My Problem with The Lunar Chronicles

This blog contains spoilers!! So if you haven’t read the entire series and don’t want anything ruined, you might not want to read ahead. I will mark the actual spoilers.

There are so many fairytale retellings in existence. And I believe The Lunar Chronicles does an amazing job at combining the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. I really enjoyed that the series was set in a sci-fi future dystopia instead of a modern or historical context. I loved that it addressed major social issues like racism, sexism, prejudice, ableism, war, and abuse. It also dealt with themes of acceptance of self and others, self-confidence, and changing beliefs.

In addition to those, it discusses beauty throughout many situations and involving many characters. This is where my main issue with the series lies.

The idea of what beauty is or can be is challenged a lot during the series’s plots and stories. However, it’s mostly just through characters trying to be happy with who they are and gain self-worth and self-confidence. The idea of beauty is rarely challenged in the societies that exist within the books. The majority of the time when appearances are discussed in a societal manner, it’s the ugliness of people who are different (such as the cyborgs) or the ways that outward beauty can be used as a form of manipulation. When it is discussed with the ideas of what is beautiful according to society’s eyes, it’s the skinny women with curves and flawless skin, with the exception of Winter’s scars.

Most specific instances of things being considered ugly or unattractive are in reference to burn scars and bionic limbs, as well as the genetic and physical manipulation of Queen Levana’s soldiers. The soldiers are continually seen as grotesque. Although still not considered beautiful, the bionic body parts are slowly more accepted. But the burn scars are only described as ugly and hideous, even by another burn victim. Only once is the thought truly challenged. (START SPOILER) In the last book of the series, Cinder sees the queen’s face again and thinks about how disgusting it is. She then feels guilty, especially since she has been a burn victim herself. (END SPOILER)

I can’t speak from my own experience, but I have witnessed many people go through the long and terrifying process of recovering from burn scars and other major injuries that leave the appearance greatly altered. From skin grafts to having portions of bones removed or having an amputation, these people have endured intense physical, emotional, and mental pain and stress. Many of them had incredible difficulty with regaining self-confidence.

I couldn’t help but think of them and what they went through while I was reading the series, and I grew increasingly uncomfortable with how such things were handled in the books. (START SPOILER) All the mentions of Queen Levana’s appearance were of her painfully beautiful glamour or rumours or sightings of her scarred face. Even one of the things that is used in the uprising against her in the uprising is a video clip revealing her true appearance: one eye melded shut and skin melted by flame. (END SPOILER)

I understand that essentially everyone finds her horrendous because of her actions and words. And that her sister (and abuser) caused the injuries as well as called her ugly so much that it was impressed into Levana’s beliefs and personality. But she never once heard that she was beautiful except when she was hiding her true self.

In my eyes, the scars could’ve been described at least once as a sign of power or change or perseverance or uniqueness, instead of solely as ugly and hideous. Only reading about scars in a negative light can have a bad impact on readers with similar scars or work it’s way into readers’ minds in an unintended way, leading to them thinking that burn scars are only ugly or something to hide.

I’m still not entirely sure if my own thoughts on this topic even make sense to any others or if anyone else has experienced the same thoughts as I have. And I have a few other thoughts on the issue even, but those are even more difficult for me to explain. What are your thoughts on this issue? Let me know in the comments.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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