Friday, February 23, 2018

She is BEAT

This was something I wrote a good while ago, but is resonating with something I've seen a few times recently ...

The human desire for self-decoration isn't always a product of the Horrible Beauty Industry duping us poor, stupid women into thinking we're not pretty enough. It goes back as far as humanity itself, and I happen to be one of those humans (it ain't just women) who like "dressing up" and I also like to vary what that means in unexpected ways. This is FUN for me.
The underlying presumption of the whole "you don't need makeup" makes my choices about the viewer - generally about a male viewer, who thinks he can do me a favor by relieving me of my efforts to please. Playing with makeup and costume pleases ME.

The something I have seen recently is a makeup ad, one I am not going to link because I'm not a shill, featuring a beautiful young woman made up in different ways, for several occasions. There is a narrative track, presumed to be her voice, talking about how she makes her makeup support her identities. It's a wonderful departure from closeups of pneumatic lips, giggling models, the oft-evoked aspirationalism of cosmetic marketing - not by forgoing aspirations, but by framing them in an individual's identity. She has curled hair, straight hair, dramatic eyes, or a lighter touch with her brushes - and her final message is, cosmetics are my TOOLS.

She is not subject to them, they are subject to her. She uses makeup to paint the picture she sees, of herself, to evoke moods, to draw her idea of beauty.

This is a model, of course. She's not in need of remediation. But the message of an ad always hopes viewers will identify with the star of the ad - and, in this one, we're asked to identify with a person, and to see that her tools are good ones. The line to "aspire to be This Beautiful" - to fixed body image or features or hair, to ideals themselves - is no longer direct. It's there; you can't market cosmetics without the promise of Beauty. But the arrow at the end of the line now points to a more flexible form of beauty, AND to the fact that we're in charge of anything a mascara or a lip gloss or a ceramic flat-iron may have to offer. We're the ones who DO the beauty, in the end.

This ad struck me the first time I saw it, and it's struck me the same way again. So, clearly, it works. Someone in some ad agency or marketing realized that we can make *money* exploiting themes that seem less exploitive.

And, you know what? I am good with that. I don't recall what company the ads are for, and it most likely won't bring me to their products in itself, but I *do* applaud, even if quietly, in this simple little backwater on Teh Intarwebs, the acknowledgement that, y'know, not all beauty products speak to the inherent ugliness of our creatureliness of humanity, which we must cover up or correct for.

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