Digital Manipulation

The media is a powerful communication tool.

When I say media, I am particularly referring to print, TV, cinematic and electronic media. Print and electronic media images today blur the boundaries between fictional ideas and reality. There is often a sub textual, if not an overt, message that one must resemble or duplicate the images in order to reach our societal ideal of beauty.

Media is manipulative.

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty created this film, Dove Evolution, in order to emphasize just how manipulative the media can be. We constantly look at images of perfect women in magazines, and accept these depictions as reality. We forget that there is a literal team of people who are paid to make these people appear flawless. We forget what happens behind-the-scenes.

This video effectively calls us, as consumers and normal women, back to reality.  Our self-perception is skewed by what I like to call the collective reflection effect. Even though this may not be the most creative title, the collective reflection effect is a thing. Hear me out. Our self-image is skewed by images our brain has stored over days, months and even years of constantly looking at ourselves in the mirror. We’ve seen ourselves at our worst: when we first wake up, through every awkward stage, after sobbing, hard workouts and incredibly stressful days. Our brains form a collaborative image of every reflection a mirror has ever shown us. And it prevents us from seeing ourselves realistically– how the world sees us. We forget that all of these reflections happened behind-the-scenes. 

Dove Evolution puts the entertainment, fashion and advertising industries into perspective. Not only does the media have the power to create spectacles through elaborate production processes, it has the power to hide their work and effort. It ultimately causes us normal women to believe that the model is some kind of super human. And there is something wrong with us for not having the same self-control, discipline and motivation.

This video effectively communicates this message of media’s manipulation by portraying a strong contrast between the bare-faced model and the finished product she became on the billboard.  The billboard aims to convince us that the model embodies that image naturally. The video reveals the truth behind the image by taking on the strategy of transparency.

The video incorporates a set design that is typical of photo shoots with bright lighting that is ideal for retouching and editing. It then allows us to literally watch the transformation of the model from normal woman to retouched perfection by speeding up the process of hair, makeup and digital editing. It reveals the step by step process that goes on in order to beautify an average women. We identify with the woman in the beginning of the video, and then we watch her become the idealized image we all strive to be through the help of her beauty team.

It allows us to realize that the billboard could literally be any average woman. The power of photographic techniques such as airbrushing, editing and filters creates carefully manipulated and artificially developed images out of ordinary women. The woman at the beginning of the video could be any one of us.

This video went viral in a matter of days. It’s simple and the message is clear: don’t believe everything you see. The combination of the length of the video and the positive messages on body-image directed towards women resonated well with our society starving for validation. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, and we don’t believe that we’re good enough because of it.

We are simply not enough. Our bodies aren’t thin enough, our eyes aren’t big enough, our legs aren’t long enough, our lips aren’t pouty enough… It’s this idea that we lack something because we don’t embody the ideal. It’s why we love it when celebrities defy the norm and don’t conform to the Hollywood persona. Like Jennifer Lawrence.

Jennifer Lawrence

Lawrence works to promote a positive body image by committing herself to defying the Hollywood ideal and fighting the pressure to lose weight. Her nonchalant attitude towards the media’s intent focus on her body generates media attention constantly. She is presented as heroic, admirable and truly beautiful from the inside-out.

This news reporting reveals her success in her efforts to promote a positive body image. The media admires and supports her efforts. ABC News is a national and well respected channel and news show with a huge societal following. They are well known and they appeal to almost every age group through their morning and evening show guests– from boybands to political candidates. This news story emphasizes their respect for Lawrence’s efforts to promote healthy body image. The report is biased and presents Lawrence as a brave warrior in the battle against the entertainment and fashion industry, as well as the harsh media.

ABC references an Elle magazine article that featured Lawrence, and thus combines both digital and print media. They quote her several times with powerful statements, “I want to look like a woman. I don’t want to look like a little boy,” presenting her as powerful and confident. Additionally, they prove their point that Hollywood has taken it too far by including a controversial tweet by a Victoria’s Secret Angel before the fashion show with a clear concave stomach and protruding hipbones. Within this context, the Angel looks a bit pretentious and dim-witted. ABC continued on to admirably discuss Melissa McCarthy and Lady Gaga for their efforts to promote positive body image for females.

The report literally forces you to ask yourself if our societal obsession with beauty has indeed gone to far. The desire to fit this skinny mold and conform to the unrealistic standards are putting us at risk. They successfully convey this message by using Jennifer Lawrence as a case study. She is a talented, beautiful and successful actress. She has a wonderful body, and anyone who criticizes her must be crazy. That is the point of this news report. They dare people to defy their claims.

The media’s intent focus on physicality has detrimental effects on our mental and emotional health. The media’s ruthless critique of celebrities emphasizes their unrealistic expectations for perfection from human beings. And in turn, we demand perfection from ourselves, at the expense of our health and happiness.

It’s not worth it. Advertisements are filled with artificially created images. Actresses are made to look perfect by a team of people devoted to constructing an image. Photos are constantly retouched and edited. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t believe everything you see.

And stop comparing yourself. It’s not fair to you. We will always be at a disadvantage when pitted against the power of digital editing and beauty teams.

Let’s all take these videos in, smile at ourselves in the mirror and then have a good laugh because we deserve it. Fight the guilt. Fight the feelings of insignificance. Fight the voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough. Cause you are. You are good enough. I don’t care how corny this sounds. Corny rocks.

Stop inflicting torturous negative thoughts on yourself.

Fake it ’til you make it, or in this case, until you believe it!


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