Thursday, September 17, 2009
BEFORE YOU READ THIS POST - WATCH THIS VIDEO HERE
Though it was not my initial intent to use a video (or rather sequence of images) for this assignment, I was unable to find any single image with as many layers (both literal and ideological) as in this video. The spot was produced by Unilever Corp under the hospices of their Dove Self Esteem Foundation, a part of the Dove True Beauty Campaign. The video, which documents the transformation of a model into an image, is an odd and at times paradoxical critique on the ramifications of the media industry.
In trying to unpack the layers of this video it is important to note the diametrically opposed yet interconnected forces at play most clearly understood as conflicting forms of image production. The first is denoted by the video's content: the chronological progression of haggard model to manipulated image. The sequence as a such documents a kind of image production (the creation of a media image) that is an of itself the product of image production (a video) and even within those parameters, the spot is further alienated by its context as a "corporate" spot, even under the thinly disguised veil of a "foundation."
What is so difficult and perplexing about this image lies in its authenticity -- as both a product and critique of corporate culture. Unilever/ Dove's intended message is clear: manipulating media images sets up unrealistic expectations of beauty which is decidedly and indeterminatly bad for the people at large. What is confusing is the intent (or perhaps more appropriately agenda) of their use of it?
You'll have to forgive my cyniscm, but as true believer of the invisible hand, I find it difficult to imagine a multi-national corporation could or should have any interest beyond generating profit. If we can except that, than the next question would be how might an ad like this help the corporation achieve that end. While it is true that Dove has worked hard to establish their self as an "ethical" endeavor, I think their interest in informing the public about the horrors of their own industry spans beyond that.
It seems to me that Unilever's general strategy with Dove has been to capitalize on outrage by condemning unfavorable practice (and thus separating themselves from them.) I believe that rather inform the public about the wrongdoings of the media, the intent of these videos is to appease a group of increasingly conscious and critical consumers already informed about these issues. By confirming firmly-held beliefs and fears, the spots are a well-hidden effort at fear mongering directed at concious consumers in order to further polarize the growing population towards Dove and against their competitors.