Mesmerized by those Dove "Campaign For Real Beauty" ads, wherein a crash of full-figured sirens work it in their underpants? You're not alone. The ads, which began appearing a few weeks ago, have generated the kind of quadruple-extra-large reaction every ad company craves.
From comic ambivalence to Marxist/feminist umbrage to unabashed applause for Dove's self-congratulatory claims, this is the kind of controversy where the advertiser just keeps winning. (Or not: Slate's Seth Stevenson gives Ogilvy & Mather a short-term A and a long-term D for the spots, because, "once you're the brand for fat girls, you're toast.")
One striking thing about the Campaign For Real Beauty dustup is the way semiotic mumbojumbo has now become the national language of the United States. According to the coverage, it's all about "redefining" beauty, and Dove's Campaign site dedicates itself to overthrowing "stifling stereotypes" (no doubt replacing them with steatopygic standards). When even the people trying to sell you cream for cottage cheese thighs have to drivel about how everything's a "construct" and a cultural "mythology," we have officially reached a stage of terminal self-awareness. Aren't there any dummies left out there who still think a cigar is just a cigar?
The other interesting detail: Dove, for all its realness, is apparently still not being real enough. The average woman in the United States today is a couple sizes larger than the largest of the brood mares depicted in these ads. So we have still more proof of Reason editor Nick Gillespie's longstanding theory about defining fatness upward. The political element in campaigns like Dove's is always vaguely described as being about body acceptance, but quite a few women already seem to have accepted bodies this big and even bigger. Only in America, land of grande promise and vente disappointment, could you end up with a fat-girls ad that can't even satisfy a discerning chubby chaser.
But the most serious implication of the Campaign For Real Beauty has been spotted by underrated funnyman Don Asmussen.