Melted ideal

October 10, 2018

CEFRI thus situated itself “on the side of psychosis” – its confessed goal was to serve rather than repress the utter madness of the urban malaise, because it was only from this mad perspective on the ground that a properly social discourse on the city could be forged. (Brott, S.)

In my previous post – ‘Names we call ourselves’ – I briefly mentioned contemporary need of ‘naming’. While creating identity, each body seeks guidelines, patterns and examples to choose from – it is very rarely original and self-constituted. One of bafflingly abundant sources of inspiration is the dense network of commercialized information that becomes a new infrastructure for cultural codes and behaviours. This network reflects socio-cultural, political moods and reacts to them very quickly with constantly new sets of proposals. Its components adjusted to the nature of our times – fluctuating with perpetual change.

Searching for historical roots, the best way would be to turn to American commercials from the 50s and 60s, that were primitively gender-orientated in a fixed, non-elastic manner. Marlboro Man is more than 100% masculine – handsome, sculptured jaw, adult – a man, not a boy! – self-confident, cowboy type. It is a strong and attractive image adressing desires of both sexes and succesfully selling not only cigarettes, but also a naive dream. Woman is placed on the opposite extremity. She wears a cute little dress and a stupid smile, cleaning or cooking, always playing a role of a pretty and a housemaid at the same time.

Both representations are highly sexist, superficial and simplified when it comes to understanding social roles as well as understanding individual dreams or expectations. Today’s commercials penetrate way deeper – using variety as a tool while targeting specific groups. Two attitudes can be differentiated. First one sets an ideal and fells into rethoric of creating a dream. Second pretends not to be doing it in order to get closer to the targeted group. In the first one the body is ‘perfect’, in the second – ‘familiar’. Dominance of one of these depends on a country or culture.

In this case, Sweden is particularly interesting and conclusions can be drawn based on simple observations from metro stations. Eminently emancipated culture had banned ‘the perfect body’ – at least as long as it does not refer to gyms, sport apps or sport clothing. Commercials displayed in the metro are getting brutally ‘real’ (especially with medical content), ‘familiar’, using ‘avarage’ bodies. The definition could be – just normal, maybe not too beautiful nor too young, not always well-dressed. There is also a variation to that – bit more fancy, alternative, hipster directed to younger generations.

This way, the body may reflect temporary trends, but has no longer permanent idea behind its appearances. It lacks certainty about what is should be, it’s confused. Liberty is both essential and difficult.

03 / Kinga Zemła




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