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SNEDEKER: Character would trump smooth skin, features in perfect world

By Rick Snedeker

For The Daily Republic


I saw it one day among various other quotations and ideas written on wood frames in the Reader’s Den in Mitchell. I thought it was simple and true. So I gave it to my wife, for whom it seemed perfectly suited, though I was sure she’d modestly disagree.

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Often, if not usually, what is enduringly attractive to us humans is unseen, a phantom glow from deep within our muses.

It is a mysterious quality of being that utterly transforms outward appearance in ways we can feel but not define.

This invisible pixie dust is far more potent than high cheekbones, turquoise eyes or perfect facial symmetry to what, as they say, makes the world go ’round.

Consider a new advertising video by Dove, a personal-care products company, that has gone viral on the Internet.

It is driven by an innovative commercial concept that focuses not, as do most such ads, on resolving body flaws, but on gently but effectively driving home this message to women: “You are more beautiful than you think.”

Even though Dove certainly hopes the campaign will help it sell more (a lot more) of the company’s products, including body washes and lotions, if it succeeds, it will do so by appealing to women’s better angels and not their self-image demons.

In the creation of the short Dove video, a group of women was invited to a loft and asked to sit individually behind a curtain and describe their faces to a forensic police illustrator on the other side while he sketched them only from their self-descriptions.

Prior to each sketching, each woman was also asked to talk with another woman, heretofore a stranger, in the loft, and the illustrator later sketched each woman again but based only the stranger’s description.

Each subject then was allowed to view her two sketches; all the drawings using the stranger’s description were deemed not only far more flattering, but more accurate.

The implication is others often find women significantly more attractive than they see themselves.

“We spend a lot of time as women analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite right,” one of the sketch subjects said after viewing her two drawings, “and we should spend more time appreciating the things we do like.”

The campaign has also, not surprisingly, spawned debate. Some critics, reasonably, argue that as positive as the campaign is, it still implies that how a woman looks and not who she is the most important value.

And it should be noted that women are not the only gender subject to viewing themselves through the funhouse prism of vanity.

Certainly, the smoothness of our skin or the evenness of our features should never trump character, at least in a perfect world.

But we are a visual species, and, for better or worse, looks matter — in relationships, and even in success. It is an unfortunate, unfair reality.

But how we look externally is also greatly affected — when others look at us — by who we are on the inside. As the song says, everything is beautiful in its own way. And so are people. If it takes a commercial video to remind us, that’s perfect.

Rick Snedeker, a semi-retired writer and editor, lives in Mitchell.