This morning, I met with a small but vocal group who took issue with a campaign over which I had direct supervision. The campaign was designed to promote a new website and aimed at a generally conservative group of peer institutions; in order to capture their attention, the campaign featured bright colors and – egads! – animated characters.
The issue is this: that the animated characters’ body types are unrealistic.
I’m torn. Of course I understand the issues. The characters are too thin. They’re way too thin. It’s ridiculous how thin they are, really, and though they’re not meant to be real, the fact remains. They’re thin in the way Barbie is thin, ie in a way that defies biology and even physics. They’re meant to suggest avatars, but isn’t it also sad and disheartening the way our fantasy versions of self tend to appear in some sort of “idealized” thinness?
The other mind of me says, Hey, ease up, it’s meant to be fun and whimsical, not the starting point for a debate on body image and the media. But it was, in the end.
I think we had a good conversation. I hope the small but vocal group left with the sense that their input is valuable (it is) and that I care (I do) and that while the process isn’t perfect, it is constrained by things like budget and time, which can be pretty powerful constraints.
We live in a sick society, people. Any image we see in print has been manipulated in some way. Technology is sufficiently advanced to create imagery of people who look real but are not. These are the people who are displayed as our ideals. I read Charles Bowden’s Desierto recently, in which drug trafficking and the savings & loan crisis are depicted as a vast, untangle-able mess. I can’t help but think that beauty industry, the diet industry, the food industry, and the media are similarly entwined.
Optimism in the face of a shitstorm like that is an attitude of defiance.