Last year, the Dove Real Beauty campaign made waves with its “Real Beauty Sketches,” when it hired a forensic artist to illustrate how women see themselves according to their own self-description. This year, Dove has turned to the selfie, adolescent girls and their mothers.
In their eight-minute video called “Selfie,” directed by Cynthia Wade, we meet tween girls in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, who are participating in a project by Dove. A photography instructor speaks with the girls about their body insecurities and then suggests that, rather than zeroing in on all their perceived flaws, selfies can be used to illustrate raw beauty. The girls and their moms are then invited to take selfies, which are displayed in the end at a photography show.
It’s all very feel-good and pat, as commercials for the Dove Real Beauty campaign usually are. And we do have to remember that’s what this short film ultimately is: a commercial. Even though the film was made possible through the Sundance Institute and Dove products are never mentioned, the feel-good vibes are serving a larger purpose to position Dove as a “pro-woman” brand. To their credit, however, Dove listened to past complaints that the women involved in the “Real Beauty Sketches” were mostly white and young. The girls of Great Barrington are white, Black, Asian, and Latina, as are their middle-aged moms. It feels like a more authentically “real” project for the Dove Real Beauty campaign than the previous one.
But the question remains: what does it really mean to take an “honest selfie”? No duckface? No just-so lighting? No makeup? Watching this, I was reminded of an essay for The Frisky by Carrie Nelson, who posted a makeup-less selfie on Instagram, only to find out that some random site had taken her photo without permission and given her a “makeover.” It’s a reminder that as much as we, the women who are selfie takers, love ourselves wholly and put all our insecurities forward without fear, beauty is still in the eye of the beholder.
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