Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Jolie Laide Aye-Aye!

Salon has an article about how the endangered Aye-Aye is too ugly to generate any enthusiasm for saving it.


The Aye-Aye is cutastic! It's what the French call jolie laide, or pretty-ugly. Which does not mean "pretty ugly" but rather "pretty AND ugly." That is to say the Aye-Aye's quirky ugliness creates a unique magnetism which transcends mere prettiness.

The French, of course, appreciate the jolie laide more than just about anyone else, which is why they invented a term for ladies who do not not fit the standard cookie cutter definition of beauty, but whose style, charm and chicness make them truly stand out. Famous jolie laides include Maria Callas, Anne Boleyn, Barbra Streisand, and (dare I say it?) Angelina Jolie. I wouldn't go so far as to say that these ladies are "so ugly that to imagine them as beautiful is an act of transcendence" but certainly they do not fit easily into the pigeonhole of beauty. Yet they are fascinating and unforgettable.

As Proust said: "Let us leave pretty women to men devoid of imagination."

Metacool points out that jolie laide can be applied to objects as well as to people. Mere beauty is soothing and safe; it creates a sense of security and comfort. Jolie laide, on the other hand, is all about tension. It's off-kilter and makes you think. It's interesting. Metacool asks, "why be beautiful when you can be interesting"? Good question.

I'll take the Aye-Aye over an adorable koala bear any day.

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