Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ode to a Small Lump of Silly Putty in Her Armpit

OK, as promised, stories from my brief-but-meaningful interval in the world of retail marketing. Lemme tell you about the pictures. You know how American women learn the Art of Self-Loathing from pictures of flawless women in catalogs and magazines? I'm here to tell you: those women could have arrived at the photoshoot looking like the Loch Ness Monster herself, but by the time the pictures get in print, they've been Photoshopped and Pre-Pressed, and the Loch Ness Monster has morphed into Naughty Nessie the pouty-lipped, slim-hipped, scale-free fantasy girl next door. At least the Loch Ness Monster might actually be real.

I found this out when I sat down to add copy (the words) to some pages that were due to be printed as a mailer. Most of the photos were in place, but the files weren't complete. Basically, several someones (our art directors, the company selling the clothes) go through the files and circle all the stuff they want removed: moles, birthmarks, tattoos, etc. Now, I can see taking the tattoo off, I guess. It's hard to concentrate on that darling little flouncy blouse when the model has a naked harpy astride a barbed wire snake inked on her bicep. But when they get to the point of circling for removal the invisible freckle on the inside of her left shin, well, that's when I start getting testy.

So my introduction to the wide world of fraud and misrepresentation began when I had to add some very basic copy to a page of bras. It would be bras, wouldn't it? Not socks or sandals or even flouncy blouses, no, it would just have to be bras.

I bring up the page, and there are maybe eight or ten women on the page, all of the shots very typical, just head and upper torso. But every single picture had a circle around both of the model's nipples. The instructions? A very terse, "Remove." Oh, and you're not allowed to have wrinkles at the juncture where your arm hooks to your body. There's a smoothing process to take out the "extra" folds in your skin that keep you from ripping great holes in your outer layer every time you move because those folds are apparently unsightly. And we're not talking about huge flappy winglettes of skin here, folks; we're talking about those wee wrinkles that naturally occur wherever your body has to bend and stretch. The smearing that they do to take out those wrinkles makes every woman look like she's been touched up with Silly Putty. Check it out next time you see a bra catalog. Oh, and obvious cleavage has to go too. I know, I know, it's a bra page, but no nipples and no cleavage allowed. Don't ask me.

It's got to be a relief for the models, though. They can have moles and freckles and tattoos and wrinkles and cleavage and curvy hips in real life, and the questionable magic of Photoshop can air brush them into golden goddesses, flawless in everything but attitude. They can be disassembled and reassembled, parts of their bodies traded for other body parts from a more "appropriate" model. It's like the art people have a bucket of KFC in their computers: a big bunch of breasts, thighs, legs and .... well, not wings probably. And no heads. Huh. Reach into the bucket, pull one out, determine if it's golden and crispy... ok, this is where the analogy falls apart, but you know what I mean.

Real women (and men, 'cause they do it to the guys too) are not buckets of chicken. I think I may print that on t-shirts: "real people are not buckets of chicken." I'll make a fortune.


NuclearToast said...

Bring back the nipples on the bra pages!

NuclearToast said...

But not in real life. That'd just be wrong.

CJ said...

I can't wait to get my next Macy or JC Penny ad...I gotta check out the armpits!

Ash said...

It really freaks me out how people in catalogs (and TV commercials) really over exaggerate their facial expressions. I feel like screaming “OMG – I got it, those jeans make you REALLY happy!” It’s creepy and clown-ish.

P.S. The Loch Ness monster IS totally real!

P.S.S. Thanks for the story!

Lynn Sinclair said...

I'd think that one of the things we look for in a bra is whether or not our nipples show. Isn't it misrepresentation of the product when they gloss over that?

Nothing we see in pictures is real, is it?