Thursday, 5 April 2007

On Beauty

Sorry to go all video-crazy, but I feel these are worth sharing.

Some of you may have heard of Dove's Real Beauty Campaign. It has gathered quite some momentum online, having been viewed on YouTube millions of times, and distributed through the blogosphere. This is the ad:

What do you think? It's generated a huge amount of feedback worldwide.

Now compare it to this advert:

Although I don't speak Hindi, I know exactly what the message is: you only matter if you are beautiful, and you're only beautiful if you are not dark. (As an aside, the "dark" woman in the advert starts off being far lighter than most Indian people.) And although the advert is undeniably sexist, women are not the only target (click link to view.)

So what do you think of those last two? Compared to the first one? What a world of contrast.

Now here is the catch: all three advertisements are made by the same company (Unilever.) Dove and Fair and Lovely are products of the same people. Dove's "Self-Esteem Fund" and "Campaign for Real Beauty" are made by the same company who make "Fair and Lovely" skin lightener, and who explicitly say brown is ugly.

"No wonder our perceptions of beauty are distorted."

Chew on that for a while. I don't know that there is a single take-home message here, but two stick out to me:

1) Always be skeptical of advertisements.
2) It is possible to do good whilst also doing bad, and in fact most of the good done in the world is done by people who are also doing a lot of bad. Purity does not exist.

I would also like to point out that these adverts were uploaded to YouTube by the producers of the adverts themselves, suggesting they feel it is appropriate to reach as wide an audience as possible with the "brown is ugly" message.

Before leaving you, I would like to share this joyful gem, completely unrelated to the rest of the post, but also from India.

Hat tip to Sita for the last video. It has brought tears to my eyes with laughter more than once.


earthchick said...

psst - video #3 doesn't work as an embedded video

I really like the Dove video - hadn't seen it before. [Of course I'm skeptical of any advertising, as its agenda is usually self-promotional - Dove's message certainly is that they promote natural beauty versus artificial - and how do they propose you get natural beauty? By washing with their product. Right.]

Sita said...

In their defence, Unilever have never claimed to have morals. Their aim is to sell, and their marketing achieves that.. However brutal.
I still admit to being shocked by the blatant meanness of those adverts though. If you understood the dialogue you'd know why.. The woman behind the desk who turns the man and his daughter away actually says something like 'with a complexion like that, there's no hope for her ever being beautiful'.