One of Aesop’s more flawed fables is that of the Fox and the Leopard. In it, the haughty Leopard tries to convince the Fox that he is clearly the more beautiful creature considering the luxuriousness of his mane and the magnificent embellishment of spots within it. The Fox in turn tells the Leopard that the cunningness, wiliness and guile within his spirit are more magnificent than any embellishment any animal could simply display within their fur, thus his inner beauty (as well as all creatures’ inner beauty) carries more resonance than any physical attribute ever could. The Leopard subsequently sulks away in defeat. The flaw, of course, is that while inner beauty is much more valuable than physical beauty, bragging about either attribute… kind of makes you a dick. If anything what I get from the fable is the idea of humility; of not being a Fox when you meet a Leopard. But a defense mechanism is a defense mechanism, and sometimes all a guy has… is his dick.
I pondered this while watching an episode of the old sitcom "Taxi" where the main antagonist of the show, Louie De Palma, was played by the stoutly Danny Devito. The threats that piped out from his five foot tall, five foot wide body rivaled the intensity and heft of any villain imaginable, which only added to the comedy and complexity of his character and the show itself. But this was 1978. This was pre-Ronald Reagan and the curious metamorphosis of the “Me” generation prioritizing conservative political and cultural pursuits, highlighting money, youth and beauty (over the “Now” generation’s pillars of service, culture and civil justice). And by 1982, Reagan had his foot firmly planted in the White House, Taxi was cancelled and a slew of shows began to infiltrate the airwaves whose villains were just as De Palma evil, but in much prettier shapes. From Joan Collin’s turn as Alexis Carrington on Dynasty to Jane Wyman’s turn as Angela Channing on Falcon Crest, American audiences swooned at the juxtaposition of malevolence played through the pretty. That legacy continues on today in reality shows where the physically appealing Omarosa Manigault of “The Apprentice” fame was voted as one of the nastiest villains of all time by TV Guide. And while no one could deny the absolute beauty of former Ms. USA Kenya Moore, you would be equally as hard pressed to deny her less than amiable demeanor on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”.
When I recall my experiences here in Los Angeles and take an honest look at the numerous Leopards I have welcomed into my home, welcomed into my bed and collaborated with professionally I am a little in awe at the sheer and consummate stupidity I displayed by equating their beauty with emotional depth or intelligence. When I look back and I superimpose the image of their hideous doppelgänger in their place, the exact same people just in completely different and offensive bodies with unpleasant facial features complete with acne, sags and wrinkles, I realize how different my choices would have been and how my own vanity came into play wanting to associate with people I thought were as beautiful as I was.
And sometimes it does. As I happily trudge through the jungle of life with my Fox learnings I have definitely come to appreciate the beauty of the Leopards but am wise enough to know that those pretty spots have nothing to do with their heart or their spirit. And for me it makes those spots, a little moldier, a little stale. I come upon those lowly bloggers who unload piles of cynicism, derision and misinformation and I know the viewing public is simply fascinated by those beefy arms and pectoral muscles bursting out of their chest clamoring for air and attention because their audience is growing. But I know where that beauty bubble ends. I know that if those same intentions where expressed by someone who looked like Shemp Howard they would have been barbequed at the stake by now. I know that they are a crazy ass motherfucker. I know that they are nothing. What I don’t know, is when the rest of the forest is going to stop catering to those Leopards. What I don’t know is if those spots will ever go any deeper than the fur.
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