn’t the reason he loves her and dies for her. Before his death, the church has blemishes, spots, and wrinkles. She is undesirable, and she doesn’t conform to the standard of beauty. But Jesus’ love makes her beautiful. Jesus’ love transforms her into a spotless, wrinkle-less, blemish-less bride. In this scheme there is no room for fretful nail-biting, wondering if someone will ever love you. (God’s death proves he does.) Here there is no room for condemning those “uglier” than you. (We are all blemished before God.) Here there is only the knowledge that you have been made beautiful, forever – and not to our transient standards, but to God’s eternal ones