the circular runner

What Ms. Tyra Banks Has Taught Me

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2008 at 11:54 pm

The other day, I was working on a blog entry for a blog about…yeah you guessed it, trade show displays.)  I’ve never stopped to think of what ads do to us—how they affect us.  The ad I was writing about had this giant face—an attractive woman looked on at me—as if the face were the product itself.  Because the other blog I write for i not mine and is geared towards commerce, I kept my thoughts focused on what it means to have an ad that basically sells an image more than a product—GO CHECK IT OUT!!  But for this entry, I decided to go another route.  You see, while looking a giant ad with a sexy woman looking back at me, it hit me that the experience was not much different from looking at a porno.  The lesson came home for me the other day when my girlfriend made me watch an episode of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM).

I can safely say that my girlfriend would not have put the two together.  Though she’d be pleased as all get out if I sat down and watched Tyra and Co. giggling and cackling for hours on end, she would not like it if I kicked back and put a porn into the DVD player.  But if you think about it, aside from the sex itself, most people watch porn for the same reason that they look at ads like the giant Chanel ad I was writing about, or the ads that Ms. Tyra & Co. put out all the time.  We want to look at faces looking at us in longing, mysterious ways.  We want to move people and we want to know it.  And if that means buying Chanel, or whatever, then so be it.

If you watch ANTM for any amount of time, you see a group of wannabes who hang on everything Ms. Tyra says because they want their chance to appear in an ad like the one I’m talking about.  On the show, Ms. Tyra spews out a whole lot of lame fortune cookie wisdom about the modeling life, but the much more interesting material comes when she speaks about the craft of modeling itself.  For anyone who thinks that it’s easy, think again.  You have to be a certain kind of person.  You have to look at the camera and without words convey whatever emotion the photographer yells out, and you have to do this while while hot lights shine down on you.  (Kind of like porn if you think about it.)

But even in our image saturated world, we have to admit that there’s probably no way you can really convey genuine emotion in that split second when the camera’s shutter clicks.  Look at one of these ads if you don’t believe me.  Really look at the person.  Don’t ask yourself what she’s trying to communicate.  You have no way of knowing that.  The better question to ask yourself is why you think she’s communicating the emotion you think you’re picking up on.  Why do you think she looks like she’s longing for someone?  Why do you think she looks sad, sexy, etc.? 

More than likely, the expression you’re looking at is neutral—so neutral that it can be anything you want it to be, and that’s the trick.   Some of us (mostly men) will stare and wish we were the recipients of whatever emotion we want to believe the pretty face is conveying, and some of us (our wives, girlfriends, moms and sisters) will hope that they too can be mysterious like her.  In either case, we will remember that these feelings all are due to the product the picture’s selling.  That’s the goal of the mass production photo.  That’s the craft of the modeling business.

 In the end, I guess I should thank Ms. Tyra and Ms. Chanel.  I, for one, am going to stop looking at this picture, walk away when my girlfriend asks me to watch ANTM, and yes, I’m even going to get rid of the porn.  It’s time for some real faces and some real emotion.

Now, what about you?     



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