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False reality of “the perfect life” remains prevalent in advertising

Edwin J. Viera, Opinion Editor

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Meet the Perfect family. They have the perfect house, the perfect kids, and the perfect lives. The things that everyone strives to achieve they have. But is that living? Perfection has messed up many lives because its just an illusion for people to live up to. One major example is the idea that so many stars are that thin and have what can be described as a charmed life.

People use Photoshop to look better so they can have the perfect body as evidence b y and episode of the ABC comedy Ugly Betty. The specific episode in question is The Box and The Bunny. In the scene, Natalie Whitman, and actress who has gained weight during filming of her latest movie is not up to MODE magazine’s standard of beauty. Her managers as well as editors from the magazine are working through Photoshop and openly criticizing her, while she’s in the room. After everyone leaves, Natalie stays, but Betty comes back to see Natalie distraught about how much she must change to meet everyone else’s expectations.

Perfection has become everything that some people can think about. Is it one of the crazy mysteries of life or a bar, that no matter how hard people try to measure up to, they just aren’t going to make the cut? Or… Is perfection a deceptive concept of society?

The book, Can’t Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne showcases several chapters relating to how advertisements are a means of selling a person the perfect life. One chapter talks about marketing cars shows how cars are marketed to the emotions of a person as well as the way a new car can make someone feel. She displays several ads, all selling different types of cars, but demonstrates the multiple techniques used to sell these cars as a necessity to have it all.

The first ad she shows is how the car, a Lexus, promotes the idea of having a luxury car can land a woman a man. In the ad a muscular man is painted from the chest up to blend in with the car with the tagline, “Can an engine pump the valves in your heart?” It makes a woman feel that if she has this kind of car, she can attract a man that is pictured in the ad. Many ads show the perfect life that people want despite that lifestyle being fake and unattainable.

The second advertisement featured shows a wallet with someone’s kids, and their car side by side. On the bottom is the tagline saying, “If anybody should ask, go ahead and show them your pride and joy, The Civic 4-Door”. In showing this ad, a product is demonstrated as being more important than a person’s kids. Now cars are marketed not as being more important than kids, but are the secret to having a perfect family. Having a certain car can make a family seem organized, healthy and not as dysfunctional as they actually are.

All throughout the rest of the chapter, she shows and discusses the way ads are marketed emotionally, picking at some of the flaws, sore points, and lacking pieces of someone’s life. Others are left to feel like they are not as good as the people in the ads. Happy faces and perfect lives that would exist in the town of Stepford.

By that, I mean the only way some of these scenarios could ever be true is in a world like that shown in The Stepford Wives films or the model concept of suburbia shown in the lyrics of the song, Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds.

The first few lyrics of the song go, “Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same, there’s a pink one and a green one, and a blue one and a yellow one, and they’re all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.” The lyrics of this song talk about suburban housing developments that are exactly the same as the one’s surrounding it.

The song really shows just what these car ads are trying to sell, the unattainable idea of perfection. How man and women exist together as a married unit and are set in the same loop of life, doomed to forever exist in a cycle of perfection.

Another aspect that’s being sold to the consumer is how having this car is monumentally more important than some of the other achievements in a person’s life. A car is a milestone for a person, but in the end getting married and having children is somewhat more important than a car that will continually depreciate once it is driven off the lot.

Another chapter of Kilbourne’s book delves into just how history has shaped women like pieces of modeling clay to look and personify the definition of unattainable beauty. Women have continually been forced to change themselves to be just the right size to be considered beautiful.

However, something important to notice is just how a person’s confidence is robbed from them based on the advertisements we are show with what seems an underfed model or some overly muscular man being considered, “The Picture of Health”. This is something that was taken away from heavyset people because they been barded with advertisements, magazines, and other media showing that being thin is perfection. People aren’t allowed to look a certain way without seeming as if they are just not right.

Rod Serling’s magnum opus series, The Twilight Zone, featured something about how vanity is one of the greatest downfalls of a society. In the episode, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, the year is 2000 and at a certain age, people can receive a surgery the takes plain/ugly people and makes them beautiful. One girl, Marilyn, defies the system and instead wants to remain the way she is because there is nothing wrong with her. It’s also revealed through the episode that books have been banned, but Marilyn secretly reads them.

As she is walking around a hospital, she is taken into a room and the surgery is performed on her against her will. When we are shown what she like looks like after the surgery we are shown that she is beautiful and looks just like one of her friends. We also see that the real reason for the surgery is to brainwash people and make them forget whatever intellect they have. This is what I think people who have this surgery feel afterwards.

Though, in the years since and including 2000, vanity is something that people have been fighting because of the need to make people beautiful, thin and up to the societal definition of attractive. Photoshop has managed to make people go from voluptuous and beautiful to twiggy and seemingly anorexic.

In one of the final episodes of the Cartoon Network series, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Courage gets a lesson in how to be perfect only to have a fish tell him something different. The fish says, “There’s no such thing as perfect. You’re beautiful as you are, Courage. With all your imperfections, you can do anything.”  In terms of trying to be perfect, the fish is right about more than just Courage’s imperfections.

Real women have curves, that’s just the simple truth. No women is 6 foot tall, perfectly waxed, and can afford to keep up on all of the latest fashion trends. Not everyone has a family that gets along and some people may have to try harder to find love. Going through all of these trials and tribulations are what make life truly worth living.

Perhaps if people didn’t pay so much attention to finding the cure for social conditions such as being single, having a dysfunctional family, or not looking the way Alicia Vikander does on the cover of VOGUE, the marketing of a false reality of perfection will cease to exist. Then people would finally be able to find out what it really means to live and be beautiful.

 

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False reality of “the perfect life” remains prevalent in advertising