Thursday, April 18, 2013

You are more/less beautiful than you think

There are two videos making the rounds of the web today and I am having an atypical reaction to both of them.

The first is the Dove campaign video and it shows an "experiment" where some women describe themselves to forensic article and then another woman who doesn't know them but has spent some time with them does the same. The two pictures are hung up side-by-side and the women are brought to view them. They choke up because the one drawn from the stranger's description is supposedly prettier than theirs. 

The video ends with "You are more beautiful than you think."
This video is on my feed everywhere being posted by men and women with "you have to see this" and "this made me cry" so I watched it and... it didn't make me cry. 

First of all, I absolutely believe that society trains women to hate their bodies and never be satisfied no matter how good they look. I see this all the time every where I go. It's in this cartoon. It's in my Facebook feed. It's in the media when celebrities like Jessica Biel get Photoshopped. (Yes, apparently Jessica Biel, as she actually is, isn't pretty enough for Glamour UK magazine. Un-freaking-believable.) 

It's the entire premise behind "Fat Talk Free" Week/Month. It's definitely a premise behind the Dove video and I think the idea that we need to break free from that way of thinking is what has moved so many women.

What has me ambivalent is the underlying hidden messages Dove has sprinkled throughout the video. For example, when one woman describes herself, she says she has a fat, round face. The video is clearly edited so that we are to think this woman is describing herself negatively and I'm pretty sure the woman thinks that too.

But that's only true if you think fat round faces aren't as pretty as thin rectangular faces. I don't think that. I think they both can be pretty and both can be ugly. It kind of depends on the person.

Another women says she has a lot of freckles and again we're supposed to think that she's being hard on herself. But freckles are cute!

And in some of the final images, the women do look sort of deranged in their self-described version, but my first thought was "what a crappy forensic artist" and not "that woman hates herself." (Ha, I bet that wasn't the reaction Dove was going for!) 

Plus, to be honest, in a lot of the side-by-sides, I really didn't see a big difference and I have to wonder if most of the difference was because the artist was instructed to make the second pictures smiling and the first serious, just like dieting programs make the before pictures in black & white with the person not smiling on purpose.

I guess I'm cynical that way.

In the meantime, remember what your mom (or Grandma or some other wise woman in your life) once said to you when you fretted over your looks? If you are pretty on the inside, it shows on the outside. Yeah, I know it's a big cliche. But it's also TRUE.

I guess I think that's a better message than "your face isn't as round as you think" or "you don't have as many freckles as you think" and I wish Dove, which has had some great ad campaigns in the past, had focused this one more in that direction.

Now, what about the other video? It's a parody of the Dove one using men and, I admit it, it made me laugh. But I did actually tear up a bit too.

Really, MacMadame? A parody video made you cry. Yeah, it did. I guess I'm kind of a sappy cynic.

In this video, the guys describe themselves as if they are movie stars when they are ordinary guys. (Their self-described portraits are of Brad Pitt and George Clooney and the like). Then the women describe the same guys as if they are extremely ugly and weird looking (which was funny but kind of mean) and one even mentioned that her assigned guy looks like he SMELLS. (Okay, I laughed at that. Because he did look like he smelled.)

The guys come back to see their side-by-sides and they look very upset that the stranger-described portrait makes them look like an evil dweeb from Lord of the Rings. That's when I started to get uncomfortable.

Now, these guys are clearly actors so I knew they weren't really upset. But they are good actors and the look on their faces kind of got to me a bit. 

I think it shows that people are people and just want to be liked and thought well of by others. So, yeah, I laughed at their self-delusion, but I also felt sorry for them and that made it harder to find the video as funny as everyone else did.

Or maybe it's just that it's a weird week and it's made me overly sensitive.

So, yes, you are more beautiful than you think, but not just because you are hard on yourself but also because there's beauty in everyone even if it's not traditional beauty. Unless you think you look like Brad Pitt. Then you're a dumbass. 

Okay, unless you are Brad Pitt. Then you aren't a dumbass; just kind of scruffy. But beautiful, of course. Because if fat, round-face freckled ladies are beautiful, then I guess Brad Pitt is too.

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