I often say that if you want to see better media, you have to consume better media.
If we want to live in a world with fewer women’s magazines that enforce stupid, restrictive gendered behavioural norms, we have to stop buying women’s magazines that enforce stupid, restrictive gendered behavioural norms. If we want to live in a world without romantic comedies that shame women for being single and having careers, we have to stop buying tickets to see romantic comedies that shame women for being single and having careers (and maybe have Katherine Heigl commit to a five-year moratorium on playing the Uptight Career Shrew Who Needs A Charming Misogynist to Teach Her How to Love.)
Sometimes, though, we have to go a step further than consuming the kind of media we want to see in the world. Sometimes we have to help fund the production of that media so that it can get made in the first place. Especially if the media we want to see in the world is a hard-hitting documentary about how the beauty industry exploits and feeds women’s insecurities about their appearances. Turns out, it’s awfully hard to get funding for a project like that (they don’t call them “the powers that be” for nothing).
But a project like that is crucial, which is why I’m so glad that filmmaker Elena Rossini has undertaken it, and so eager to see it get the funding it needs to continue production. The film is called The Illusionists, and Rossini describes it thusly:
The Illusionists is a documentary about the body as the “finest consumer object,” focusing on how mass media, advertising, and several industries manipulate and exploit people’s insecurities about their bodies for profit.
The preoccupation over physical beauty is as old as time; what is different today is the central role that the pursuit of the perfect body has taken: it has become our new religion. A beautiful body is seen today as key for personal and also, more importantly, economic success for both women and men. The fast-paced culture brought on by globalization and the new economy has created a new paradigm of self-making: individuals are increasingly pushed to re-invent themselves. The key anxiety of the 21st century is the fear of disposability.
From Los Angeles to Tokyo, relentless propaganda reminds us that we have only one body – and that we have to enhance it. Through advertising and mass media, multibillion-dollar industries (most notably cosmetics, fashion, dieting, and cosmetic surgery) saturate our lives with images of idealized, unattainable beauty, of an “Official Body” that does not really exist in nature and that can be obtained only through cosmetic surgery… or digital retouching. The very quantity of these images makes it impossible for people not to be affected by them. The ultimate goal is to exacerbate people’s insecurities, and to then profit from them, through the sale of a plethora of products and treatments.
Rossini, who is also the woman behind this amazing short film about beauty standards in art and modern advertising, needs funding to finish this much-needed film. She’s running a Kickstarter campaign that ends tomorrow. If you can contribute, please do, and take Elena a few dollars closer to making the kind of media you want to see in the world.