Revlon recently sponsored a study to demonstrate the positive impact a daily ritual involving fragrance, makeup and self-care activities can have on ones mood and relationships. I found the video so unobjectionable that I almost think the response to it as an object of projection is more interesting than the content. So I have the following thoughts, both for and against the video:
- Rebranding sex, not makeup: Makeup is still about sex, but sex is about love (as opposed to power, transgression, liberation, pleasure or passion). And being “open to love” is of course a function of how you feel about yourself, not how you feel about your partner. Notice most of the partner objections in the first half of the commercial are about how their partner feels about themselves. It’s easy to call this inversion narcissism, which it is, but the problem is you think that means its bad.
- Affective triggers: The affects displayed and idealized are affection, vulnerability, joy. If these trigger aversive contempt, disgust or cynicism you now know why you’re depressed. Your postmodern justifications for this immediate experience are retroactive (to justify the feeling) not primary (initiating it). In other words you don’t hate women who like makeup because you’re a feminist. You’re a feminist in order to hate women who like makeup. Again – don’t forget that I am not saying you shouldn’t hate women who like makeup. If you think I’m implying judgement, you’re doing it to yourself, so that you can hate me for saying it.
- Most likely aversion reactions (devaluation) are a defense against envy (Kernberg, 1979). The positive affects above can easily strike envy if they make you feel ashamed of not being happy (only in America) or taking better care of yourself. The lifestyle posture of slovenliness and poor self care is correlated with most mental health issues.
- I would assert this is extremely “cool” media in the terms of Marsall McLuhan. This would mean it is banal and vanilla partially in order to be a canvas of participation. Nothing in the video is as important as the fact that it is released in a social online format. Indeed, the video itself is a fictionalized enactment of a participatory experience – of a study which itself is a participatory experience, designed to simulate results (self care makes you feel better) which everyone already knew they would find. Finally, self care in this sense is modeling yourself after others. This would be Baudrillard’s procession of simulacra, or Rene Girard’s mimetic desire (modeling desires, not only actions, on esteemed others). Perhaps this all conceals the anxiety producing possibility that there is no enduring self to take care of, rather it is constituted by the ritual itself, like the urge to comment upon it as a demonstration or act of self creation – an extension of the self to return to McLuhan.
It’s hard for your comments to be less about you than they are about the-thing-itself.