A Distorted Perception of Beauty?

This video (HERE) from Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” has made quite a splash online. It is a video showing the evolution of a model from her entrance into the studio (sans makeup/hairdo) up to the digitally manipulated photo taken of her for a billboard. The idea seems to be “See how much work it took to fake how beautiful this girl is? So don’t feel bad about how you look!” This is perhaps a good point, but the overall presentation does not make this clear.

The tagline of the video is “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.” I am not sure this is true, nor does it flow from the content of the video. The video does make a point about how much manipulation is often required to attain a certain look in the media, but this is not a “distortion of our perception of beauty.” The only reason the video works is that the woman (or, rather, her final image) is clearly more beautiful than she was when she walked in. The final “product” IS more beautiful - and we can easily perceive that. Otherwise the video would make no sense.

I think what they mean is that our expectations get distorted if we think all women must attain to this level of beauty in order to be considered beautiful at all. But that is a very different point. There are various levels of beauty, sure – and this is important to realize. But what is often ignored or directly denied by posters of the video is that this beauty is indeed objective (i.e., non-perspectival) and  external (i.e., non-internal).*

*External factors are certainly not all that matters in attraction or assessment of a person’s overall “beauty” (“inner beauty” is more of a metaphor). And this is also a good and important message. But it is not helpful to try to redefine beauty in a way that ignores the fact of objective, external features.

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3 thoughts on “A Distorted Perception of Beauty?

  1. I frequently find that the ‘opponents’ of objective beauty end up asserting [indirectly or unintentionally] that beauty is objective as is nicely illustrated in this ad.

    I think it was Gilson who said that the very fact people argue about which things count as beautiful proves that there must be some standard of beauty.

    But then again, just like that, maybe some people just like to argue and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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