My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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this video is important

Please watch this video. It is a depiction of how beauty is crafted for print. It’s made as part of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Below are the before/after images (tx to BoingBoing).

I will never forget the first time that i did a magazine shoot. It was for a glossy girls magazine and they dyed, curled, teased, plucked, shoved, stretched, and pinned me into a perfect static place. And then they airbrushed me to normalcy cuz i refused to cut off my raver neckless and my hair was purple. (Business mag shoots have always been a bit more civil.) During a bathroom break, i wandered the halls and found a Playboy shoot where i saw how unhappy the model was trying to sit perfectly still as wind was blown on her to keep her nipples perky. The plastic face looked perfect but her eyes showed how miserable she was.

This video depicts that process in the most compelling way i’ve ever seen. I’m not saying makeup is bad, but i think that it’s critical to understand what we’re modeling ourselves after. Girl power is a crafted narrative meant to make us consume. The images of perfection we’re sold are a fabrication. Most of us know this at some level, but do we really get it?

I realize i don’t own the copyright on this commercial but i think that it is too culturally important to stay locked down. Please watch it.

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25 comments to this video is important

  • This is a v interesting video, and as you assert important for woman kind. I initially was going to write ‘but this doesn’t affect me as a boy’ — but then as I write this I realised I’m part of the ‘judging crowd’ as to what beauty is and isn’t. Food for thought.

    On a technical leve, I do think it’s interesting that not only have Dove done everything they can to make her look ‘pretty’ they’ve also done as much as they can to make her look, well, ‘less pretty’.

    I did some flicking back and forth on the initial opening shots, and the first shots of her getting made up… I think the first shots of her getting made up is how this model ‘really looks’ and they’ve used some interesting techniques to make her look ‘not so good’ (shall we say) in the opening cuts.

    She holds her head at an artificial and unflatering angle and she looks like she has been told to keep her eyes more open/wider than ususal.

    (The rest of the film is still striking, of course)

    Why am I bringing this up? Well it’s interesting that Dove has engineered her to look _worse_ to begin with for the sake of the film to enhance the overall effect. Sure, it doesn’t detract from the message, but it’s interesting that Dove decided to do this nonetheless.

    I once did a one-off child modeling gig when I was an early teen, and I’m glad my parents didn’t decide to sign me up to an agency. Even at the age of 13 it felt artificial and fake and gave me somewhat of a similar perspective as you, dannah.

    great post

  • I love articles and videos that show exactly what these women really look like before and after the makeup, creative camera angles, and Photoshop work. It helps us put our sometimes warped view of what we “should” look like back into a perspective based on reality.

    Jamie Lee Curtis did a great piece back in 2002: http://www.lhj.com/lhj/story.jhtml?storyid=/templatedata/lhj/story/data/jamieleecurtistruethighs_08212002.xml

    Here is another one: http://demo.fb.se/e/girlpower/retouch/retouch/index.html

  • I’m curious why they would even bother putting makeup on the model to begin with. Obviously the photo can be airbrushed and photoshopped endlessly afterwards, so why bother with the makeup beforehand?

    And yes… as an early-twenties male, I realize I’m part of the crowd responsible for judging what “beauty” is. To me, that final product isn’t “beauty” at all — it’s fake. There’s a difference between someone who’s beautiful after spending an hour putting on makeup, and someone who’s beautiful five seconds after waking up in the morning.

  • You do the makeup first because it’s faster and looks better than fixing everything in Photoshop later. I once spent several weeks removing the moles from a model in a set of photographs. Makeup would have been much more efficient (hey, live and learn). You have the ability to go back and touch up the details in editing if needed, but the big problems only have to be handled once with the makeup brush.

    Anyone else think it’s funny that the “magazine beauty is fake” message comes courtesy of a another company trying to sell us something?

  • I would like to extend an invitation to you to join in on a collective blogging section of our upcoming winter issue of Reconstruction. The issue is the “Theories/Practices of Blogging.” In addition to the special section of posts on blogging there will be about a dozen essays on blogging.

    The deadline is October 27th.

    Our intent in this section of the issue will be to collect a wide range of bloggers and link up to their statements in regards to why they blog (something many of us are asked) and any statement they have on the theories/practices of blogging.

    If you already have a post on this you can feel free to use it, or, if you are interested, you can submit a new one.

    We will link to each statement from the issue at our site, with the intent of creating a hyperlinked list of statements on blogging that can serve as an introduction to blogging (or an expansion of knowledge for those already blogging).

    If you are interested please contact me at mdbento @ gmail.com

  • I picked up a book on Photoshop awhile back and I remember being rather surprised how much of the book was devoted to completely faking “beauty”.

  • I find the model way more attractive without the makeup, and that’s not lip service. Even from an evolutionary perspective, the unique “blemishes” are differentiators that are lost, along with their lure, when they are hidden as the face is translated into a standard template of “beauty”.

    Awesome video.

  • This is excellent and definitely something I will be sharing with the junior high classes that I teach. For someething similar, check this link out:

    http://www.i-am-bored.com/bored_link.cfm?link_id=14537

  • J

    I read this sentence as:

    “Girl power is a crafted narrative meant to make us costume.”

    And it seemed apt.

  • I am currently studying Body Politics and this was a great example to illuminate how the beauty standard society makes women try to achieve is one that can’t even be achieved by a modeling agency that has the pick of the “most beautiful” women. Even those that are naturally attractive are enhanced and tweaked to make that ideal even higher, and thus, harder for the average woman to obtain. Thank you for sharing this. It is really important for this to reach women, and for women to realize that the standard set for them is one that defies reality.

  • A reality check, indeed. Thanks so much for posting it.

  • A stunning video indeed. Makes one think of the skewed perception we have of all that we see on media.

    But you have to see a Miss Celania blog post “Real Beauty” for some good commentary on the campaign. It has a healthy look at the campaign itself which is undoubtedly successful.

  • Steven

    While i sympathize with the overall message and your views and experiences with the mass media, i find myself at odds with the ironic fact that at the end of it all, this “Campaign for Real Beauty” is really just a form of brand promotion–a brand of beauty products.

    Maybe it’s great that they’re associating themselves with a sociall-conscious cause. Yet how i look at it, it’s a marketing campaign that targets women who don’t fit the western social ideal of female beauty–“plus-sized” women, disfigured women, etc. After all, what does Dove have to gain from all this?

  • thx for the heads up; i responded on my blog.
    other similar links:
    http://www.120seconds.com/features/011207_naked/011207_naked.html%5D-real people take off their clothes
    http://homepage.mac.com/gapodaca/digital/blonde/blonde1.html- airbrushing extreme- a photog reveals his tricks

  • danah: Thanks for posting this; I think the video is very powerful and very important for demonstrating just how very constructed ‘beauty’ (or at least covergirl beauty) actually is in the media.

    Steven: Personally, I think marketing which ties into socially-responsible causes and ideas (a realm in which healthy body-image for young people definitely falls) is a good thing. Of course, if videos like this appear outside of a marketing context, even better!

  • This is wonderful.

    AND

    I think it’s great Dove is doing this. For a couple reasons, really.

    First, yes, it’s selling a product BUT its selling to a market that demands and uses Dove because it’s a good product and their mothers used and trusted Dove. I think it’s great that Dove is using their big, multigenerationally trusted brand name to show women don’t need to be colored and photoshopped to be pretty.

    Second, they use women in their commercials that aren’t overly made up. They’re honest that yes, we’re selling this product but we’re not selling you the hype the rest of the industry is.

    To me, that’s priceless.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for posting this. I used this for my own blog (in German) combining it with an other video in which a woman changes (but in a nicer way):
    Zueri-Berlin empfiehlt: Die Verwandlung

    Thanks for your interesting posts in general that have inspired me for many years in many different ways (it began with your Ani lyrics page, I was amazed by your posts about (queer) identity issues and slowly got interested in social software and blogging – I am now beginning to write my master thesis about the influence of blogs on politics).

  • Let’s take another point of view. Dove here is exactly achieving what they want, conquer market shares. The thing I found amazing is that everyone is diving into the “so cool revealing video”. First it is not new this kind of videos. But the issue is not really here.

    Dove is basically saying “look how companies are *fabricating* an image of beauty. We will show you what is *real* beauty.”

    Ooooh wait, wait, you are telling me that there is a real beauty? What are the criterias for this real beauty? What are the limits of fabrications, when I put beautiful clothes that hides some parts of my body or shows others, Am I fabricating an image?

    Basically with this video, Dove is fabricating another dream relying on the idea of virtue of people. This is another fabrication of exactly the same kind that the ones they are supposedly pointing out. They don’t fight for the benefits of North American women, they do it for market shares.

    Fabrication is part of our life. When we read a poem, it is all about fabrication, about illusions, etc. So why is that different? Because a poem is not here to abuse your feelings, emotions for buying things.

    The problem with maked up ladies on posters is NOT the fact that they are fake, but the fact they use a certain image of beauty in certain part of the world to SELL THINGs. The abuse is here. And Dove is doing exactly the same.

    This video for me is not wise, it is as dangerous, even more dangerous, because it relies on the idea of a moral virtue.

  • Rayne

    I wonder whether a survey recording viewer sentiments might not be worthwhile…? Based on feedback about this video in several locations across the internet (and I thank you, danah, for posting this video elsewhere), I have the impression there are some biases about the video.

    Personally, I think this is a great video and have already shared it with my tweenage daughter. We are having on-going dialogue about self-esteem and body image, about values and expectations (personal, familial, social). This is a great piece on which to open more discussion, and some of it won’t even discuss our culture’s obsession with feminine physical perfection.

    How much of what we see is manipulated, if even ads for daily usage products are so highly processed? What is real beauty? At what point are we being controlled by on-board and wet-wired archetypal memetics buried in our genes, to the point where we not only seek predetermined codified beauty, but create it on demand? (Remember that much of what humans identify as beauty is really genetic programming; certain dimensional relationships in physical attributes and symmetry indicate health and genetic viability, read at subconcious and unconscious levels.) Animals recognize and appreciate traits, some being perceived markers of health and fitness; would we be different than them, save for our larger ability to manipulate appearance?

    Would a survey indicate a bias against the ad by a particular gender for this reason? Would they feel gamed unconsciously?

    Thanks again, danah. Good food for thought.

  • I’d like to introduce another angle to this conversation, which is to broaden the discussion to include the relationship between beauty standards, whiteness, colonization. Actually I don’t have to write a thing, please just check out this amazing short film called Slip of the Tongue: http://www.archive.org/details/youth_media_2005_Slip_of_the_Tongue

  • There’s this wonderful artist, Jessica Lagunas (well, she’s my wife…), that also works with the theme of make-up and beauty “standards”. She has a series of videos where she applies make-up for one or 2 hrs continuosly. http://rj-studio.com/jessica/
    Sorry about the plug, but we saw the ad a couple of days ago and also think it’s great. And important for everybody to see!

    And that “Slip of the Tongue” film, wow! I have to see it again to try to catch everything he says… but WOW!

  • I really do wonder why they even bothered with a model at all by the amount of ‘shopping that went on after the fact. Surely they could just write an algorithm to generate the image they want by now – maybe that’s not far off – or do they still need that core of reality behind the paint – that inner humanity to make it work…

    I can see a number of mashups coming out of this – wonder what it’d look like in reverse…

  • I know I’m late to this conversation (procrastinating from finishing the 7 million, okay just feels like million but is really 7, CHI reviews I have to finish) but I wanted to concur with danah on the magazine photo shoot thing. My first glossy women’s magazine profile photo shoot was one of the most depressing and alienating experiences of my life, unfortunately they didn’t provide wardrobe and threw everything out of my closet deeming it all not feminine enough and went out and bought me a clingy, flowered, scoop-neck shirt to wear. Then they talked about how problematic I was to shoot right in front of me and then in the actual profile photo they really couldn’t airbrush away the look of insecurity and self-doubt in my face. I mean, you can totally see how miserable I am in the photo. (I would compare this by the way with a photo shoot I had for an art magazine, in which they didn’t do any hair or makeup or wardrobe for me, and the photographer just talked to me about my work and the photos turned out unbelievable because I actually felt good and interesting.)

    I also wanted to comment on one of the comments.

    “And yes… as an early-twenties male, I realize I’m part of the crowd responsible for judging what “beauty” is. To me, that final product isn’t “beauty” at all — it’s fake. There’s a difference between someone who’s beautiful after spending an hour putting on makeup, and someone who’s beautiful five seconds after waking up in the morning.”

    I just want to say that I don’t really find this a comforting statement at all. Someone who’s beautiful to basic male standards five second after waking up is 1) still being beautiful to male standards and 2) very lucky indeed. I don’t know, just something about the idea that I should have to be beautiful five seconds after waking up rubs me the wrong way. I’ve been up for about an hour now, still unshowered and working from bed with my laptop, glasses on instead of contacts, hair tangled, and whatnot, and I’m really not sure anyone would say “wow, congratulations, you are one of of the REALLY beautiful women who doesn’t NEED photoshop to look beautiful!” Like, I think the point is supposed to be you don’t need to be “Beautiful” or whatever to feel good about yourself. I mean most people aren’t “beautiful gorgeous” with or without an hour of help, and can we please worry about something else than beauty?

    Anyway back to CHI, thanks for the chance to vent. 🙂

  • Jeanne

    Wow, it’s seriously disturbing, like one of those dark future movies. What is that music plaiyng in the background, it sounds familiar.