Friday, March 23, 2007

Real Beauty

I think that most folks have caught on that Dove is trying to do something, although it is not entirely clear what, with their real beauty campaign. I say not entirely clear because they seem to want to redefine beauty but never actually say what they want it to be.

Virginia Postrel has an interesting take on the campaign. Beauty, according to Postrel and the researchers she draws on, is not some ephemeral feel good attribution that we randomly assign to things that we like. Beauty is quite measurable, always has been and likely always will. We can no more say Halle Berry is ugly than we can say Ugly Betty is, well, beautiful. We recognize in other areas of life that the genetic lottery is unfair. I don't feel bad that I'm not Wayne Gretzky when I play hockey and nor should I. It would be ridiculous to have a campaign to redefine greatness in hockey, so why isn't it also ridiculous to do so with beauty?

This, of course, will not be very popular with those who join Facebook groups called Authentic Beauty or the thousands of comments left by young women struggling with body image on YouTube. Still, I wonder if the answer to body image problems is not to redefine beauty (and make money doing it as Dove is) but to celebrate other attributes less tied to the genetic lottery. I believe Dove is trying to have its cake and eat it to by redefining physical beauty using non-physical characteristics. This flies in the face of the fact that very few people are really physically beautiful yet we still know them when we see them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ideals of beauty have shifted over time. I suppose there is a sense of balance or harmony that has been constant ---- but in terms of body weight, just look at a Rubens painting, or (oh my) the very sexy "Venus of Willendorf" (from over 22000 years BC). These things are culturally determined, speaking to our desires for.... whatever is hot in that era (fertility, glamour, elitism, comfort...)

Some of the gaunt hotties of today would be seen as peasant waifs in bygone days.

I think Dove's agenda is simply that most people don't look like super-models, so they can sell more soap and face cream if they use models that people can identify with in their ads. Smell the money.

If we see more diversity in the media, that's all to the good.

Blair, I enjoyed our talking and projecting and eating yesterday.

5:51 p.m., March 27, 2007  

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