Tell Me What’s Real

I swear, Europe is always ahead of the game when it comes to the social consciousness of fashion. Of course, with Paris at the helm of fashion capitals all over the world, it’s no surprise that its neighboring countries are more sensitive, as compared to the US, to the way the media influences the standards of beauty.

England has recently banned Olay ads of 60’s icon, Twiggy. In her heyday, the model was famous for being Warhol’s muse and her “twiggy” sature put waifs on the map (hello, Kate Moss). Now, as a muse for Oil of Olay’s Definity cream, her mug impishly boasts, “Olay is my secret to brighter-looking eyes.”

If it were only true. Her “secret” is nothing more than the wiley skills of a Photoshopping savant. With the clickety-click of his or her finger, the digital re-master wiped out nearly all her crows feet, undereye circles and bags, giving consumers the impression that it is Definity cream that makes her look like she’s in her early 40’s rather than her true 59-year-old self.

In this day and age, you’ve got to be living in a cave and not realize that her face has been completely retouched. I found this article on the LA Times arguing that these retouchings aren’t meant to be destructive. In fact, it’s meant to enhance the person’s features and eliminate blemishes that may distract from the person’s beauty. People opposing retouched photos argue that the purpose of Photoshopping ads is to “to make women feel bad about themselves — also making them buy more beauty products.” In other words, it’s all business, baby.

But what I found interesting was this:

What the brain perceives in a still photo is vastly different from what it perceives in real life, according to Dr. Dale Purves, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Up close and personal, “every second you’re getting a series of images of a person that you’re kind of blending together, and that would be a little more forgiving.” What we’re taking in, he adds, is a load of stuff, including clothing, personality and smells — elements that can evaporate in two dimensions.”

It’s almost like an argument for Photoshopping images: when you’re seeing someone in person, it’s easy to blend all senses together to get a cohesive sensory “picture,” if you will. And because that can’t happen in two-dimensions, Photoshop merely does the blending for you by eliminating what would’ve been discarded in three-dimensions. So when people are photogenic, does that mean not a lot of blending is needed to begin with?

Some pictures of photogenic people:

Sophie Marceau


Monica Bellucci

Eva Herzigova

 In their April 2009 issue, French Elle showcased to the world the untouched beauty of supermodels sans make-up. Of course, they had a professional photographer to capture them at their best angles and who can forget their stellar genes, but it was refreshing to hear Sophie Marceau confess, “When they’re retouching one of my photos, I can’t find myself.”

So is there a solution to this? In a society that capitalizes on bringing others down to boost its own ego in front of other “less progressive” (or so they think) societies, I don’t forsee any elimination of retouched photos in the near or even far future. The one thing that the US has done to combat the phenomenon of Photoshopped androids is through the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.

In short, it’s a nationwide project that encourages your girls to embrace their beauty. I’m so curious about their free downloadable workbooks for girls and their mothers. I can already envision leading my own workshop or working with my own future daughter on self-love.

I love their short films addressing the impact of the media on women’s perception of beauty. This video is so last year, but it’s still really fascinating to see the transformation.

The only issue that still stands is that being perfect is highly rewarded by society whereas emphasis on “real” beauty, so to speak, isn’t. So no matter how hard activists try to fight the media, it’s an uphill battle. There’s no denying that people who are considered more attractive are generally more priviledged and desired than those who aren’t. I hate to sound jaded, but I also want to be realistic. The only optimism I have about beauty campaings such as Dove is that you have to start rewarding authentic appearances and personalities at an early age. There’s no hope for us old fogies! Trust; it’s pretty hard to fight the media when there are so little rewards for being real.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. danielle hodgson
    Mar 02, 2010 @ 08:11:36

    I am doing my disseration using Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.
    I enjoyed reading your blog, and you are right in saying that photoshopping is used in about every media advert or campaign; thus this affects our percieved image of a company- but is this for the better?
    Companies such as Dove that are using corporate social responsibility campaigns are using social media as a tool to boost their reputation. What are your views on this?



    • shesgotplenty
      Mar 04, 2010 @ 11:19:22

      I think businesses are doing what they need to do to survive. I’m no business expert, but I believe a good business is able to track trends in the target population. If there was something that led them to believe that young women and girls are hungering for a more authentic way to embrace their self-image, then Dove’s Campgain for Real Beauty is a valid attempt to boost business. When you ask “is this for the better?”, it would depend on who we’re talking about here. Better for whom, Dove or women? If you’re like me, I tend to perceive businesses with a skeptical eye; most likely there is a manipulative angle somewhere in their campaign. But again, I have to realize that this is what businesses do, persuade consumers to buy their product. However, if there is a way to do it so it enhances rather than detracts from the consumer’s self worth, I think that’s a much better way to go.

      I haven’t actually researched Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty in-depth (so I would be interested in reading your dissertation once it’s complete), but I would like to learn more about what specific messages they are sending their audience, how they are sending them and if it’s effective in affecting one’s perception of what real beauty is (hopefully it becomes a more positive perception!). That’s another thing I enjoy about the Dove campagin; they’re endorsing education, inner-reflection; exploration –all qualities that require the audience to be active thinkers in their consumption of products, not just passively sitting there absorbing messages from a commercial.

      Since I don’t have the time to research as much as I’d want about these campaigns, I’m left with this question: Bottom line, after viewing an ad, am I left feeling shitty about myself or do I feel uplifted, inspired, hopefull, etc. about how I look?

      On a separate note, I read somewhere that Dove had digitally altered women’s bodies to enhance “imperfections” in their body, something of that nature. Something to look into…

      Anyway, hope this answer helps! Let me know if you have anymore questions!


  2. Trackback: “She Looks Familiar…” « she's got plenty

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