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Beauty Before the Eyes of Beholders

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Sophia Coleman

on 2 April 2013

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Transcript of Beauty Before the Eyes of Beholders

Intro People have trouble defining beauty, but we know it when we see it
One out of every 3.8 messages on network television commercials was related to attractiveness
Goal of this paper was to make the argument that physical attractiveness has many different categories and it developed eight looks that are popular in two media formats: Magazines and Music videos Eight kinds of beauty Classic Beauty: Typically blonde/light hair, Anglo-Saxon features.
Feminine: Soft image, feminine/romantic apparel. Typically "older" looking than other categories
Sensual: Sexually attractive in a classy way
Exotic: Ethnic looking, further from "white European" norm
Cute: casua; attire, youthful appearance, both awkward and natural
Girl-Next-Door: outdoorsy, casual and active. Less awkward than "cute" category but not as sexual as "Sex Kitten"
Sex Kitten: sexy attire, do not appear "natural" because they are often in uncomfortable poses. Do not look directly at camera
Trendy: two distinct kinds of models, both of which have clothing that contrasts/clashes. Oversized accessories. Provocative and challenging What is a beauty ideal? A beauty ideal is an overall "look" incorporating both physical features--pouty lips vs. thin lips, large breasts vs. small--and a variety of products, services and activities.
Often summed up in a cultural shorthand- "vamp" "girl-next-door" "ice queen"
These ideals are used to sell products; linkages between women's appearance and feeling of self-worth.
This applies to men as well What is beautiful may be good, but it is also multidimensional Pioneering work of Dion, Berscheid and Walster studied the "what is beautiful is good" halo effect
Attractive people are better liked and they are assumed to be more sociable, independent and exciting
There are marketing consequences of employing attractive rather than unattractive spokespersons and models
Marketing uses a simple attractive-unattractive rating scale to asses beauty--not the same as the "real world" which is multidimensional The cultural relativity of beauty "Looks" and brand personalities Advertisers create a "look" or visual "gestalt," meaning when confronted with visual information, people will attempt to organize that information into the simplest form possible.
When creating the "look" every detail is done with care--from hair and makeup to props and set design--to sell a product Jim Beam When successful, a "gestalt" is created that is natural and necessary and beauty types are used accordingly Dewar's Brand personalities, cont'd Some product categories are incompatible with certain celebrity/beauty types
This is due to the traditional focus on "decomposing" beauty into different elements rather than recognizing it as a cultural "gestalt" that is multicategorical.
Traditional approaches only tell us that a celebrity/model is attractive, not what attractiveness is. Study 2: "Looks" In Music Television Cultural Gatekeepers Cultural gatekeepers play a crucial role in shaping audience perceptions
These cultural gatekeepers are: Fashion and beauty editors, film directors and other creatives.
When choosing wardrobe, props, models and makeup, they are defining sanctions of beauty. Music television targets audiences between the age of 12 and 34
The median age is 24
A handful of viewers watch Music television to learn about current trends.
Each artist has their "stylistic differences," making MTV diverse when it comes to style. Gatekeepers cont'd Music directors are considered gatekeepers.
The decisions they make as directors are similar to those we make as stylist.
When choosing models for a video, the director has to take the genre into consideration, so that the models in the video fit "the look." "Looks" In music videos Con't Artist such as Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey, and Beyonce go for a softer look.
When going for a softer look, Flowy fabrics are usually used.
Beautiful scenarios such as beaches, sunsets, or gardens are use to emphasize the "softness" or "innocence" of that artist or specific song. Methods For the studies used in the article, the focus is on "the associations between musical genre and the types of beauty portrayed in music videos."
267 videos were looked at.
The study only used females who appeared in the video for at least 15 seconds in a full-face frontal view. The personal intuition or taste of cultural gatekeepers appears to be based upon a common "zeitgeist"-the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
Gatekeepers decide what artifacts and lifestyles are associated with a particular "type" of person and the physical and personal attributes of that person.
These decisions lead to icons, ex: James Dean and his white T-shirt and motorcycle jacket or Madonna's lingerie as outerwear These idealized images are then used by audiences to evaluate their own looks Evolving and Diverse ideals mid-1800s= very pale and delicate
1890s- athletic Gibson Girl
1920s-small, boyish flapper
1950s- buxom look of Marilyn Monroe
flat-chested, thin look of 1960s
athletic body type, hippie-look of the 1970s "Looks" in music videos: Con't In Beyonce's Halo video, a very natural/soft look was used throughout the video.
Her hair seemed effortless and so did her wardrobe.
Her male partner in the video also portrayed an innocent/soft side. Results Dance music tends to use exotic models
Metal music commonly portrays a "sex-kitten" or "exotic" look
New wave music uses trendy models in their video.
Rap music, for the majority of the time, goes for exotic models. Results Cont. Overall, the studies showed that about 50% of the 267 videos used exotic models.
At 23%, a "trendy" look was the next popular look.
Going for a "cute" look is not so common. The studies showed that only 4% of the videos attempted to use this look. Periods of history have tended to be categorized by one specific ideal of beauty. However, after the 1970s it becomes increasingly difficult to pinpoint one "ideal" or "icon" of beauty. We are now confronted with multiple ideals of beauty because of increased globalization. Results Cont'd Why do most artist go for an exotic/sensual look? Two Empirical Extensions Moods & Looks In the article, the use of the different styles in videos were also looked at
Results: "Dance, Heavy metal, and rap all use a sensual/exotic look, but each genre tends to use it in a different way."
Dance music is usually in a happy, celebration setting. Thus the exotic look may remind dance music fans of good times they've had.
In Metal Music, the exotic look is usually connected to anger, conflict or violence. This look may carry a negative feeling for fans.
However, rap music tends to be the middle man. The genre can use the exotic look for both a positive and negative feeling. The eight previously mentioned categories of beauty were combined into six:
Feminine/Classic Beauty
Sex Kitten
Trendy To extend the research two forms of media were examined:
fashion magazines- clothing, makeup and hairstyles, traditional, directly concerned with beauty
music television- "cutting edge" for popular music, non-traditional, electronic medium Hypothesis:
There will be a variety of looks portrayed; beauty is not uniform
there will not be a uniform distribution of beauty ideals
There will be differential association of beauty types with particular magazines and specific music genres. Study 1: "Looks in Magazines" Magazines essentially provide prescriptions for becoming more beautiful
Fashion magazines target specific taste cultures, ex: Vogue haute couture looks vs. deep cleavage look of Cosmopolitan cover girls Methods Ads from current, major U.S. fashion magazines with readership of one million (or more) 18-34 year olds
coding of model "looks" was performed by three female undergrads
195 models were coded
Ads were cut from the following six women's magazines: Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Mademoiselle, Self, Seventeen and Vogue
For comparison purposes models were also take from three men's magazines: Esquire, GQ and Playboy
Product or magazine identification cues were obscured by white tape Results/Discussion The six types of beauty were not evenly represented across the magazines
Most prevelant looks of all were Trendy (26.2%), Classic Beauty/Feminine (23.6%) and Exotic/Sensual (23.1%)
Results accord well with perceptions of industry experts, who say those three looks make up the best models
It makes sense that Trendy is most popular Results Cont'd Girl-Next-Door (13.9%) Sex Kitten (10.3 %) and Cute (3.1) were the must infrequent
The extreme lowness of cute may be due tot he fact we are not in an era where Cute is an acceptable good look but it could regain popularity in later years Distributions of beauty types are based upon particular magazines Sensual/Exotic (Glamour 30.6% and Vogue 31.5%) and Trendy (Glamour 27.8% and Vogue 29.6%) are equally prevalent
Classic Beauty/Feminine look was most popular in Cosmopolitan (38.5%), Mademoiselle (34.4%) and Self (54.6%) based on the magazines' mass appeal and "traditional" tendencies
Self (27.3%) and Seventeen (24%), which have the youngest readers, had an emphasis on Girl-Next-Door looks Conclusion The ads appearing in currently popular fashion magazines highlight a subset of beauty ideals
Is either linked to our current point in time or beliefs among gatekeepers of fashion magazines
Regardless, it is clear women are being "told" that some types of beauty are more highly valued than others. Gatekeepers Conclusion Different beauty types appear disproportionately across subcultural genres
varies according to products advertised and social experiences
Currently the most common forms of beauty are Sensual/exotic, trendy and classic/feminine
UndervaluedP girl-next-door, sex kitten and cute
This could be because gatekeepers are increasingly women Questions What is your favorite fashion magazine and what "beauty ideal" do you think it generally follows and why? Cover examples Sophia Coleman and Sandra Calixte Beauty Before the Eyes of Beholders: The Cultural Encoding of Beauty Types in Magazine Advertising and Music Television The definition of what is beautiful is based on common socialization experiences, taught via mass media vehicles of popular culture
How do these standards come to be represented in media? Their looks reflect their own theories of beauty as well as their beliefs on what will appeal to a mass audienceThey guide other gatekeepers in their choices of individuals (models/actors) who are judged to embody these ideals in advertising and editorial formats “The low overall frequency of girl-next-door look etc. suggest that these looks may not represent “current” dominant ideals of beauty in American Culture." Study II Conclusion The cute, girl next door look is not so commonly used in music videos
The article suggest that this is because gatekeepers (who are likely to be women) are trying to step away from the stereotypical woman. They want viewers to see the female models as "sophisticated, innovative, and aesthetically pleasing."
Each Genre has their idea of beauty; whether it's a natural looking female, or a pale skinned blond. When it comes to music videos, it is the gatekeepers job to make sure that the image matches the sound. Do you think we will ever enter the era of "cute" or "girl-next-door" popularity? Why or why not? Why do you think most music videos prefer the exotic/sensual look over others? Considering this study was done in the mid-90s, what "ideals of beauty" do you think have changed?
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