Oscar Wilde’s classic tale of a self-indulgent, narcissistic and incredibly handsome young man, Dorian Gray, is chilling and timeless. The Picture of Dorian Gray, published in 1891, makes readers uncomfortable. The lengths at which Dorian is willing to go to ensure his youthful beauty are unsettling, and yet not unimaginable. The idea of self-preservation and obsession with appearance is something our era knows well. The fact that Dorian Gray easily gave up his morals to look good is unique to the book, but Wilde’s novel begs the question: How many people would willingly sacrifice their code of ethics for their own aesthetics?
The first documented photographed selfie, known as a self-portrait at the time, was taken before Dorian Gray was published. They were extremely rare. Those with money and a love of self would hire painters to preserve their image. Now, there is no shortage of ways to take our image and save it forever (or for a really long time). The one thing we haven’t figured out is how to stop aging. Even plastic surgery can’t save our youth.
Imagine, for a moment, that Dorian Gray was alive today. He would be at the forefront of the selfie game, posting all over Instagram like the Kardashians. He would hold a dark secret, however: One of his selfies would capture his beauty and youth forever. Among all the other self-indulgent, aesthetically-obsessed people taking photos of their gorgeous faces and bodies, Dorian Gray would not stand out. He would be another perfect looking face among a sea of perfect looking faces. Everyone’s selfie game is so strong, Dorian Gray would probably get away with murder just as easily as in the book.
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Hiding amongst his manicured photos would be a selfie dripping with blood. Don’t forget, Mr. Gray is a criminal; he’s a man capable of murdering someone and then attending a party, acting as charming as ever. Unlike his famous friends, Dorian Gray would never get surgery to stop the signs of aging; he would simply look as good as his aging selfies.
But there’s a problem- the internet is not a safe and secure place. One day, Dorian Gray would be hacked. All of his photos would be revealed to the public. Lo and behold, one selfie would reveal a hideous old man, holding a bloody dagger and reveal all of the man’s sins. In a fit of embarrassment, and perhaps some realization that his vanity has caused much more damage than good, Dorian Gray would delete the selfie.
And then Dorian Gray himself would get deleted.
What is so fascinating about Wilde’s story is how relevant it still is. People are as obsessed with their appearance as ever, and what more: We are capable of overlooking celebrity maladies because we love them so much. Take Johnny Depp and Mark Wahlberg, both beautiful men who have been accused of assault. We have a way of forgiving the rich and famous, and the beautiful. It makes you wonder… what is really behind all of those gorgeous selfies?