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Sexy Cartoons: the Cutesifying of Society

In one of the many online apps that I check (Facebook, Google, Yahoo Groups, various independent websites, Wiki) there are ads. We’re all used to them and probably don’t notice most of them by now. They may be for dating or specific to what you’re looking at, or little gadget ads to lure you in so they can slap a cookie and spyware onto you. There are wallpaper and screensaver gadgets, little emoticons you can use and various avatars you can create.

There has been one, obviously geared toward girls and women where you can create an avatar/toon of yourself. Now I was pretty much like any other little girl and used to love paper dolls and plastic dolls and changing their clothes. What can I say? I still love clothes and maybe that was just the early interest manifesting. Women, generally, love color and pattern and whether it is clothing or decorating your home or painting a picture, this may come out in various ways. But over all humans are attracted to color and pattern; it’s just that men have been told they have to be more “manly.” Tell the men of the Baroque era, in their lace cravats and cuffs, brocades, powdered wigs, facial patches and high heeled shoes that they weren’t men. They were; they were just in fashion for their period.

So, back to these various ads. The one that caught my eye is this one:

cutesy

Not that there aren’t other similar ads out there but this one isn’t just taking some generic avatar. You seem to be able to supply a photo of yourself and then form a little Barbie/manga doll image. Why you need a toon version of yourself, who knows? Probably just because it’s cute and different. Let’s compare the toon to the person. It’s a little hard to tell in this picture (and I didn’t want to be spammed so I didn’t click on the icon) but under the “Draw Me” tab you can see that toon girl’s waist is smaller than real girl’s. And I’m gonna just guess that toon girl will have a bigger bust too. And skinnier arms.

Now both images are of the same height but the proportions are different. Toon girl has a head longer and wider than real girl. This fits with certain styles of cartooning but not all. She also has a cupid bow mouth that is about one quarter of the size of real girl’s. But the eyes take up nearly a third of her face. And her brows are arched high. They’re very cartoony and done in a style known as manga, or Japanese comic art, where artists have given these cutesy wide open, innocent eyes on little-girl-proportioned bodies but with the breasts of women (and often in schoolgirl outfits–you figure it out).

So what we have is a cartoon of ourselves. Harmless over all. Cartoons are done for numerous reasons–political satire, caricatures, fantasy stories, etc. However, I see some of these cartoon avatars as an indication of what society fashionistas seem to want. I  admit to a certain prejudice but we have oversexed our society in the wrong ways and objectified women as well. (Booth babes, cheerleaders, pin-ups–some are fine for admiring the art of the human body but it’s gone overboard, and often that’s all people seem to want in women.)

The image of large eyes and a cute little mouth, big breasts and a tiny waist is what men hope they’ll get. What do the Barbie doll, cosmetically enhanced, botox crowd go for? Big breasts, tiny waists, large, overly full lips (one difference from this cartoon), big eyes, long necks, arched brows. It may not be everyone’s ideal of beauty but it’s what the fashion media push, to the extreme. Surgical manipulation of the body is a big business.

What we as human beings need to keep in mind is that we are human, of flesh that changes, with birthmarks and uneven coloring. We are not all built the same, and looking at too many altered stars, cartoon images, and airbrushed and anorexic models gives a false ideal of beauty.  What is truly beautiful is our diversity, the unique combination of eyes, nose, mouth, hair color, height, movement and personality. We shouldn’t be trying to iron ourselves into sameness, nor thinking that a caricature of human proportions is what we all want to be. If people, as individuals, don’t keep a good perspective, then’ we’re closer to being Stepford wives than we thought.

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Do We Need Another Beauty Queen?

Yesterday it was announced that there would be the first Miss Vancouver, multi-ethnic beauty pageant. Marina Hossain, is the CEO of Jam Expo Inc., which will be organizing the pageant for the Health and Beauty Expo. So first off, Canada hasn’t had a Miss Canada pageant since 1992. High production costs and declining interests were the reasons given. The other part was that people just weren’t interested in seeing women sashay along in a bathing suit and an evening gown, and giving their five minutes on how I hope to improve the world.

Yesterday’s CBC Radio One had a pageant coordinator also mention that Canadians just aren’t interested in being beauty queens, yet the ethnic beauty contests have continued. Obviously these contests do give exposure to the winner, as well as some prizes and cash. But the other reason they’re not popular is become they are still sexist and based on “beauty.”

So here comes Ms. Hossain with a new one that blends all ethnicities. Common ground is good but it’s still a beauty pageant. In fact, Hossain says, “Some can sing, some can dance, some have a nice face. Not everybody has that. But it’s the same as any other talent, like swimming. I see it in the same line. Beauty should be appreciated, too…. Beauty is something you have to work on. You have to furnish it. It’s a talent, knowing how to keep up with your body and health. Plus the natural talent you’re blessed with.”

A talent? Right. Being beautiful is a talent like having a well working heart, or two good eyes. You’re born with it or you’re not. Being born with something is not a talent. Some people have natural abilities in drawing or running but it still takes work to be good at and maintain a consistent level of talent. Beauty I guess can also be maintained: eat healthy, exercise, sleep properly. But then there is always botox, and  silicone and plastic surgery to make one beautiful. That’s a talent for those with money.

Hossain thinks beauty is a legitimate female talent. Wow! Why not have a beauty pageant for flowers then? Beauty, where the winner will be crowned with a tiara. Like a true Disney princess world in which Hossain wants to perpetuate the aspect of women being pretty trophies.

Contestants will be judged on the health of their skin, hair, fitness level, etc. They will get to parade along in white T-shirts and jeans, evening gowns and ethnic wear. Swimsuits may yet happen. So someone like me, born in Canada to Canadian parents, whose ethnic grandparents died early and didn’t pass on their cultural motifs for Italian and Danish ethnic/rural clothing would  wear something decidedly…Canadian. Like jeans, or Birkenstocks, or cowboy boots, or a shirt, or… Hmm, I wonder how the judges will like that ethnic dress. But I’m sure they’ll be fair…in judging who’s most beautiful in their ethnic wear.

It makes me wonder if someone, a woman who is sturdy, perhaps small hipped but barrel chested, thick through the shoulders but with amazing skin, lovely hair and who exercises four times a week could ever win, even if her attributes were better than her slimmer opponents. Especially if she had a bulbous nose and squinty eyes but was the nicest person you ever met, with intelligence and compassion for all. Would she win? I’m guessing, not.

While other pageants in recent years had to disguise the parading of female flesh with humanitarian works and community work, this is hardly mentioned up front. It’s all about the talent of beauty. Here is rule # 7 in the requirements:

7. Candidates will not be permitted to have any body art or body piercing that is visibly offensive.

Hmm, visibly offensive. I’m sorry, ma’am, your botox lips are visibly offensive. Excuse me sir, your balding head is visibly offensive. Why you, your height is visibly offensive. That leaves a lot to interpretation but then Ms Hossain and her judges get to be the judge of that. Just hope you figure it out before you send in your $138 nonrefundable registration fee. Oh and you have to be in good health and not have any medical problems. Is that fair under the human rights code? Well probably since they’re making it for young women 18-28 who can never have been married. I wonder if they want them to be virgins too.

But perhaps I’m being harsh about this vapid throwback to stereotypical pageants that promote the objectifying of women. I’d believe more that this was something new and great if it wasn’t a promotional gimmick for the expo. I’d believe it had altruism at its heart if there had been any mention about what the women are expected to bring to the world and community. Sure, that might help decide but it’s obviously not the thrust. I’d believe this was for a more balanced and less genderist idea if it included men and didn’t have the Disney princess tiara.

Unfortunately I find it hard to believe in or support this trophy girl award. There is a good reason that Canadians don’t want to enter such bigoted pageants.

http://www.jamexpo.ca/RULES-MAY2009.pdf

http://www.jamexpo.ca/vancouver.php?pageid=29

http://www.straight.com/article-212939/beauty-talent-says-organizer-new-miss-vancouver-pageant

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The Idiocy of Retail

On one of the writers’ lists, we ended up discussing shopping experiences this week. It began with someone going into Chapters and being asked no less than twelve times in as many minutes if he was finding what he wanted. Most people decided they’d rather have no service than service that killed any joy in shopping, or more in a bookstore, browsing.

I had the reverse experience in Future Shop where the CDs were so mixed up I could find nothing. The store wasn’t that busy but when I looked for a clerk, he was watching TV. I didn’t buy anything there.

Service has always had its ups and downs. You either have overly helpful clerks who don’t know when to give you space (like the overattentive waiter) to those that are too busy chatting to each other or fixing makeup or watching TV to actually do their jobs. And then there are the ones too clueless to hold the job: they don’t know their stock or as was the case in Calgary at a restaurant, the waitress didn’t know what alcohol was besides beer.

There are the clerks who are truly helpful. They’re visible but they don’t crowd you. They stay alert and notice when you start to look around for help or have that bewildered deer in the headlights look. It seems rarer these days. I’m more likely to go back to a store that has good service and have walked out of stores with no service or bad service.

Like at The Bay. I was looking for skirts and carrying a couple on hangers as I walked around. It seems one was touching the floor and this clerk with no manners came up and said, “You’re dragging the skirts. You’ll ruin them,” and wrenched them out of my hand. Where was the mud? She could have said, “Can I put those in a room for you,” but she didn’t. I turned around and walked out. When I tried to find The Bay’s address/email online so I could write a letter of complaint, could I find anything pertinent or even a customer service line? Nothing. This way The Bay is assured of only having good reports. I didn’t shop there for many months because of the rude behavior. After all, there are plenty of stores.

I might just be a crank but I do expect to be treated with the same attentiveness I would give someone if I had those jobs. And I have, in the past. I’ve been a waitress. I’ve been a store monkey.

Another aspect of idiot retailing is the lengths stores will go to help perpetuate a myth. The myth of the ideal body. Women are supposed to be caricatures of the ideal female. We’re supposed to have large puffy lips, large but not pendulous breasts, narrow waists and boylike hips. Botox will give you the lips and implants will give you the breasts. But should you want the cheaper way of getting the larger bustline, the stores have helped. I’ve not changed in inches but I now wear a C cup because it is far more desirable than a B cup. Bras are also padded in a variety of ways to increase the illusion of bustiness.

Le Chateau has taken sizing to ridiculous heights where no one wants to be seen as wearing large. You’ll be lucky if you find a large in the store but you’ll find medium, small, extra small, extra extra small and extra extra extra small. WTF? I’ve bought an extra small and still found it too big. Petite is better in their books where a small would probably equate to a size 10. Even stores that have numbered sizing have changed it. A size 8 is now larger than it once was. I find that depending where I shop, I can wear anything from a small (or extra extra small) to a large, or a size 3 to a size 12. Perhaps everything should just be a free size these days because the numbers don’t matter.

Starbucks takes this in the other direction. No one wants to pay five bucks for a small coffee so the small is a tall, the medium is a grande and when they ran out of words in common English usage for large, they went to venti. What’s that, Italian? So there is a small English, a medium French and a large Italian. When it comes to food we want grande, super size, mega large, but when it comes to fitting ourselves into clothes we want petite and super extra mini small. Unless you’re a man. Maybe shoulder widths on jackets have expanded as well for those manly, super hero broad shoulders.

But as one person pointed out on the list, there is a plethora of interesting names for condoms including iron grip and super strength. The sizing is hidden but there is never a small.

May all your shopping experiences have medium attention from the clerks and the prices be super extra extra cheap and the bargains be mega uber mondo grande.

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