By Mike Mariani
The American media, advertising, and entertainment industries’ obsession with supermodels and beautiful women has been frequently discussed as damaging to the other 99% of women in this country. And rightfully so. Certainly it suggests that young women must live up to an impossible standard of youth, beauty, and body type, and relentless depictions of supermodel-level women can have the effect of poisoning large swaths of American women with inferiority complexes. I don’t want to take anything away from that. If I was a girl, I could only imagine how pernicious this would be to my identity, confidence, and self-esteem.
But the truth is, at least insofar as I have experienced it, this deeply unrealistic portrayal of American women is damaging to men, too. I hate the American advertising and marketing industry. The relentless onslaught of car, smartphone, technology, and deodorant commercials that either feature unambiguously gorgeous women or sneaky-gorgeous women gets under my skin every time I watch the commercials. My best guess is this is because it incites jealousy, insecurity, and generalized anger that this legion of fantasy women are not accessible to me.
It makes me, an adult male in his twenties, feel inferior, marginalized, and alienated from this elite “club” of good-looking, successful people. It turns me into an angry outcast– all because I am unconsciously accepting an artificial, manufactured fantasy as reality.
For every progressive commercial that does feature normal-looking women (they do exist!), there are probably five or six of them with airbrushed, photo-shopped, makeup-artist perfected women who were already attractive enough without all the layers of artifice. These top 1% models do not make me want to buy a luxury car or a new tablet or a magnetizing body spray. They just leave me confused, slightly upset, and repulsed by companies that cannot wean themselves off of the conviction that they must always sell not only sex but also sexual fantasy in order to have a successful product.
Exclusively portraying incredibly attractive women between the ages of 22-35 is directly damaging to females. It sends the message that these are the most coveted and even most important women in society. It is indirectly damaging to a discerning male like myself. It makes me feel ostracized from some elite, WASP, country-club, six-figure club of males that are capable of dating these women.
And the result is not that I go out and buy a new car or choose to drink a certain brand of soda. I just feel a little worse inside, my frame of reference and perspective on my life briefly twisted and warped into something ugly and unwanted. But when I step back from this darkly illusory perspective, when I achieve detachment and objectivity over the American advertising colossus, I recognize that I would prefer to have an authentic life any day— and I do.