Are your eyes deceiving you? Or is it media perpetuating the deception? Or both?
Does it matter?
In a world of unreal models, composite pop stars and fake deaths, what does real mean?
Sometimes we enjoy suspending reality. Even pay money for the fake.
One Facebook commenter shared a TED talk about the making of the movie Benjamin Button that demonstrated how “they now have the face of Brad Pitt making every known human expression completely sector mapped. At this point, they could quite easily make a Brad Pitt blockbuster… sans Brad Pitt.”
Even Tom Hanks has been digitally manipulated. In fact, he played five characters in the Christmas movie, The Polar Express. He was the conductor, the lead boy, the boy’s father, Santa, and the Hobo. But the digitally manipulated film received mixed reviews:
Many other critics said it was “a failed experiment”, and some even said that it “gave them the creeps.” The film was largely criticized for its fake-looking, or ”mannequin-like” human characters. Paul Clinton from CNN.com said “Those human characters in the film come across as downright… well, creepy. So The Polar Express is at best disconcerting, and at worst, a wee bit horrifying.”
Interesting how some of those words… mannequin-like, creepy… are similar to what was said about the humanized computer generated models from H&M.
Another comment on Facebook linked us to the story of a Japanese pop star revealed as a digital fake. She’s a composite of three members of her group.
It may have you wondering, “Who or what can we trust?”
Maybe you were already aware of the deception or manipulation. You already knew that media couldn’t be trusted. Honestly, I think many people realize that media shouldn’t be trusted, but in our skim-the-surface busy lives, we forget and get distracted from what we know to be true. We aren’t always discerning when we make choices or assumptions. At times, sights and sounds make it into our subconscious without us even realizing their impact.
JON BON JOVI IS DEAD… OR NOT
Think about the controversy yesterday over Bon Jovi’s supposed early death. People were reportedly devastated by the “news” and weeping over the loss. It was all a hoax, yet it took hours to iron it all out and Jon Bon Jovi himself had to post a picture on Facebook to assure his fans that he was still alive and well.
You might reason that those who freaked out are just silly and didn’t do their research, but I think even rational individuals can and do act irrationally given the right (or wrong) set of circumstances. The same goes for media consumption. Given the right (or wrong) set of circumstances: anxiety, fear, exhaustion, depression, busyness, emotion, you name it and media that would normally be rationally consumed can turn south quickly.
As I pointed out in the comments on unrealistic models yesterday, when someone is rationally looking at an image in the context of an article about computer generated models, it’s easy to distinguish the difference between real and fake. When someone is looking at a site and digitally dressing what looks like a Barbie or mannequin, it’s easy to realize what’s real and fake.
When we are pulled into a story like Polar Express or Benjamin Button, or when we’re distractedly looking through a magazine or website, we’re not in analysis mode, we’re being entertained or “vegging out.” Our filters are off or down. The power of story or an image can cause us to let down our guard and suspend reality for the moment, and when it comes to advertisements, the subconscious message about what is “ideal” still exists.
Why does that matter? Do unrealistic images cause any real harm?
Jean Kilbourne has spent the past 30 years researching advertising in society and seems to think so… (warning: some graphic ads portrayed)
How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel
Her book, Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel has been called “A powerful, sobering call to arms by the documentarian, lecturer, and scholar… She examines the influence that advertising has on consumers, focusing particularly on how it contributes to the problems that girls and women already face in terms of economics, violence, and physical and emotional health. Kilbourne does not naively attribute any of the problems that women face directly to advertising; indeed she frequently states that no one particular advertisement or campaign can be blamed for anything. But her incisive interpretation of research and statistics points out with precision the advantage advertising companies take of the public’s tendencies toward addiction, and, even more importantly, the ways corporations use their economic hold over the media to withhold information from their customers.” (Don’t realize how bad they are? Check out some of the most sexist ads – warning: many are graphic and disturbing.)
Actress Geena Roberts has dedicated herself to the issue as well, founding the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
“What children see affects their attitudes toward male and female roles and impacts the value they place on girls and women in society.”
THE UPSIDE POTENTIAL
Maybe there is an upside to the new computer generated models. Perhaps they’ll look so fake that consumers will be forced to stop trusting any images they see in media. When they’re bombarded enough with fake books, fake death reports, and fake bodies, teen girls and women will know that it’s all a fake so they’ll stop trying to live up to the “ideal” and start embracing their own unique beauty. You may wonder why we’re not already there, but I can tell you firsthand, we’re not.
Perhaps there will be enough of a backlash that a premium will be put on being “real.” Whether you’re 16 or 60, maybe women will begin to value and cherish who they are and where they are on the timeline of their life. If that means there are some blemishes or wrinkles, that’s okay… it authenticates the real you, your humanity, your imperfection. And then maybe we’ll remember that “once you are real, you can’t be ugly.”
Would that be so bad?
What side of the fence will you land on?