Beauty, Perception, Reality

I wanted to share a clip about beauty and perception that was part of a Dove campaign.  It’s kind of cool just to watch without knowing too much about it beforehand, so I suggest doing that before reading the rest of my post.

Boy does it speak volumes.  Obviously there are several people involved and one can assume they at least have one similar intention-to make something beautiful to showcase what the make-up products are capable of.  The funny thing is that all we see when we look at the billboard is a photo of a gorgeous face.  Why do they make this choice and not say, show a before/after shot of what the model looked like with/without make-up on?  Would this be more effective?  Would most women feel their intelligence insulted at such an obvious display?  Did they choose to do this simply because it is a norm of make-up producers to make ads that have this particular look (a close-up head shot)?   There is another group of authors, too; the ones involved not in creating the billboard ad but the film clip.  The people who chose to show and speed up the process of taking this girl and making her billboard worthy, and chose the music.

And what makes this ad or this polished head shot of a model beautiful (or high-class, expensive-looking)?  I’ve heard about studies that try and understand beauty come to the conclusion that people are more likely to find beauty in symmetry.  We certainly see the editing done to the photo to reposition and enlarge the eyes, elongate and thin the neck, etc.  Even I remember when someone was teaching me how to draw a face, I was surprised at how calculated the procedure was-the eyes went on the imaginary line dividing the vertical space in half, etc. In fact, see here for yourself.  And what about the eyebrows being darker than the blond hair, or that she has blue eyes, shorter and curly hair, or that she has light skin?  What role do those play?

And after all that, take a look at the parody of the Dove ad, too.


  1. Troy

    It seems that everyone will have to draw their own line as to what is “OK” and what is not for this type of thing. One of my recent family photos is really a composition of 3 photos (so I could get everyone with a facial expression I liked). The manipulation is subtle but it’s still manipulated. For me that was OK for its intended purpose (hang on my wall and show to family and friends). Could be a slippery slope though… viewer/author beware.

  2. Susan C. Morse

    Interesting point Troy. While such manipulations may be subtle (“to get everyone with a facial expression I liked”), such changes may distort the perception or the memory of a particular experience. For example, several years back, a family member sent me a photo from her wedding. I attended the wedding with my then fiance and I broke up with him several weeks later. While he had been present for the family photos, he was removed via photoshop post breakup. When I or others look at the photo in the future, which memory will prevail? Will photoshop successfully change the history of that moment?

    Its not unlike airbrushed perceptions of beauty…the image starts true to life, but we can make it “better.”


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