Thursday, May 9, 2013

Male Beauty as a joke.....

If you didn't know I've been on a bit of a break from the whole blogging about gender thing for last few weeks. Mainly I've melted into the shadows because of work but personal stuff is eating up my time as well. But gender discourse waits for no one.

I'm sure by now you have seen the Dove beauty ad (I think there's only one, but there might be more) where women give descriptions of themselves to a former forensics artist and he draws a picture. Then he gets descriptions from a different person that had spoken to those women beforehand and draws a picture based on that. 

He then showed the women a side by side comparison of the two sketches in order to show them the difference in how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them. An interesting way to help women notice that their thoughts on how they look may be getting influenced by the very pressures they feel to look good in the first place.

Now of course when something gains a lot of traction the parodies will be soon to follow.

I saw this one over at stonerwithaboner:
In this parody its a couple of guys describing themselves to a former forensics artist as said artist draws a picture and then the artist draws another picture of the guys in question, this time going by descriptions given to him by women that the guys had gotten friendly with ahead of time. 

In the end we see that the guys give descriptions of themselves that overestimate their beauty while the descriptions given by the women are treated as more accurate. Choice words include "rapey eyes" and one who looked like "something out of Mordor".

Even more interesting is the ending line, "Men: You're less beautiful than you think."

There's more than one parody but I noticed something in this one and a few others that I've watched.

The end result is that the guys in the "ad" are actually a lot less attractive than they think they are.

Now I've said a thing or two about male body image before and I can't help but wonder about how these parodies use the idea that a guy could be worried about his appearance as the butt of a joke. Now let me be clear. I'm not trying to say that the subject of men and body image should be immune from the far reaching tentacles of comedic mockery and satire.

No what I am saying is that is might be worth looking at how the very real issue of male body image and how it is not talked about that often in a serious manner is being seen through this lens of parody.

Here's what I'm gathering from this.

Usually parody and satire are used to take a topic and run in the opposite direction with it. For example have you ever heard music by Weird Al Yankovik? Most of his musical performances are of him taking a seriously created song (usually a popular hit) and writing a version of the song that is dripping with sarcasm and comedy. Micheal Jackson gave us "Beat It", Weird Al turned it into "Eat It". Coolio gave us "Gangsta Paradise", Weird Al turned it into "Amish Paradise".

But with these parodies they don't seem to be taking something real and running in an opposite direction but rather taking something real and running even farther in the same direction.

Instead of taking a real issue of guys thinking they are not very attractive and being shown they are, they are thinking they are attractive and being shown that they really aren't.

Or at least that is what it seems like to me.

Maybe I'm put off by this because I'm thinking about it from the perspective of a guy that hasn't thought too highly about his own looks (trust me on this, I'm still fighting back the desire to counter when my girlfriend says I look good). Maybe I'm wondering just how representative of the male population this parody is.

Do most men really have an overestimated sense of how they look, where in reality they are not all that attractive? Is that overestimated sense of how they look coming from accepting that they are not all that attractive but knowing that they aren't supposed to talk about it (much less act on it) they use that overestimated sense of how they look as a mask to hide real pain?

And about the mask part. Did you notice that the guys in that parody made themselves out to look like attractive celebrities? Meaning they weren't painting themselves up as attractive guys that aren't famous thus people don't know about them. They were painting themselves up as attractive guys that are known far and wide. That's about as masky as you get.

Or am I thinking too much about this?

What do you folks think?

1 comment:

Xakudo said...

I'm also a guy who has struggled with body image issues. I found the parody funny, but I agree that I don't think it represents guys any better than it would represent women had the same parody been done with women.

I think both the original and the parody would have worked better if they'd included both genders. But I don't think either one fails as-is either.

One of the youtube comments on the original noted something that I think is important, though. It's still pushing beauty at something important to a person's life and self-worth. It's just saying "you're more beautiful than you think". As someone who is helping to raise two teenage girls, that really irks me. I struggle to convey to these girls that their appearance is not what's important about them, and this ad--even though it's feel-good--really undermines that.