I had to go to the dentist earlier today.
Waiting rooms are the only time now I really get to look at magazines. I used to be addicted to them, but I found the growing number of advertisements along with the ever rising price rather frustrating. I also found that the majority of the articles had less and less to say to me.
I was also increasingly annoyed by the commissioned articles that talked about things like healthy body weight, empowering women, the rise of the strong female etc and the failure of the magazines that commissioned them to realise how hypocritical they were when placed next to adverts for luxury brands where the women in the pictures look like wraiths and highly sexualised ones at that.
Today I picked up a magazine while I was waiting to see the hygienist. Flicking through the pages I was particularly struck by an ad for a perfume by Jimmy Choo, called Illicit.
You can see it here.
In this picture, a young woman stands in front of an open French window, clutching an over-large bottle of said perfume.
She is wearing a pair of high waisted lilac pants. You cannot see what she is wearing on her top half, if anything, because the bottle is so large it covers her torso.
I found myself reacting quite strongly to the picture. I was disturbed by it to be honest. It’s not a common reaction to an advert I have to say, so I had a look again at what I thought was so disturbing about it.
There is, of course, the fact that the model is far too thin. This is standard. This is usually just eye-rolling ‘of course she is’ territory.
Then there is the fact that it is selling sex. This too, is standard. ‘Wear perfume. Men will want to shag you.’ It has ever been so.
How sad is this? That these are the things we take for granted about adverts? That’s a whole other blog post right there.
I realised that what upset me about this particular advert though, was the fact that she looks like a child.
I realise that this is subjective, obviously. Not everyone is going to think this, but here’s why I do:
Everything is pale and gauzy, shot in tasteful pastels with a lot of lilac and pale pink which makes me think of little girls’ nurseries. I accept this may just be me, and in another context I probably wouldn’t think that about the colour. In this context, I do.
She’s wearing big pants/bikini bottoms. They make it look like she’s wearing girls’ knickers rather than a woman’s bikini bottoms. This is made more overt because you can’t see what she’s wearing on her top half.
The other thing it made me think is that she looks like a child dressing up in someone else’s clothes. She looks like she’s playing at being a grown up.
She is holding an overlarge bottle of perfume, which makes her look smaller. It deliberately dwarfs her, making her look even more like a child. To me she looks a bit like she’s cradling it, almost like a little girl holding a doll.
Her head is too big for her body, sort of like when a kid gets to that spindly, leggy stage of growth where they’re not quite in proportion with themselves.
She has her head tilted, mouth slightly parted so that she looks naive, waif like, and innocent.
Also like she’s asking to be fucked if truth be told.
And this is the problem. It is both a picture of innocence and experience. It is both childlike and massively sexualised all at once.
The final straw for me is the fact that apart from the huge Jimmy Choo label, the only other word on the ad is the name of the perfume: ‘Illicit’.
It makes it sound, to me, as if what this product is offering is an illicit experience, which having sex with a young girl would be.
I am probably reading too much into it, but maybe not. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable with my daughters accepting this as ‘normal’. I wouldn’t want them to desire this product, or this body, or this lifestyle, or whatever experience this perfume is offering. I would be deeply troubled if they did want any of these things.
It’s in a women’s magazine so it is supposed to appeal to women. It is supposed to give women something to aspire to. I do not want to aspire to look and behave like a child. I do not aspire to have a man desire me and want to have sex with me because I look and behave like a child.
It seems as if it is telling women that this is what men want. I find that more than creepy.
Am I wrong? Please tell me I am.