Mirror, mirror on the wall…
The fashion and glamor industry have been overrun by stress. Worry about what to wear and how to wear it is growing steadily, worry about how we look and what others say of us, about what they think and feel about us, about how they react to us if we don’t not look sharp. How to mind what to eat and what not to eat until eating becomes a nerve-wracking, joy-killing, obsessive crackdown on every possible factor involved in ingesting. The field of looks has turned into an ugly process, from dressing up for formal outings, to dressing up for work and pleasure, to everyday life and appearances in general.
Forget health. This has nothing to do with staying vibrant and robust. Reducing heart attacks and cancer has nothing to do with the reason people mind what they eat and how they come across. The prime driving forces behind good looks are glitz, glamor, impressions. The body becomes a vessel for a psychological complex, something to obsess over without end, and the needs of the organism as a whole are relegated to second place. The obsession takes over and the cities and streets and computer screens and TV screens fill up with catwalk zombies and their sad clones.
The reason behind our plague of the vanities is simple. The Looks Industry has got wind of the penchant for people to look like a million dollars and the lengths to which we’ll go to achieve our goal. Starting with women and creeping slowly to men, this industry’s operatives prey on our vanity and insecurities, pushing forth an agenda of immaculate beauty, to which everyone aspires. The benchmarks are pushed higher and higher, surpassing every aspect of reality, first with the aid of makeup, then with the magical brush of CGI technology. Our world was shaped and modeled around models, then around airbrushed models and photoshopped idols. As if the most beautiful among us were subpar. I mean, if Megan Fox and David Beckham don’t make the grade ‘au naturelle’, we need our head examined.
Jean Baudrillard, a French philosopher, came up with a term for this virtual world and its pervasive, encroaching nature. He called it Hyperreality.
Hyperreality is everywhere, taking control of everything we do. Before I lose you — yes, the mere mention of French philosophers induces severe yawning, if not all-around brain cramping — let me just say that the film The Matrix was loosely based on Baudrillard’s writings on hyperreality.
Why am I mentioning this? Because The Matrix was, in part, a critique on the virtually-driven, appearance-obsessed nature of our society. Plus, I like to mention the word matrix in articles that have to do with the beauty and glamor industry.
So much for hyperreality and pop culture. Back to food and fashion, the unwitting tools in a calculated and cynical attack on human nature. The more obsessed we become with our looks, the more the beauty and glamor industries up the stakes, using ever-glitzier and more glamorous actors to advertise clothes, cars, drinks, chewing gum, almond liqueur, medication. Before we know it we’re convinced by some talking eye-candy that we need to buy slim-line yogurt because putty lips on flawless skin say so. We’re made to believe we must needs purchase eau de cologne de Merde de Chevalierre, all because six-pack torso with pearly whites cracked a super smile at super hot girl and got a dirty look back, after which they simulated sex around a sharply lit, electric-blue cologne bottle on our TV screen.
Welcome to the coordinates of the unhealthy beauty matrix — or as I like to call it, the insanity fair. Here everything is subject to the whims of the glamorous so that the rest of humanity can get their slot in the sun. It’s all down to good old persuasion, developed in social psychology labs, applied to individual products, turned into catchy scripts and made to come across as fact. Poor pundits don’t stand a chance. Vanity preys on us like a vampire bat, feeding its insatiable, cosmetic appetite.
The charade has an expiry date, of course. After a while the game becomes dated, exposed for what it is: a sham. The pundits become savvy to the wily tricks of the marketeers and stop falling for the same old manipulative routines.
But the vampire bat of vanity is no pushover. It shape-shifts, turns around and comes from left field, using irony as its weapon. It wears the attire of a good friend, a repentant foe who’s eager to admit defeat and make fun of itself. The script becomes tongue in cheek, wink-wink, dressed down and no longer deceptive i.e. honest (or so it seems). The advertisements turn humorous. They become your friend and ally, catering to your sensitivities, making fun of advertising and its tricks, of wanton glamor, of the fact that they’re pushing their products on you shamelessly, via whatever means necessary. They do so — here’s the genius — using beautiful models that pose mockingly, delivering over-the-top lines to get their ‘we know you know’ message across.
Good old hyperreal society, making fun of beauty to sell beauty in the name of beauty. In the name of vanity. Isn’t that genius?
Face it, folks: looks sell. Beauty warriors and vogue pirates that we are, wannabe Foxes and aspiring Beckhams, devoted believers in the power of appearances and suckers for the appealing, we buy into them en masse. Because we’re dying to look great.
Unless of course the imps have something to say about that. There is no better way to neutralize the vainglorious than to expose their vanityfor all to see. Humor is a great way to do that. Mockery even better. Because they are worth it!