Recently, Victoria’s Secret has been under fire for a controversial new advert featuring a string of its slim, leggy models emblazoned with the slogan ‘The Perfect Body’. The tagline, they maintained, referred to the product itself and not the figures of the models featured, yet many have taken offence to the implication that anything other than a Victoria’s Secret body is somehow ‘imperfect’. After a successful campaign and petition, the advertisement was changed.
Victoria’s Secret is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, along with 99.9% of the female population, I find it hard not to be in love with every single one of their products and of course aspire to look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel.
On the other hand, however, I find the latter abhorrent.
From a marketing perspective, the whole brand is built around this aspirational ideal, as are many others (the likes of the ‘exclusively for thin and pretty people’ Abercrombie and Fitch, for example), which society generally accepts and in fact favours over seeing ‘ugly’ or ‘overweight’ models at the forefront of brands.
But what exactly constitutes ‘normal’? Or ‘beautiful’? Or ‘thin’ or ‘fat’? As I touch on many a time in this blog, there are many different ideas of beauty. No two people will have the same perspective on exactly how beautiful a person is, or what makes them beautiful. The general consensus of what beauty is can often be shunned by a wide majority of people in favour of something different, something quirky, unique.
Aside from this point, is it really responsible to market this sort of message to a mostly impressionable, younger age group? Women of all sizes, ages and nationalities shop at Victoria’s Secret. But it is especially those vulnerable younger girls who already wish to emulate celebrities and those polished and preened for their time in the public eye that should be considered here, along with the wider message it sends to society as a whole. The brightly coloured, sparkly looking Victoria’s Secret models are very much like Barbie dolls – temptingly perfect yet all very uniform and similar in shape, height and beauty. They don’t offer a reasonable, measured view of how women should (and do) naturally look. Instead they peddle the super skinny yet intrinsically feminine, high-cheek-boned long, thick-haired ideal which many strive to in vain to emulate, yet of course most of us unsurprisingly fail.
Why is this the ‘perfect’ figure? What makes this the ‘perfect’ form of beauty? And why should we all try to look this way? The truth is, we are simply being told this information and believing it wholeheartedly, which in turn affects our behaviour and what we see as ‘beautiful’.
It’s like this: if I told you there were aliens living on the moon, the chances are you would question it. You would ask me what evidence I had for this, had I seen them? Has anyone else seen them? Who else believes it? Of course in reality it’s bullshit. I made it up. This is different because it’s not personal. It’s tangible. It doesn’t involve self-scrutiny or criticism.
However imagine you were told that a woman was beautiful. The evidence for this is that men and women alike lust after her. She has everything that women of all ages and nationalities find attractive – perfect hair, large sparkling eyes, plump lips, supple smooth skin, a body that is not too thin but not overweight, just the right amount of curve. She is featured on the front of every magazine. Other people agree that this person is perfect. Articles upon articles are written on how you too can emulate this individual, and the reasons why you should are clear: she is loved all over the world by seemingly every single person. This other form of bullshit is very clever, because it taps into our internal insecurities and psychology and makes us believe that we are missing something. Who doesn’t want to be liked? Who doesn’t want to be told they are pretty? It’s not aesthetic – it’s merely the way that being praised for our appearance makes us feel, and the personal , financial and life gains we see associated with that.
Unfortunately, we often think this way without even noticing it. It is subliminally drummed into us, from an early age. We are exposed to it every single day over an increasing number of media. But don’t forget that everybody is different and beautiful in their own way. We are built the way we are for a reason. And just because somebody in an agency somewhere decides that one person should indicate how each of us looks and feels, doesn’t mean we should take any notice!
What do you think about the recent VS advert? Is the uproar justified? Or is it simply a continuation of an industry-wide practice of unattainable perfection?