Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A taste of their own medicine

191 pounds
I'm the first person to applaud Dove for their "be comfortable in your own skin" campaign. They might have even been the first major company to show regular-sized women in their ads, and I love them for that.

But their new ad for Dove "Men + Care"—which premiered during the Super Bowl—has me scratching my head.

The ad—which you can watch here—shows a man's life from conception to "middle-age" accompanied by a staccato voice-over of the man's life story.

(I put middle-age in quotation marks because the actor who plays this part is clearly not middle-aged.)

The ad begins with dozens of purple sperm going after a huge cantaloupe-looking egg (see picture above) and this voice-over: "Get born, get slapped, now get to school."

Then the man is shown progressing through his life—playing football . . .

getting married . . .

having three kids who hilariously have his head superimposed on top of their bodies . . .

and generally settling into the American notion of domestic bliss . . .

After all that, the voice-over wraps up with this lovely coda:

"You've reached a stage where you feel at ease.
You've come this far, and it wasn't a breeze.
You can take on anything, of course you can,
because . . . you're a man!"

This wonderful reinforcement of the importance of "being a man" is heard while showing said "middle-aged" man—now with a perfectly groomed beard to let us know that he's aged—throwing his arms up in triumph as he jogs through the streets in his beat-up old grey sweatpants.

After the man's life story comes to an end, a new, slicker voice-over announces the following:

"Now that you're comfortable with who you are,
isn't it time for comfortable skin?
At last there's Dove for Men. . .
Be comfortable in your own skin."

While these words are being said, we see the "middle-aged" man in the shower, soaping his upper body with a product that we can only assume is the new Dove product for men.

The problem is that his body is definitely not the kind we would expect to see on the average middle-aged man with a wife, three kids, and a house. It's not even the kind of body we would expect to see on a fit middle-aged man. No, in fact, the body we see is the incredibly sculpted upper body of a man in his twenties who spends all of his free time at the gym, lifting weights, running on the treadmill, and maybe even doing a little bit of yoga.

So in reality the message of this ad is "Be comfortable in your own skin
. . . or if you're not comfortable with your own skin, just imagine that you are a really hot younger guy with cut abs and a sexy beard."

The whole premise of the Dove "Campagin for Real Beauty" is to help people accept themselves the way they are and to make people feel like they do NOT need to look like a model to have a healthy sense of self-esteem, but I doubt that any regular middle-aged man would feel pleased with his body—or even find it remotely attractive—after watching an ad that features a man who looks like he spends every waking moment at the gym.

On the one hand, I'm offended by Dove's insensitivity. After all, this is not the message we want to send. We don't want men—or anyone—feeling like they have to have a perfectly sculpted body to feel good about themselves.

On the other hand, I think it's a little bit funny to see men finally getting a taste of their own medicine. Women have been struggling to reconcile their very real bodies with the totally unreal images we see on the screen for years, and now men are getting their turn.

So you'll forgive me if I laughed out loud when I saw this smoking hot Ryan Gosling look-alike lathering up at the end of a Dove ad trying to reach "real" men. As much as I hate to admit it, it's nice to have the shoe on the other foot for a change.


  1. I don't find his body so unrealistic. You're going to have to take my word on this (or Ralaina's word), but some of us dudes, as a result of exercise and diet, look more studalicious in our forties than in our twenties.

  2. Puh-leeze, Tom!!! Either put up (meaning pictures) or shut up.

  3. I read an in Slate in 2005, when the Real Beauty campaign first launched. It had an interesting point:

    "But there's a dirty little secret here. Because, in the end, you simply can't sell a beauty product without somehow playing on women's insecurities. If women thought they looked perfect—just the way they are—why would they buy anything?"

    It argued that the feel good, accept your body message wasn't a good long-term sales strategy. Maybe that's why they've dropped it in favor of a cut twenty-something dude.

    Also, while this might be sexist, I can't really see men rallying around an ad campaign that's all about celebrating their bodies the way they really are. Am I wrong?