Sunday, October 19, 2008

Perfect People

Val Danculovich
Film 115
Perfect People

When people say "perfect people," I think of flawless skin, shiny hair, great bodies, and striking eyes.  In this day, if you ask a hundred people if they would like to be "perfect," I'll bet at least 80% would say "yes."  This is partly seen in the numbers of people having cosmetic surgery, liposuction, and botox.  Patients can ask to have Jennifer Aniston's nose, Anjelina Jolie's lips, and Jennifer Lopez's bottom.  The familiarity the consumer has with these well-known people makes them more likely to imitate their favorite star.  The captivation with attaining perfection can also be seen in the fascination with programs such as "Dr. 90210," "America's Next Top Model," and "Extreme Makeover."  The ad I chose to talk about is a Loreal advertisement for lip gloss using actress Scarlett Johansson as the model.  All the colors of the ad are coordinated to complement the appearance of this very light-skinned, light-haired woman.  The ad agencies deliberately use images of famous people whom many consider to be "perfect people" to sell their product.  In fact, the message of this ad is "You can be as beautiful and fashionable as Scarlett Johansson if you just use our lip gloss."

When I found this ad in Entertainment Weekly, I thought to myself, "What a great ad."  There is an attractive, well-known woman who is selling a well-known brand of make-up.  The first thing that grabs your attention in the photo is Scarlett's plump, pink lips.  Right below this image is the wording "infallible 6 hour lip gloss."  From there, your eyes are drawn to the image of 4 packages of different colored lip gloss (although all colors are in the same hue as Scarlett's lips).  The ad also says "In 16 infallible shades," letting you know that in case you're not "pink," there is probably another shade made just for you.  The ad also promises that the beauty can be achieved in one easy step and can be relied upon to last six hours.  Scarlett's image shows perfect, unblemished skin, beautiful, expressive eyes and sleek, blond hair with no roots showing.  Perfection.  Although the picture shows Scarlett's hand under her chin, you don't reall notice it at first because the hand and fingernails are colorless so they don't detract from the plump lips.  In addition to the use of color and beauty, the ad also has Scarlett's gaze directed at the viewer/reader as if to engage the viewer and establish a personal connection. "You, too, can be as beautiful as me."

Loreal isn't, of course, the only company using beautiful, popular actresses to sell their make-up.  Another ad in the same magazine markets HIP (High Intensity Pigments) lip gloss, using Milla Jojovich in the ad.  The similarities between these two ads are striking.  Each uses a beautiful, popular actress as the focus of the ad.  Each is marketing lip gloss and splashes the colors across the body of the ads.  Each actress/model has conspicuous, glossy lips, perfect skin and hair, and each has placed a colorless hand near their face.  The HIP ad uses different colors and hues which may appeal to a darker haired consumer or someone who can identify more closely with this dark haired actress.  In the end, however, the focus of the ad is beauty and perfection with a suggestion that the lip gloss can make you as beautiful and perfect as these actresses/models.

In the 21st century, people's perception of perfection has been relegated to the image of flawless skin, beautiful hair, and large, expressive eyes.  At the same time, our society is getting mixed messages of perfection.  A good example is on the "Tyra Show" where model Tyra Banks tries really hard to convince her audience that it's okay to be "normal" by parading out, what she describes as usual, normal, everyday women.  The only problem is that, aside from not being size 0, they share little with the "normal" women watching the show, waiting to be convinced that they are beautiful.  These women are a little curvier than the stick thin models in the magazine ads however they are still very beautiful and sport perfect hair and make-up; there is never anyone who looks like your neighbor or co-worker.  Young girls are also preached to about body image and about the importance of being a healthy weight and yet strong, professional female athletes are rarely held up as role models.  Instead, the magazines are littered with pictures of anorexic looking Kate Moss, Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton. Advertising executives are simply reflecting what our society has decided is important. Condoleezza Rice, although powerful and intelligent, isn't regarded as beautiful or perfect.  So, her image isn't used to sell beauty.  Beautiful movie stars, however, are people we admire and wish we could be like.  It is their image that many people want to copy and aspire to.  The Loreal and HIP ads do just that.  They tantalize us with the suggestion that we can also be "perfect."

TA: K. Brandt 

No comments: