Friday, 6 April 2012

Doll Eyes by Lancome - the first time a mascara has made me angry

This is something of a departure for me, on this blog at least, but I saw something in a magazine yesterday that made me angry. It may have been written about elsewhere but a quick Google search yielded nothing.
This blog is supposed to be about my writing, and this post doesn't sit well with that, but there is enough of a cross over with one of the central themes of Sunliner that I could justify the post to myself. What theme am I talking about? Well, a reader asked me the other day what I thought the message of the book was. My reply was this, the message is contained in something Rachel says to Curtis:

"This kind of corruption rots away at you, I saw it at home. You make little concessions because they appeal to some thing inside youthat you should be fighting rather than nurturing. You give the devil some little thing and before you know it he's taken more, and more until you've given everything and the devil owns you."

It's a bit of an overdone paragraph and probably a touch hokey but it's one I like. The notion of zero tolerance is a strong and appealing one in many ways. It's certainly something that politicians fall back on from time to time, often with results that ignore humanity in favour of vote grabbing headlines. Despite the negative aspects of it as a political policy I think it does have a personal appeal. It's like giving something up for Lent: simple, decisive and satisfying if you manage to stick to it.

So why am I talking about zero tolerance here? I'm a firm opponent of censorship but fall into that muddy liberal mire of also believing that the media can have an adverse influence on society by perpetuating negative stereotypes or pushing certain agendas. In recent years, for instance, there has been a definite focus on the influence of the fashion industry on young women, particularly around body image and anorexia. I don't believe in state sanctioned censorship, but I do believe that in a consumer society we, as the customers of the companies that produce the things we consume, can and should complain when those companies overstep the mark.
And boy have Lancome overstepped the mark.

The advert I saw wasn't one for discussion in that debate though, it was an ad for mascara. Here it is.

What is offensive about it is not just the advert but the marketing concept behind the product itself. It's called Doll Eyes and it's designed to make a woman's eye lashes look like those of a doll. Not longer or fuller or lusher but more doll-like.
Why am I appalled by that? Because it suggests that natural isn't good enough. That fake is better. That women should hide their natural beauty with layers of plastic rather than let it shine through. Most of all it suggests that there is one standard for what is beautiful and that standard is Barbie.

The Lancome publicity machine has in fact gone one step further and is running a game on the company's Facebook page allowing women to create virtual dolls of themselves. Nice, huh?

This notion of the superiority of falsehood isn't one that I find abhorrent only when attached to feminine beauty, it's one I dislike full stop. It seems to me to be dehumanising wherever you apply it and the women in the add certainly bear more than a passing resemblance to The Stepford Wives with their perfect plastic faces and their empty plastic eyes.
Is this mascara the thin end of the wedge then in driving into our brains the concept that fake beats real? Sadly not, its probably towards the thicker end, but it does seem to me to be something that we, as humans, should oppose. Because we're not dolls, we're better than that. More beautiful, more real and more alive.

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  1. This seems like a weird place to draw the line when it comes to beauty advertising. For me, makeup is art. Sometimes it's about looking a little bit better but still natural. Other times you want to pull out an all-out fantasy. It's no different to me than clothing or other self-expression. I would see a problem if this ad was saying that everyone should have specifically shaped eyes or some other impossible ideal, but it's just about thick lashes in this case.

    I love it that you're a man who is standing up against this kind of media crap, but there are a lot of worse examples you could have tackled. I personally find the bullshit marketing around food products (especially in America) to be the worst of the worst. Do you guys have those ads claiming that high-fructose corn syrup is the same to your body as regular sugar? That one is a blatant lie and yet not regulated at all!

    1. I take your point on board and accept that I'm very late to this debate. I agree that fantasy is an important (and valid) part of fashion and of life, but for people to fantasise that they're dolls seems wrong to me. The advert encourages women to think of themselves as toys, as things that can be played with and possessed.