Because all experiences are valuable.

Monday, April 22, 2013

More Beautiful Than We Think

There's been this video, well, several versions of a video, going around on facebook this past week. Since it's marketing for Dove brand products I'm not sure if you can say it is a viral video. Can advertising be viral? Isn't that the idea, and the marketing material is designed to entice people to share it? Anyway, I shared it, too, and I still think it is lovely and thought provoking.

The idea is that a forensic artist from the LAPD has a series of women he cannot see describe themselves to him and he draws them much as he would a perpetrator of a crime from the description of a witness. Then another person comes in and describes the person he just drew, after spending some time with that person. The artist then hangs the pictures side by side and the subject of the portrait is allowed to see, to her astonishment, that the picture of the self she describes is not only generally unattractive, but as we the audience can see, does not look like her. The portrait drawn from the objective observer's description is much more attractive and actually looks very much like the original subject.

The tag line tells us "you are more beautiful than you think." I think it's a wonderful message. Let me acknowledge that in watching the longer six minute version which is easily viewed on YouTube, there are not really any actually "ugly" people in the video. No horrible skin conditions, no truly unfortunate dental problems. Actually you might notice that no one is even overweight...they are all thin to quite thin. The men who are included as "observers and describers" are attractive. Here, you can watch it yourself:

I suppose the idea is that even people who are attractive, not stunning, not supermodels, but just pleasantly attractive, doubt themselves and have features about themselves that they don't like and would change. At the same time, people don't watch marketing ads full of ugly people. When I watch this, with the carefully crafted background music, I feel the contrived machinations of the team behind the production, and yet, at the same time I feel the genuineness of the aim.

If you have a positive message to spread in this media age, can you get it viewed if it isn't carefully crafted to appeal? Maybe not. Even the videos that are homemade are subconsciously or consciously created to fit our mold of what we think a cool hacker type "Anonymous" video should look like. I'm even starting to question the cute puppy and kitten videos- they look contrived to me, too! It's a rare thing to see something spontaneous these days that was captured. This is a great thing when it helps capture terrorists and reveals the faces of the perpetrators of crimes as we witnessed recently in the photos and videos taken at the Boston Marathon. Witness photos helped police tremendously.

Which brings me back around to my original point...the revelation of faces through the use of a forensic artist to show us that others see us as we actually look, while we ourselves do not. It makes me wonder what I look like. Did you wonder that, too, when you watched the video? There is a spoof video going around of men having the same "experience." It's pretty hilarious because the men all describe themselves as looking like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, while their female descriptors paint a very different picture of neanderthals and snaggle-toothed hillbillys.

I was in the shower last night thinking about all of this. Thinking about how much I hate my knees and how I think my hips are too big. So I was looking at my hips and I realized that they have been with me my whole life. Nothing that I have, other than my body, has been with me since the day I was born. Nothing else will be with me every second of the rest of my life. I am so much more than a body; no statement is truer than this. I am mind and spirit and intention and love. But this body is my home. It has kept my mind and my spirit safe all these years, and it will keep on doing so. There isn't a second of this life that my heart has not been beating. How many machines can you point to that can run non-stop for as much as a hundred years, often with no maintenance at all? I can't even think of one. These knees have knelt on the floor to care for my father in the last day of his life. These hips carried each one of my sons as I ran hither and yon with our full lives. I usually preferred to just carry them instead of using a stroller. They seemed to be less restless and we had great conversations and shared a view of the world. I know I will carry my grandbabies just the same someday, as long as I can.

I'm going to try very hard to love all of my parts. The power of the media that teaches us to hate ourselves is very strong. I can't remember what a non-airbrushed picture in the media even looked like. It's been that long. These women in the Dove ad...they are not airbrushed and they are real, even if carefully selected. I want to celebrate the motivation behind this ad campaign, behind the message from the beauty industry that says, for once, it's okay to love yourself the way you are. We think other people are judging us, and we think they are looking at all of our flaws...and maybe a few are. But on the whole, other humans are much kinder than we think, and they see beautiful things about us that we ourselves will never see.

Or maybe we can. Just a little. I love you, knees. I love you, hips. Thank you for carrying me all these years.

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