Social Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Does it mean anything anymore to say someone has grace, elegance or refinement?

Asked by LostInParadise (27967points) January 13th, 2010

Does anyone care about these things? Is there anyone you can think of who exhibits these traits? Are there any actors like Jimmy Stewart or Katherine Hepburn? Will we ever again have a president with the diction of Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy? One might argue that Michael Jackson was a better dancer than Fred Astaire, but there is a certain elegance that Astaire had in abundance that Jackson just did not have. Has culture become more bubble up from the ghetto than trickle down? What do you think that Victorians would have thought of suburban housing and fast food restaurants? Am I the only one who thinks something is a bit off? If anything goes, does everything go?

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30 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

“Has culture become more bubble up from the ghetto than trickle down?” This sentence is definitely off a bit. Not just a bit.

Many dancers have grace. It’s pretty much a requirement for ballet.
I’d say many people are elegant. Cate Blanchett comes to mind.
Refinement is a classist ideology, and I’d love to see the idea disappear.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

All these terms could smell of elitism and the white race being better than some other race that has no such things or one class better than the other – grace I can deal with, it’s how cats move.

tinyfaery's avatar

Thanks @Simone_De_Beauvoir. You said it much better than I.

syzygy2600's avatar

who cares about grace and refinement? I clicked this topic expecting to see something about how people these days don’t give a shit about treating each other with respect, criminal behaviour being glamourized, people having more sympathy for criminals than victims – all problems I see with modern society. Then you start talking about dancing, and you pretty much lost me.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@tinyfaery lol, as I was writing my comment and saw yours, I thought ‘she said it so much better than me’

Blackberry's avatar

You asked like 5 questions that aren’t even related lol. I’ll just answer one: Yes, I care about grace and refinement. People still have it, you just have to meet them.

Blondesjon's avatar

It does and thank you. :)

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Sure it does and these terms don’t belong to any elite group or white race and it’s sad if some people avoid them or shun them because of that idea. That the terms get associated with any one thing in particular is sad, grace is movement & bearing, elegance can be chalked up to athetics which differs from group to group and refinement these days is mostly relative in terms of manners & social consideration.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence oh I don’t avoid them – but some people do use them to explain something of ‘status’ so to speak – I find that laughable..everything is relative, I agree with you there – these words, well, they’re all about being attached to something that’s a farce anyway, like status.

tinyfaery's avatar

From my MacBook Dictionary: refinement
cultured elegance in behavior or manner
sophisticated and superior good taste

Cultured? Hmm…as opposed to the uncultured?
Superior good taste? Hmm…superior?

sndfreQ's avatar

…you lost me after that Michael Jackson comment.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Things will never be as they were. In some ways that’s good. In others it’s bad. This is one of the bad.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I know what you’re getting at but I refuse to let wonderful things become bastardized. For example, when I was a child Latin was being removed from teaching curriculums become of it’s association (by people like my parents) to elitism. The pity is, Latin is really important for learning many languages and making some sense of the American English language.

filmfann's avatar

Audrey Hepburn would be the very definition of grace, elegance and refinement.
Jackie Kennedy would also.
They are icons we revere. It means something to be compared to them.

I chose to answer the title question, rather than all the other ones

lilikoi's avatar

Times change. That’s life. So it goes.

fancyfeast's avatar

Pretty much: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I sympathize as to where the new generation of our society is going. It seems to be that to be elegant, graceful, and refined is redetermined in todays world as becoming more accepting of faults and realizing the beauty in it all. I hope that helps you understand it.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think it is a shame that the question had an element in it that could be construed as racist because aside from that, I understood what the question was about and I think it had more to do with the era than anything else. When I think of elegant I think of Sidney Poitier. And I do think that attitude is disappearing along with propriety and courtesy and a whole host of others. We could all stand to have it bit more of those attributes regardless of skin tone or economic status.

avvooooooo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I don’t understand how you automatically made this about race. Before I read your comment one of the women on the top of my mind was actually Iman. These things exist in all races and to say that you think that it smells of white superiority is rather… off. And very strange to me. I don’t really know how to describe how odd that sounds to me.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Setting any political feelings you may have, Michelle Obama may someday be recognised as graceful, elegant and refined.

Barack Obama is eloquent, articulate, refined and adroit.

Darwin's avatar

Of course it still means something to be described as graceful, elegant or refined. I don’t see that it has anything to do with race or even class. People with good muscle tone are often physically graceful, and those with empathy are frequently graceful in speech and manner. Elegance comes from the way one presents oneself and in how one treats others around them as if they have value. Refinement simple means that someone has had the opportunity to learn many things from many cultures and so has been able to choose the best of all of them.

The details of grace, elegance and refinement have changed, but the underlying basis is still the same. You care about yourself, you care about the world around you, and you care about other people. Elegance, grace and refinement are not necessarily about knowing which fork to use when, but about know how to be at ease in any circumstance and knowing how to make others feel at ease in your presence.

Obama is an example of an elegant man. He’s tall and slim and extraordinarily well-dressed and moves in a smooth, controlled way, with grace. He also speaks in an elegant and refined way, presenting lyrical, powerful, and elegant oration. President Obama wears his education proudly. In this sense, his elegance is that of an Old World orator, maybe not born into the privileged class, but educated in it. He thinks big thoughts, communicates big ideas, and does not pretend that he prefers physical labor to intellectual.

Facade's avatar

Sure it does. I’d feel honored if someone labeled me as such. I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with those descriptions.

faye's avatar

I’d love to be more refined, graceful is lost to me and I’m a chubby 5’1“er so elegant doesn’t apply either. I love watching the old movies with such courtley gentlemen and wandlike women dressed so beautifully. I imagine it’s all easier with lots of filthy lucre. No excuse ever to lose our manners though!!

LostInParadise's avatar

I did ask a lot of questions, only loosely related. It was a bit of a rant and I decided to just go with it.

This is not about race or about class. Paris Hilton is a fine example of what is wrong and I agree that Sidney Poitier is an example of what we no longer have.

I mean no disrespect for those who live in the ghetto, but there is something odd when they are the ones setting the style in speech, clothing and music.

Maybe the thing about Michael Jackson that put me off is that crotch grabbing move of his.

I like Barack Obama, but in terms of style I find him too controlled. He could use a little bit of Jesse Jackson.

Those who mention treating others with courtesy and respect have a good point and maybe part of the problem is the prevalent rudeness and incivility.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence well to me, removing learning an ancient and useful to us now language is hardly the same as dropping concepts like refinement out of use – I am all for the latter and not at all for the former.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@avvooooooo I said it could be taken as such not that it automatically becomes about race – surely, eventually, these things can become attributed to all races but that is not the history of those concepts.

avvooooooo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir While this might be true for some, others have recognized it regardless of race throughout history.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@avvooooooo all concepts can be seen differently by others, I agree.

alexthegreat's avatar

I think that the best examples of elegance and grace now adays are people like Nicole Kidman, Queen Rania of Jordan, Barack Obama, George Clooney, Tom Ford, and of course Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington. I think that elegance and grace come from not only the way you dress but how you walk, how you talk and how you present yourself.

Just_Justine's avatar

I agree these beautiful traits are gone it seems, in it’s place is “dog eat dog” harsh realism. I agree with the comment above.

dabbler's avatar

Grace, elegance, and refinement are not inherently classist and the part ref the ghetto distorts the question with assumptions about where those things can be found.
Grace can be a matter of how one moves (as @tinyfaery leads with the answer of dancers moving with grace), and it can be composure under pressure “unflappable”.
Elegance is a kind of style thing if you ask me, unprovocative beauty. It’s got a sort of zen suchness.
Refinement means you demonstrate the results of intentional learning and improvement, some great examples above include President Obama’s speaking ability.
All of those things can manifest where there is intention, including in the ghetto.
The ghetto does manifest some ugly things too, but consider some of the ugliest phenomenon on the planet have come out of high-falutin “classy” circumstances, e.g. the effects of Chicago School economics on Latin American economies.

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