This story just kills me. It’s bad enough that teens are bombarded, at every turn, with the message that physical beauty to impossible standards is what it takes to be normal or liked.
(The above film comes from Dove and is part of their natural beauty campaign. Ironically, Dove is owned by Unilever, which also produces the Axe products, the commercials for which all-but-own the trademark on being shallow and promoting the same psychological problems that the new Dove campaign purports to be fighting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Dove is putting out this message, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that it’s for the nobility of the message and not to sell beauty-enhancing products to “normal” women. Also ironically, I thought the model was prettiest when she first sat down in the chair.)
In an effort to peddle their cosmetics to young women, companies will ignore the ramifications of their own message, such as the sharp increase in eating disorder during the last 30 years and the additional damage that can be done to those with an eating disorder. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and strikes most frequently in children who are in an environment where there is immense pressure to succeed and/or to be perfect. Spreading this message, that success or perfection requires arms like bone, has the potential to crush self-esteem and, in so doing, to trigger and heighten anorexic symptoms in a person.
But now that message is getting spread to children.
Department stores go all out for their holiday campaigns, and this year Barneys New York is partnering with Disney for their festive extravaganza. Photos and even a short film picture iconic characters like Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck walking the runway in designer clothing, but they’re barely recognizable. In fact, their bodies have been stretched so long and thin their heads are bobbling above figures much slimmer than Barbie’s.
According to Women’s Wear Daily, Barneys collaborated with Disney to take their characters into a realistic fashion world for their “Electric Holiday” campaign, set to debut at their Madison Avenue flagship store on November 14. The highlight is a film, also debuting in November, about Minnie Mouse’s fantasy to attend Paris fashion week. As such, our favorite animated characters have ditched their signature garments for high-end clothing to wear down the runway.
I don’t think I’m overshooting when I say that this is unconscionable. In Disney’s case, they are selling the trust of children to an enterprise that will severely fuck up some of their minds in order to addict them to a standard of beauty that absolutely, positively has nothing to do with beauty. In the context it is intended, the above image will traumatize many and kill others by exacerbating the pull towards an eating disorder in those vulnerable to it. It will hold the self-image of boys and girls alike hostage to a product that will never unmake the damage the advertisements have done. It will create, in the minds of children, a new criteria for being a worthwhile human being. Alongside the values that merit self-esteem such as honesty, compassion, hard-work, and study, there will now be the need to look like that.
And they’re doing it to children. To children!
Whatever young people are in your life, make it a point to tell them that this isn’t real. Tell them that Minnie and Daisy have stopped being role models, and that what is happening here is serious. Tell them that Minnie is not beautiful in this picture, because she isn’t. Talk about mental illness and what campaigns like this can do to a person, and tell them about the people who care so much for money that they have forgotten that.
To all you women out there, and to all you children about to be deceived by a cartoon, these people are lying to you, and I am so, so sorry. For some of you, your brain will adopt that lie and for the rest of your life your brain will never stop deceiving to you. I know what that’s like and it’s hell. I am so sorry. I wish there was more I could do.
Human beings can be so sick…