Thursday, May 26, 2011

Perfume Marketing and Feminist Aesthetics: ‘Alternative’ Styles in Advertising and the Male Gaze, Pt. 4

“Hey babe, let’s go out tonight”: Rebel Ads, a Few General Thoughts

Just to be clear, I’m not opposed to alterna-girl in general.  Hell, I still am one.  To prove I'm not always a hater, here are some ads that do a marginally better job of attempting to tap into rebellion without being embarrassingly sexist.

While I may loathe some of Marc Jacobs advertising with the heat of a thousand suns (cough!Daisy!cough!), I actually think the ad for Marc Jacobs Lola taps into the rebellious advertising methology without being offensive. Pouty lips and vacant stare aside, our model seems to be fully clothes, and is actively holding something she looks like she might be about to shove down your throat. I’d give this a B- as ads go, which is a high grade for a mainstream product.

Likewise I don’t find the Anna Sui Rock Me! Ad offensive. A complete rip off of Billy Idol’s style? Absolutely. Interestingly androgynous? Yep? Open mouth, vacant stare, white like every other model? Check, check, check. But active, sort of. I mean she’s holding a guitar. She might play it…you know. Someday. Fully dressed? Yes! And the fashion is an interesting mix of leather and butterflies, metal studs and pink buttons, which I enjoy. FN1.

At the end of the day, though, edgy has become just another commodity. This urban decay cosmetics ad says it all. Click on the image to read the ad copy -- it's a trip.  This company uses rebellion as an way to attract those who might eschew cosmetics by demonstrating they can be used as tools to express external difference.  Because no one, no matter how alternative, should be allowed to escape the long arm of negative body image and gender conformity. You can color yourself in Acid Rain, Roach, and Smog, but it’s just another way of doing what your mom did with her Maybelline. Lip gunk by any other name is still the tool of beauty industry and its efforts to sell you everything you need to conform. FN2. Perhaps the really rebellious thing would be to refuse to wear make-up at all.

This wraps up our foray into feminist critique of perfume advertising that uses alterna-girl.  Have no fear, though.  There are more insidious advertising techniques to mock, and your intrepid feminist sniffa is here to bring them to you.  If you want more, stay tuned...

If you missed the previous portion a of the series, following the "Perfume and Feminist Aesthetics" tab above.  You can also find other feminist aesthetics pieces cataloged on the same tab.
FN1. Don’t get me started on the Anna Sui Rock Me! Summer of Love ad, though. It’s the china doll childishness of it, the big eyes and weird doll pose, and childlike accessories that kill me.  The whole image screams object-for-prurient-interest-in-young-girls that makes me throw up in my mouth.

FN2. In the interest of full disclosure-- I own and wear make-up. Lots of it. My current nail polish is a shiny royal blue, and my toes are a shiny aqua. My last manicure was two weeks ago. I color my hair because I do not enjoy my natural blondness. I’m a non/conformist like the lot of these ad girls, and I’m still shopping the "rebel, rebel" lines. Sometimes, though, I wish I could wake up and feel pretty enough to just go out in the world and think I was beautiful as I was, without the idea that if I failed to “take proper care” of myself, I was failing as a woman, and less pretty because of it.


Doc Elly said...

Diana, It's really interesting to see how few comments this series of posts has evoked. I almost get the impression that the more one deals with substantive issues, the less anyone wants to be a part of it, not just on perfume blogs, but in society in general.

Diana said...

Doc Elly, if it makes you feel better about the world, my feminist aesthetics posts make up the bulk of my traffic and my blog has actually been used in women studies/gender studies at fine institutions like the University of Michigan. So if they're not commenting, I can see them reading.

And that gives me hope.

Doc Elly said...

Diana, you bring up a good point. For every one who comments, there are probably a thousand (or more) reading. I'm glad your work is getting the attention it deserves.

Diana said...

A thousand? Oh how you flatter me, good woman.