Millionize your lashes. These were the words staring me in the face late one Friday evening. I literally started crying, sobbing like a little baby. Admittedly, I may have been more than a little bit intoxicated; but still, those words hit home. Millionize your lashes.
What, exactly, can this phrase mean? It is relatively easy to surmise what the advertisers want us to understand – that through the use of their product your lashes won’t merely look like they have bulked up a little…no, it will look like you have millions of them. Your lashes will be so volumised they will have become millionised. Apparently the pin-cushion look is desirable these days.
Beyond that, the use of the word – along with the image of the ‘beautiful’ woman to go with it – brings more than a subtle connotation of wealth and celebrity. Not only will your lashes have more volume, but you as a person will be more popular; more desirable; more successful. It is such a sorry state of affairs that such an ad need exist, and let me now remind you again of the pitiful sight that the late-night revelers feasted their eyes upon…
For here I was, drunk enough to no longer care about public perception, yelling obscenities at a cosmetics ad whilst crying enough tears to turn the world around me into a salty blur. What a sight it must have been, I wonder if my ramblings were even coherent enough at the time for anybody to hear them. Thankfully, my wife was there to drag me away from my ideological tantrum – to provide me with the soothing ‘I know, it’s awful’ that gave just enough of a respite to put me on a bus home. It was just all too much, this single phrase had pushed me over the edge and into an existential despair as to the shape of the materialist society we live in.
Despite being in such a state, ‘Millionize Your Lashes’ has now become for me a catch-phrase that represents so much. It is a call towards recognising the absurdity of the situation we find ourselves in. A perfect reminder that, unless we specifically and consciously take note of the direction we are heading in, we are doomed to failure. For in its non-ironic form, the phrase represents pure egotism and self-centeredness.
It is the war cry of a species that has evolved to the point where we have complete and utter control over almost every aspect of our destiny…and yet we choose to waste that opportunity by focusing on attaining an impossible and absurd goal.
For you see, what frustrated me most about this advertisement (and every single other one like it) is not merely the words or the egotistical message behind them. No, the worst thing is that the image that accompanies them is not even a depiction of reality! The celebrity adorning this wonderful advertisement had been subjected to hours of hair and makeup, hours more of lighting and photography, and then finally a few more dozen hours of digital manipulation and illusion before being presented to you in all of her ‘natural’ glory.
The goal that you are being presented with is not even one that is possible for the person in the photo, let alone anybody else. But we continue to worship at the altar of beauty; of the cosmetics companies and the fitness supplements; of women in floss-bikinis and men in tighter-than-healthy briefs. It’s a lie, and deep down we all know it to be a lie.
The shocking part is just how successful a lie it is. The cosmetics industry alone is worth billions of pounds a year just in the UK. This isn’t even counting those forms of ‘cosmetics’, such as sun-screen, that actually have a health benefit to using them. Nor does it include the money spent on cosmetic surgery…which is itself an exponentially growing and worrying trend that is helping to redefine just what it means to be ‘naturally’ beautiful. With the advent of less obvious forms of cosmetic surgery, and more technologically advanced ways of doing so, this trend in literally altering the very structure of our appearance will only become more and more pronounced. But we have to ask why we are doing this – and, more importantly, what image are we chasing by doing so?
What we’re chasing is an image that has been completely manufactured, and these days mostly via the hands of a talented graphic designer working alongside a kitted-up photographer. Ever wondered why those super-models and celebrity photo-shoots always look so symmetrical in their facial features? Why the only mole or blemish you’ll ever see is a little ‘beauty spot’ on the upper lip or other such strategic location?
And the most shocking thing…why in ads selling cosmetic products there is often a little disclaimer along the lines of ‘imagery may have been digitally enhanced’?! The absurdity of such a disclaimer should be obvious. Don’t be taken for a fool.
Now that the rant is over, let’s draw things back a bit out of the idealised clouds that I often am found to be living in. I’m not saying that make-up is a tool of the Devil, designed to tempt young adults into a life of decadence and sin. I’m not attacking women, in general, for being the main audience of this con (which, now that it’s been mentioned, can often impact the body image of men just as much as women…David Beckham, point in case). I’m definitely not saying that you can’t enjoy looking a bit ‘dolled’ up by applying some makeup and maybe some confidence in the process. As with everything I tend to talk about here on Future Conscience, it is the need to be aware of what you are doing that concerns me the most.
Examine the ads you see before you – and they are literally everywhere – and take note of the hypocrisy involved in their creation. Think about just how prevalent these images are, and then consider the long-term impact that they will have on the direction of our future society. Don’t forget, such idealised and fake images of beauty are incredibly new to the human experience. Yes, we’ve had make-up for a very long time. Yes, we’ve always attempted to alter our appearance to be more attractive to others. But it is only now through these digitally remastered advertisements that we are able to do so with such convincing processes that we are actually becoming blind to the change. Even the beautiful and idealised paintings throughout history had an understanding that they were just that – artistic depictions.
Now, what we see is to be taken at face value (pun intended). It isn’t taken as somebody that has been manipulated or altered to look beautiful: it’s just somebody beautiful. Somebody that doesn’t even exist.
The impact that this has on our own personal psyches is damaging enough. But it is the impact that it is having on the collective consciousness of society that is most worrying, for that will help dictate the direction that we move towards as we forge headlong into an unknown future. Millionize Your Lashes – a cosmetic dream of absurdity.