Sunday, 5 June 2011

A warped view of beauty

Interesting to see how old stories do the rounds again - helped by new technology.

I reposted a superb photograph (the second of the two shown below) this morning. The caption was: "This was an ad made by bodyshop. But Barbie INC. found out about it and now it’s banned. Repost if you think this ad deserves to be seen."

I wondered whether this was for real. I found that some elements of the story were correct - not in 2011, but thirteen years ago.

When this story first hit the news 'way back in 1998, neither Facebook nor Twitter existed. It's been picked up again, and is presently doing the rounds as though it were happening today - helped by the fact that a posting can be round the globe in seconds in 2011.

However, it certainly doesn't change the valuable lesson to be learned. A quick Google of the phrase "bodyshop Barbie" brought me to the full story on various sites, most helpfully that of Anita Roddick, the founder of BodyShop (who passed away in 2007). Visiting her website and then searching for the term Barbie brings up several blog posts that mention the circumstances. As Anita's 2002 posting puts it:

"Thankfully, it seems Mattel has begun to lose in its never-ending campaign to silence those who would criticize their precious Barbie doll, that freakish, anorexic, highly sensitive plastic doll. The Danish pop band Aqua was the most recent target of Mattel's chilling legal assaults. The band's 1997 song "Barbie Girl" depicted the ubiquitous doll as a bimbo and a party girl. But a US court has found that Barbie can in fact be parodied publicly, even if it hurts her little PVC feelings. "

Here are the two images I've found that were used in this campaign.

Oh, and while I'm here: this reminded me of an excellent video that was used as a campaign by Dove in 2006.

The question is: will we ever truly learn the lessons we should have learned back in 1998? One hopes so. The person who alerted me to this image, this morning, was my friend Claire Bunton, who is an image consultant and who has created a six-part course called Fabulous You, designed to help us to understand body type, work with it instead of against it, and celebrate the beauty of real people rather than plastic dolls. With the help of people like Claire, let's hope we can reverse this trend - for the sake of us all.


One final comment. A friend on facebook has said that he finds it hard to believe that Mattel actually got the advertisement banned (especially as the advert doesn't mention Barbie's name at all), and that it's easier to understand that the song (which actually mentions the name) might have been banned. Either way, it's an interesting discussion. I suspect - reading Roddick's blog again - that the truth of the matter is that Mattel didn't actually get it banned, but attempted to ("They sent us a cease-and-desist order saying that our generously proportioned plastic doll was making Barbie look bad."). The only other evidence of a 'ban' appears to be when, again on Roddick's website:

"in Hong Kong, posters of Ruby were banned on the Mass Transit Railway because authorities said she would offend passengers. (Granted, Ruby often appeared without clothes on, but like Barbie, she had no nipples or pubic hair.) Of course, the much more seriously offensive images of silicone-enhanced blondes in other ads were permitted to stay on the trains."

It's also useful to note - 13 years on from the original - that stories fly round the internet at an incredible speed, and of course, are therefore rather prone to games of Chinese Whispers.

Of course, whatever the origins - it was a brilliant campaign with a very valid point behind it, and Mattel didn't like it!

1 comment:

Rachel Duffield said...

I worked for the Body Shop for a year or so and we were 'encouraged' to watch Anita's weekly videos (pre You Tube)on where she'd been and what she was doing. Much as the 18 year old me resented being made to spend my break watching my boss's boss's boss gallivanting around the world I learnt some astounding facts about the global subordination of women- and also the very inspirational story of Anita's life. All of which was quite significant in shaping a lot of my opinions- cosmetic animal testing, free trade, human rights and so on. Well done Anita. Long live the curvy Barbie image!