Why Is Maybelline’s New Mascara Commercial All About Gigi Hadid’s Boobs?
Advertising is kind of like the registered sex offender who moved in next door of media. It is creepy, vague and mysterious. It makes false claims of rehabilitation. And its presence is always felt. Maybe that comparison is too much for you, but you can’t deny that when the beloved weekly sitcom of your choosing goes to commercial, and the volume somehow becomes twice as loud, that we’re being encroached upon by something sinister. And no matter how much we rebuke advertisers for piss poor photo shopping of already slender models, hyper sexualizing everyday objects (I’m looking at you, Hardee’s) and lightening ethnic skin tones—they still continue on their merry path of consumer manipulation like a child with it’s fingers in its ears. And now the industry appears to be blissing out on some new patriarchal high, as Maybelline just unveiled its new Falsies Push Up Drama Mascara, the commercial for which is somehow entirely about breasts.
To get to the core of the problem though, first we have to go back. Back to the age of the supermodel in the late eighties/early nineties when the women who walked the run ways were also household names. People like Tyra Banks, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell had the fashion industry’s balls in a vise-grip, and as a result ruled the world. And then those women aged out of prime modeling years, and for some reason, be it industry flux between music, entertainment and fashion, or just the enigma of zeitgeist, the women who came after them never became the cultural figures that their predecessors were. With a few exceptions, models shifted out of the forefront of the art world, and actresses and female musicians took their places on magazine covers and the arms of famous men.
Now for the twist—bear with me, it’s rooted in that new hot button thing–feminism. In the past few years we’ve been experiencing a new wave of feminism, so unplanned, so unexpected, so different from its past iterations, that to call it fourth wave feminism doesn’t feel quite right, and it’s definitely not whatever post-feminism was. This feminism is trendy. It is heavily influenced and facilitated by the internet. And it’s coming out of the mouths of not just activists and everyday women, but of stars and politicians. To the staunch male anchors of our patriarchal society, even the most female-friendly, this is so unsexy. Top comedians like Amy Schumer having prime time shows predominately dedicated to mocking sexism, lead actresses making their Oscar acceptance speeches about the wage gap, and presidential candidates being asked in debates about reproductive rights is a buzz kill for he-man-penis-havers who just want to watch titties bounce from vats of money while silent women branded with their name bring them domestic beer.
This inundation of Hollywood and the music industry with much more vocal women concerned with equal rights and ending sexist norms has created an unexpected consequence—the return of the supermodel. The Hadid sisters, Kendall Jenner, Lily Aldridge, Mara Hunt, Karlie Kloss, among others, are the most sought after models in the industry right now, and in turn they have become bonafide celebrities. Their names ring out in living rooms, and they’re replacing actresses as spokeswomen just like those aforementioned women did in the nineties. For as excited as the whole country seems to get for the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, or for how many of these new supermodels you follow on Instagram, the frenzy around these women feels deeply rooted in a backlash against feminism in the entertainment industry. There’s no room for feminism in high fashion or lingerie modeling. Obviously niches for plus sized and other “quirkier” types of models have been carved out painfully by a few dedicated pioneers, but for the most part it’s an industry impenetrable by feminism because it was built on the back of sexism.
Thus giving birth to this Maybelline commercial starring Gigi Hadid, and crafted by advertising executives that seem to have really run with the fact that they had a Victoria Secret supermodel at their disposal, rather than an actress with far more rigid ideas of what being a spokesperson should entail. An actress shilling out a beauty product to the masses of normal America women typically has on a beautiful dress in a nondescript location, smiles with her eyes, does a few hair flips and implores viewers to buy the product because they deserve it, or something like that. But not in Hadid’s world.
In the Falsies mascara commercial you see Hadid sitting at a vanity in a bodysuit. As the camera pans to her reflection in the mirror, she shoves her breasts upward the way you do if you’re talking to a girlfriend about how perky your tits were when you were 18, as she says, “sometimes I like to push it up.” She ends up at a club, ready to “dare to get the push up effect.” A clumsy, hot guy spills a drink on her. But it’s okay, she can just take her shirt off! There is then a close-up of just her torso as she rips open her top to reveal her boobs spilling out of a bra. And then she dances around the club in just a bra while men circle her because, like the overdub of her voice says, “I’m not shy. My drama, I totally own it!” The last shot is of her straddling the same guy that spilled a drink on her, while the words “make it happen” flash across the screen.
One of the biggest enigmas of feminism is the dissonance between strength and sexuality. As young women forging ahead in this new age of feminism, social media and the internet, we want to be just as empowered and respected as we are sexy and wanted. Unfortunately those things are very hard to make go together. Thanks to men running the show for most of history, power from a woman is often seen as emasculating and prudish. Conversely, sexuality from a woman is seen as slutty and irresponsible.
I get it—the commercial on the surface is way more exciting and fun than when Sarah Jessica Parker reclines on a chaise and tells you about how moisturizing Garnier is, or when Jennifer Aniston sits on a sunny porch and talks about how natural Aveeno is. But at the same time, we are living in one fucked up time when anyone thinks its suitable to condescend to women by trying to sell them shit you put on your eyes by flaunting a young girls tits around for the male gaze. I don’t have tits on my face, and I don’t need to see Gigi Hadid’s to make me want to buy mascara.