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Looking for Perfection for 400 Years

While enjoying Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, I got to thinking about the ideal woman. Specifically, as Alexis Denisof’s Benedick lists the traits he’d like in his perfect match, I got to thinking about a similar list in a Bollywood song. And so I started thinking about what makes up the” perfect woman.”

Here are Benedick’s requirements (Act II, Scene iii):

Rich she shall be, that’s certain;
Wise, or I’ll none;
Virtuous, or I’ll never cheapen her;
Fair, or I’ll never look on her;
Mild, or come not near me;
Noble, or not I for an angel;
Of good discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall be of what color it please God.

Not surprisingly, he wants a woman who is beautiful (fair), though that’s not the first item on the list; wealth, wisdom, and virtue are (seemingly) more important. In fact, wealth is so important that it actually turns up twice; the second time as a pun: “noble” and “angel” are types of coins. But then, Benedick is not the romantic type, so it’s little wonder he’s interested in the more pragmatic side of marriage.

The real beauty of this list, I think, is that Beatrice, his love, meets most of these requirements but not all (she’s certainly not mild, and it’s not made clear if she can play music). Love, after all, is realizing that we can’t have everything we want, and that we might have to settle a little bit.

This list, in turn, made me think of one of my current favorite Bollywood songs, the title song from Mere Brother ki Dulhan (My Brother’s Bride). Luv is tired of dating and heartbreak, so he asks his brother Kush to arrange a marriage for him (a joke here that Mr. Shakespeare would like: Kush means “happy” in Hindi). In the opening song, Kush lists what he’s looking for in his brother’s bride:

For those who don’t want to or can’t watch the (subtitled) video:

The one who is beautiful and ideal
The one whose skin sparkles like silver
The one who has a degree and knows fashion
The one who is pure at heart
And has the world in her pocket
The one who commits and submits to the man she loves
The one who has Delhi in her heart and London in her heartbeat
The one who is a Google of love and can answer every question
The one who listens to music while walking
The one who resides like a prayer in every heart
A supermodel with an Indian soul
The one who is not lazy at work, is as fast as 3G
And yet is as tender as a dew drop
The one who understands relations and has a spotless heart
The one who is a good luck charm

Here, virtue is mentioned multiple times: pure at heart, submits to her man, resides like a prayer in every heart, and has a spotless heart. Money/wealth don’t seem to be important at all, unless one takes the “skins shines like silver” line metaphorically. Unlike Benedick, though, Kush is looking for someone who is beautiful first and foremost: beautiful, ideal, sparkling skin.

But despite being separated by centuries (Much Ado is from the 1590s, Mere Brother from 2011) and continents, we see similarities: beauty, intelligence, virtue, mildness/tenderness.

Finally, this all made me think of my favorite song about the perfect woman, Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket.” The entire song is a list, so I won’t post all of the lyrics, but here are a few:

I want a girl with a mind like a diamond
I want a girl who knows what’s best
I want a girl with shoes that cut
And eyes that burn like cigarettes

I want a girl with the right allocations
Who’s fast and thorough
And sharp as a tack
She’s playing with her jewelry
She’s putting up her hair
She’s touring the facility
And picking up slack

Here, intelligence is most prized, not wealth or beauty, though again we see the comparison to material goods (mind like a diamond). Like Kush, the Narrator of this song wants a girl who is fast (not sexually, of course, but someone who gets things done). Indeed, other than her eyes and voice (and clothes), the Narrator never mentions her looks at all.

But he does want wealth:

I want a girl with a smooth liquidation
I want a girl with good dividends
At Citibank we will meet accidentally
We’ll start to talk when she borrows my pen

She wants a car with a cupholder arm rest
She wants a car that will get her there
She’s changing her name from Kitty to Karen
She’s trading her MG for a white Chrysler La Baron

The album Comfort Eagle came out in 2001. I suppose we were all much more optimistic about the economy then.

But now I know how to be perfect. I need to be:

  • Rich, or on my way to being so
  • Beautiful
  • Intelligent, wise, and able to speak well/about anything
  • Know what’s what and how to get stuff done
  • Well dressed, preferably with a degree in fashion, with a short skirt and a long jacket
  • Play/enjoy music
  • Any hair color

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