actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed : Julius Caesar was a real person | a story drawing on real events | her many illnesses, real and imaginary.
• used to emphasize the significance or seriousness of a situation or circumstance : there is a real danger of civil war | the competitive threat from overseas is very real.
• Philosophy relating to something as it is, not merely as it may be described or distinguished.
Real. It’s a straightforward word most are familiar with, a word we associate with value – Mary J. Blige’s hit song proclaimed her search for “real” love, movie theaters tout their “real” butter, we talk about how life is in the “real” world. Real butter may be a quantifiable thing, but how do we define concepts such as “real” love, or the “real” world? And what about “real” beauty, the marketing campaign of Dove since 2004?
Dove, a company owned by Unilever in the business of soaps, lotions, and hair care products, recently made waves with a clever video that quickly went viral, titled “Real Beauty Sketches:” A forensic artist conducts a series of “sketch interviews” with various women, and the women are asked to describe themselves. The artist comes up with a sketch of the woman, then interviews a stranger who spoke with said woman earlier in the day. The artist creates another sketch of said woman with the stranger’s description. At the end of the video, the two sketches are framed side by side, and the women’s self-described sketches look – well, less beautiful – than the stranger’s sketch.
Dove’s tagline for the video is “You are more beautiful than you think,” and the company’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” states that only 4% of women worldwide believe they are beautiful.
While the video has brought Dove great acclaim, it has left a bad taste in my mouth – and it’s because I question how “real” this video is. I wonder just how Dove conducted this “social experiment.” The video feels scripted to me, and these women seem like actors. If they aren’t actors, how did Dove find them? Did they randomly select these women? Did women apply to be in this experiment, or did they apply to appear in a commercial? In creating this “Real Beauty Sketches,” did Dove craft their campaign around the results of their experiment, or did they craft the experiment around their campaign?
Dove, your intentions with the “Campaign for Real Beauty” – are they “real?”