If her Twitter feed is anything to go by, today MP Jo Swinson has been dashing around madly like the proverbial headless chicken between various radio and television appearances, justifying her decision to ban two ridiculously airbrushed adverts.
The ads feature Julia Roberts (43) and Christy Turlington (42) looking like 12 year old cartoons. The photographs (if they can technically still be termed as such) were used to promote some sort of pseudo-scientific cosmetic guff which promised to emulate a similarly ‘youthful glow’. Which is a lie, obviously. Because real people aren’t animated.
More outrageous than the disturbing lack of truth used by the advertisers in this case, is the more general philosophy that attractiveness necessitates youthfulness. That, in fact, Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington, both utterly gorgeous as their real life, 3 dimensional selves, required any airbrushing to begin with.
The message being given to women throughout the World is, to paraphrase, this:
“Over 16? Then you are TOO OLD to be considered attractive by ANYONE. Look! Even one of the World’s highest paid film stars Julia Roberts has to be airbrushed in order for us to deign to look at her face.
Her fame, wealth and talent don’t make her successful. Oh no, it’s her lack of pores and ‘youthful glow’ which really set her ahead of the pack. Why don’t you try and turn back the clock too? You won’t look like this picture, but you should at least try to sort your self out YOU OLD TROUT”.
Today, James O’Brien of LBC fame suggested that the public are too shrewd, too aware of the issues at stake, just generally ‘too intelligent’ to be affected by airbrushing. He even went so far as to brand Jo’s campaign ‘patronising’ and claimed that ‘real people’ have no interest in banning unrealistic advertising.
Where were all the people who email me every day to talk about how advertising bashes their self-esteem? Where were all the body confidence campaigners? Where were all the thousands of people who have written their Body Gossip stories? Not listening to LBC, presumably.
To suggest that the effect of unrealistic beauty paradigms has anything whatsoever to do with intelligence is so reductive it would be laughable, were it not for the fact that so many LBC listeners appeared to be so flattered by the idea that their lack of interest in the subject gave them super human cleverness, they phoned-in to tell London all about it.
Pictures speak to us on a level which isn’t logical. They provoke an emotional reaction, deep in the recesses of our subconscious mind. You can tell yourself as much as you like that what you’re witnessing is the work of technology, but, somewhere buried within the confines of your brain there is a tiny person screeching “Waaaaaah! Why don’t I look like that?”. You could be Albert frickin’ Einstein and this would, I am afraid, still be the case.
James argued that images which bear no resemblance to the original subject are nothing new: The Mona Lisa, he reasoned, was probably exaggerated to look more attractive than she was in real life. Photographs of Marylin Monroe were carefully vetted so that she was only ever presented at her most aesthetically pleasing. Well, yes. But throughout history there has never been a time when the public have so much access to plastic surgery – In the 1950s the average person knew they could never look like Marylin, so they didn’t try.
And why shouldn’t we all be undergoing life-threatening cosmetic procedures, injecting poison into out foreheads, weaving other people's (or, more often horses’) hair onto our heads in our never-ending quest to approximate a photo of someone who doesn’t look like that in real life anyway?
………..Because it’s a waste of time. Imagine if you just looked like the best version of YOU. A lick of paint on the old fizzog, maybe. An outfit that flattered your frame (or even just reflected how you were feeling that day)……Imagine if this was all it took for you to feel fantastic about yourself. Imagine all the other things you’d get done.
And I rest my case.