Monday, October 23, 2006

Beauty is Pain -- But It Doesn't Have to Be

Ever since Dove put photos of real, untouched, unairbrushed women's bodies on their posters a few years ago, I've watched with cautious optimism to see just exactly where their so-called "Campaign for Real Beauty" was going. I have watched other media try and tackle the monsters of our twisted American perception of beauty, and have sighed with disappointment as the attempts fizzled in the face of "Extreme Makeover" and "America's Next Top Model" (two of my favorite shows, I confess). The message usually ends up being diluted back into, "All you chicks really could stand to lose ten pounds, cuz you'd just be so much happier, and so would we."

But Dove has surprised me at every turn. The first was their decision to shift focus from grown women to the self-esteem of the American girl, aged 8 and upward. This moving ad actually appeared during this year's Super Bowl, and has run sporadically since, as the opening volley to help little girls learn to love themselves (as Bridget Jones would say) "just as they are." Later this year, the slightly more alarming, darker interview style ad where high school girls discuss the pressures and uncertainties they feel at the hands of their peers, was a more graphic, grittier display.

Now, YouTube is all abuzz with Dove's latest effort -- targeting females of all ages, called "Evolution" which graphically demonstrates a young woman's transmogrification from very pretty and freshly scrubbed to cover girl material, by virtue of hair, make-up and Photoshopping techniques.

Bravo to Dove for taking on our deeply ingrained, perverted ideas of what beauty means, and let's hope that their fund, which sends counsellors into schools to help coach young girls about more positive body images, keeps rolling along.


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