When I heard on NPR that the National Advertising Division (NAD), an organization that monitors accuracy in national advertising, was banning a CoverGirl ad featuring Taylor Swift due to its excessive airbrushing, I was thrilled! False advertising is illegal! It’s been highly regulated and enforced in the medicinal industry, and the food industry has really been cracking down too. Do those in charge finally see the potentially damaging effects of false advertising on the mental health of cosmetic consumers?

The cosmetics industry racks in over one hundred billion dollars a year from consumers trying to make their skin appear as flawless as Taylor’s is here. Sorry foundation fans, but chances of achieving that are slim, especially because the product that CoverGirl is using Taylor to sell can’t provide flawless skin. Such magic is only feasible with an airbrush and a highly paid make-up team.

These images cause consumers to compare themselves to generally unattainable standards. What’s that? Do I smell a nationwide inferiority complex a’ brewin’? However, the actions taken by the NAD to ban this and several other airbrushed ads from public release is a step in the right direction.

While we’re on the subject of regulation: I hate to harp on the ridiculousness of most of our childhood heroines, but Disney princesses could have benefitted from a regulatory committee of sorts. Jasmine, that mermaid brat, and many others feature waist-to-bust ratios that require the removal of one’s lowest two sets of ribs. While the messages of these films were intended to be uplifting, and encourage independence, (although catering primarily to Western-cultured audiences), could they not be delivered by singing young ladies that better reflected the girls and women they were trying to reach?

While I paint an extreme picture, it is not so extreme to envision a regulatory committee on film. In fact, until the 1950s, Hollywood films could not show a man being the cause of a woman’s death, nor could they be in bed together at the same time. These regulations strike me as extreme, but mild regulation pertaining to children’s films is something worth thinking about.

Of course this raises important questions such as, “Well how much is too much?” and “How does one prevent this regulatory body from stomping too hard on the 1st amendment rights and artistic license of the film makers?” That is further down the road then I care to travel at this moment. I simply wish to drop a popcorn kernel in the pond and see how many ducks take interest.


5 thoughts on “Regulation

  1. sbobadilla

    Great job Lindiwe! As someone with a history of not great skin, I remember in middle school being so embarrassed about a break-out or the like. Ads like Taylor’s made me feel resentful about my body and, as you rightly point out, this body loathing extends across the board. Your post elucidates how beauty products are concerned with first and foremost profit and then their supposed communities of interest.

  2. Keith Grubb

    @sbobadilla: you say that she “elucidates how beauty products are concerned with first and foremost profit and then their supposed communities of interest.” In general, I agree, but I disagree that beauty products/companies ‘then care about their supposed communities or interest.’ While it’s possible that some people within the companies care about certain individuals or communities, I think it’s probably a amore accurate statement that the overarching care of these companies is only profit. I don’t think a company’s values are constituted of the sum of values of its employees; rather, a company’s values are primarily concerned with profit, and perpetuating a capitalist culture. I’m sure there’s an industrial complex around somewhere to describe the culture perpetuating the marketing strategies of these companies.

  3. It’s interesting to revisit this in the wake of the new Israeli legislation that requires models to have a BMI of at least 18.5 (“healthy weight”). If her BMI is lower, the model would require a doctor’s note. This regulation seems like a step in the right direction to me, though demonizing very thin people, who are sometimes (though not often) very thin due to a medical condition, is also not to be applauded. Still, I appreciate any effort to improve the visual messages about beauty that girls and women receive.

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