Beauty…and the Beast of Media and Advertising

Beauty. A socially constructed idea that defines little girls (and boys) from a very young age. An idea that makes little girls and boys go running to the mirror to compare each aspect of their physical appearance to the so-called “beautiful” men and women on magazine covers, advertisements and t.v. screens. Unfortunately, young boys and girls are not the only prisoners of this construct. Adults face the same reality, in which society’s standard of beauty is publicly displayed in almost every aspect of life. Although beauty is a socially constructed idea, every individual internalizes beauty in different ways and unfortunately, many people find themselves inadequate to the skinny, dolled-up, blonde haired model that “defines” these standards.

The Dove commercial above, does a unique, but efficient job of advertising awareness of society’s corrupt standards of how women should look. Furthermore, they show the steps that women take to become the ideal image of “beauty,” which includes anorexia, bulimia, etc. Unfortunately, these serious actions can lead to lifelong health affects, thus being why Dove promotes talking to your children (specifically daughters) from an early age, about society’s unrealistic expectations of beauty and the way in which people become imprisoned by the idea that they aren’t beautiful enough. In Eva Cherniavsky’s Keywords Essay on “Body”, she writes “But mass culture also circulates bodies promiscuously; its technologies and commercial logic ensure the production of desirable body images made available to the widest market.” We see this in the Dove commercial which specifically points out moments that advertising and commercial logic promote models– skinny, dolled-up, etc–as the desirable image of beauty. Even further, I see this everyday in my personal life when I’m reading a magazine or watching commercials on t.v. We are constantly told what body images are “beautiful” and “desirable.”

In relation to the Dove commercial and to Cherniavsky’s Keywords Essay on “Body,” The Bluest Eye sheds light on the idea of beauty and the way in which it shapes young girls lives. A specific part of the novel in which readers see the young girls feed into society’s standard of beauty is when Pecola is handed the Shirley Temple glass. Pecola and Frieda are sitting there discussing how beautiful Shirley’s features are, while Claudia tells the reader how she is confused by the desirability of both Shirley’s appearance and dolls in general. Claudia says of the dolls:

“I had only one desire: to dismember it. To see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me. Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs—all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. The Bluest Eye “Here,” they said, “this is beautiful, and if you are on this day ‘worthy’ you may have it.” I fingered the face, wondering at the single-stroke eyebrows; picked at the pearly teeth stuck like two piano keys between red bowline lips. Traced the turned-up nose, poked the glassy blue eyeballs, twisted the yellow hair. I could not love it. But I could examine it to see what it was that all the world said was lovable” (pg.20).

Here in the text, Toni Morrison is showing how young girls as well as society, are trapped in a singular idea of beauty. Although Claudia doesn’t find it desirable, both Pecola and Frieda show many similar reactions to the dolls as women do to models today. As the Dove Commercial states, it is important to talk to young girls about the concept of beauty and body image before they are corrupted by idea “I’m not pretty or skinny enough.”

6 thoughts on “Beauty…and the Beast of Media and Advertising”

  1. This advertisement is another great example of how affective the social learning theory can be in explaining why so many girls growing up have self-esteem issues, body image issues, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, etc. Children are the most influenced and easily-persuaded demographic, as they don’t know any better than to believe what they see. Therefore, the impact of such societal beauty pressures on young girls has been shown to result in great negative effects on the child during adolescent and teenage years. These issues can even continue into adulthood. It’s crazy that the media is aware of such effects, yet the world is so controlled by money that they would rather prosper financially than help girls in growing up without such high expectations in how they look.

  2. The media has a big impact on the way that both girls and boys feel they are expected to look in order to be beautiful and have a purpose. The media of the Shirley Temple cup and the Mary Jane candies defined what Pecola thought was beautiful, and what she strives to have. She desired the blue eyes, but traits like that are impossible to attain. Similarly, it is nearly impossible to be just like the girls in the magazines and on TV because even they are not real. They are photo shopped. We are living in a world of fake and unattainable beauty standards. I like that Dove created this commercial to show that we should teach girls at a young age to not feel they need to live up to these high standards, however, society will push them into these standards no matter what, therefore I think the real change needs to start in the media.

  3. This was a very powerful and intriguing video/post. I have always wondered, how does society determine what is considered “pretty” or “sexy” for a woman? Why do women feel the need to be subjected to an adjective? The way society decides this is, as you said “corrupt”. Everywhere you go, and everywhere you look, advertisements set these high standards of women for what they have to do to be considered “beautiful”. It is really disheartening to see how these made-up idealistic standards affect so many of us. Women need to embrace the body they were given, rather than alter it.

  4. This was a very jarring yet effective commercial and you make a great point about society’s singular idea of beauty. Although this commerical does a great job, it is interesting how much it validates whiteness as a standard of beauty through the lack of diverse representations. This is the same concept Claudia explores with her critique of the standard of beauty the doll offers. I think parents do not only talk to girls about beauty before the media does, but also discuss race and how marginalized groups have even more obstacles to overcome in terms of conforming to a societal standard of beauty.

  5. This is such an important topic and the idea of expectations of beauty in society are constantly being reinforced. I did not know that Dove had started that campaign challenging those norms which I find very inspiring. This also connects to the constant need to fit in with one’s appearance which we also see in the American Girl stories. Both Addie and Kit feel left out and ashamed that they cannot afford the same expensive dresses as their friends. In the end the girls learn lessons about being grateful for the things they have but there is still that social stigma pushing them to try to fit in.

  6. I really liked how you talked about how the social media not only affects girls, but also boys. Because boys are supposed to be “emotionless”, I believe that many boys have a hard time with comparing themselves to others, and feel like they have to keep this bottled up inside. It breaks my heart that many people still think that boys are weak if they show emotions.

Leave a Reply