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October 16, 2006

Beauty Standards

From model to billboard in 60 seconds. You've got to click the link -- it's an extraordinary clip. Weirdly, though, this video -- where a plain model is heavily made-up, lighted, and digitally altered to become a stunningly beautiful billboard creature -- almost democratizes the standards of beauty by showing how anyone could become a superstar in print, and how false and superficial the ending "product" is. More pernicious, at least to my eyes, are movies and television, which rely on some of the same trickery, but mainly "cheat" by hiring outliers on the beauty scale and then placing them in shows and scenes that retain the atmospherics of normality. By skimming actresses from the 99.999th percentile of attractiveness and then using them in apparent representations of reality, they create an ideal and expectation that, while theoretically more achievable than the photoshopped model from the video, is actually far less realizable.

October 16, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

"More pernicious, at least to my eyes, are movies and television"

Britain leads the world in the cinema of normal looking people.

Everyone else seems to like casting beautiful people in their dreams.

Posted by: Petey | Oct 16, 2006 12:04:39 PM

I don't think the model is all that plain. To my eyes, she's fairly pretty, though not a grand natural beauty. But the combo of bedhead and the early bad lighting, plus the static pose, does her no favours. I think that most people dealing with her when she had moderately tidy hair and she was actually talking or showing some expression in her face would rate her as attractive. It's just more effective for the piece if a naturally pretty girl is made to look as bad as possible before makeup and Photoshop.

Too bad the Photoshop section flies by so fast. I really wanted to see more of the adjustments.

Posted by: Mary | Oct 16, 2006 12:23:00 PM

And it's gotten distinctly worse in the past 30 years. When I watch shows that were popular during my own childhood in the '70s, there are certainly a lot of beautiful people, but at least not everyone had the same teeth and absolutely seamless faces. Women were allowed to have boobs of different sizes and shapes. It's not just that these people are on the upper scale of attractiveness. They're on the upper scale of attractiveness and then undergo extensive surgery to improve on that.

Posted by: Magenta | Oct 16, 2006 12:36:59 PM

And it's gotten distinctly worse in the past 30 years. When I watch shows that were popular during my own childhood in the '70s, there are certainly a lot of beautiful people, but at least not everyone had the same teeth and absolutely seamless faces. Women were allowed to have boobs of different sizes and shapes. It's not just that these people are on the upper scale of attractiveness. They're on the upper scale of attractiveness and then undergo extensive surgery to improve on that.

Posted by: Magenta | Oct 16, 2006 12:38:32 PM

Here's a Swedish government site showing how a naturally pretty 14 year old can be touched up to meet current aesthetic standards.

Greg's Digital Archive

How she gets to look like a replicant.

A professional site that includes before and after shots in the portfolio (link on left)

Posted by: Mary | Oct 16, 2006 12:51:59 PM

And a cornucopia of celebrity retouchings

Posted by: Mary | Oct 16, 2006 12:56:24 PM

This is done for one reason and that is they sell more products, period!

Now the question is do you accept this influence by the commercial interests as societal evolution or do you have a tendency to regulate this with a restrictive big government solution?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 16, 2006 1:00:15 PM

This is an old tactic, just the technology has changed. Hollywood has historically reshaped, recreated the physical appearance of aspiring actresses - catch the classic makeover scenes in "A Star is Born". There are always dozens of nearly identical women, often low on talent pushed out by the industry every year.
Have you noticed how few of them maintain any kind of long term career? The assorted blonde TV teens will be soon forgotten once their shows are cancelled.

Posted by: CParis | Oct 16, 2006 1:07:53 PM

I just watched a movie from 1979 last night. While the 2 leads were attractive, everyone else looked normal.

I was thinking how even the 'doomed best friend' looks like a goddess in today's flicks.

When we rewatched the original Superman with Chris Reeve, we were struck by the fact that Margot Kidder is not drop dead gorgeous, nor is anyone else in the flick except Chris Reeve.

20-30 years and the world of American film is dramatically different.

Posted by: Caren | Oct 16, 2006 1:25:51 PM

An ta tink yu'd wake up screamin & pukin irl... well byz, thets an ay oopener

Posted by: by th noof | Oct 16, 2006 1:36:45 PM

By skimming actresses from the 99.999th percentile of attractiveness and then using them in apparent representations of reality

Didn't you mention at one point that your friends who know Natalie Portman in real life say she doesn't stand out in a crowd?

Posted by: Allen K. | Oct 16, 2006 1:49:42 PM

"Now the question is do you accept this...as societal evolution or do you have a tendency to regulate this with a restrictive big government solution?

Can you say straw man? Who is saying that this should be regulated? And how would that be achieved?

Besides, do conservatives see greater tolerance for gay people a societal evolution? How 'bout greater access to abortion? Gangsta Rap? Or do they have a tendency to want to regulate these things with restrictive big government solutions?

Hoist, petard, etc...

Posted by: DMonteith | Oct 16, 2006 1:52:17 PM

Should be: ...tolerance for gay people "as" societal evolution...

Posted by: DMonteith | Oct 16, 2006 1:55:26 PM

What I really like are the porn scenes where the dowdy secretary just lets her hair down, removes her glasses and becomes teh HOT! Um, what were we talking about?

Oh, right; the Dove clip is cool and thought provoking, and pomo and all, but is still just trying to sell soap. And it's working. Here we are raising their brand awareness just like they planned.

Posted by: John I | Oct 16, 2006 1:56:34 PM

...the Dove clip is cool and thought provoking, and pomo and all, but is still just trying to sell soap. And it's working. Here we are raising their brand awareness just like they planned.

Agreed, and you are the first to understand this.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 16, 2006 1:59:02 PM

When I read the post and clicked over, I expected to see an unattractive woman to start. Nope. That model is not by any stretch of the imagination plain. She's very pretty: blond hair, big wide eyes, full lips. In the real world she's a hottie.

It would be interesting to see the same transformation done on someone who was genuinely plain, or even someone who was at the median of attractiveness.

Posted by: Cardinal Fang | Oct 16, 2006 2:00:40 PM

"Natalie Portman in real life... doesn't stand out in a crowd"

One of the neatest compliments I ever read came from a guy who said he happened to get into an elevator with Cindy Crawford, and came away thinking that she really doesn't photograph very well.

Posted by: kid bitzer | Oct 16, 2006 3:08:51 PM

"By skimming actresses from the 99.999th percentile of attractiveness and then using them in apparent representations of reality, they create an ideal and expectation that, while theoretically more achievable than the photoshopped model from the video, is actually far less realizable."

Perhaps. Personally I like looking at them though.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 16, 2006 3:10:33 PM

I agree with Cardinal Fang. This sort of this seems to be more about makeovers for already hot people to conform to some different type of glamorous image, not in making plain or even decent looking people into Teh HoTTness.

Along those lines, a few years ago, I went to a Hillel event where a young Israeli model was presenting a video she had made about nightclub life in Israel. In the promotional shot of her that they used for the flyer, she had brown hair. While waiting outside the meeting room before the event was going to start, I noticed an unusually hot blond girl whom I hadn't seen before, and I wondered who she was. To my surprise, that was the model herself. It wasn't just the hair color that was different--she didn't look AT ALL like she did in the picture, almost unrecognizably different, maybe only kind of similar around the eyes. But it's not like she wasn't already gorgeous in real life--she was, big time. It was just a very different kind of hot from her modelling shot.

Posted by: Haggai | Oct 16, 2006 3:11:14 PM

Not only has TV & movies been hiring better and better-looking actresses (maybe actors too, I don't pay attention), but when they need an ugly actress, they ugly-up a good looking one. For example, the ugly Bulgarian dodgeball player in "Dodgeball" was named one of Maxim's 100 hottest women (or something like that) for different work she did. Even in "Shallow Hal", you can tell the ugly skinny girls were likewise uglied-up with make-up & bad hair. Maybe everyone's good-looking in Los Angeles?

Posted by: American Citizen | Oct 16, 2006 3:20:41 PM

I'm not on board with this "they didn't used to cast all hotties" argument. Margot Kidder may not have been a super model, but she was definitely a babe in her Lois Lane days. She was at least as hot--more so, if you ask me--than Kate Bosworth in the same role in this summer's Superman movie.

Posted by: Haggai | Oct 16, 2006 3:29:43 PM

Britain leads the world in the cinema of normal looking people.

And has for a long time. But it isn't just ordinary looking people in the generic sense, rather all kinds. It's one the things I enjoy about many British films, the many different, interesting faces.

Fred is right that it's the market that drives this. But the market isn't what determines what we desire, at least not in the beginning. It's a complex subject, but the very thin model look, for example, is a somewhat recent thing. Some people trace it back to certain fashion designers and associated artists, who liked the lines of the thin look. It has also been suggested that an increasing preoccupation with barely adolescent and/or androgynous sexuality has played a role.

Whatever the reasons for the current ideals of beauty and the commercial obsession with them, they are costly to our society, as people get judged by them. Especially women. It's long been a feminist issue, but not one that's gotten great results yet, just little things here and there. I hope people will keep working to broaden our sense of beauty. It will require pressures on the commercial interests, as it won't be to their advantage otherwise.

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 16, 2006 3:35:39 PM

I think the music is a big part of the 'magic' that takes place during that clip.

Posted by: quiddity | Oct 16, 2006 3:44:48 PM

Mary: If you pause and move the cursor you can see some of the Photoshop steps. Towards the end, the eyes are emlarged to about 150% (maybe even more). Quite an adjustment. And of course, the neck-work is also pretty extreme.

Posted by: quiddity | Oct 16, 2006 3:50:40 PM

What was wild was that until the model's neck was elongated, I didn't even think about her neck. The moment they did it, however, I suddenly had the impression that the model had an unusually short neck that required photoshopping.

Posted by: Kiril | Oct 16, 2006 4:03:41 PM

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