Plastic Bodies by Sheila Pree Bright is an ad series that encourages an in depth, thought-provoking discussion on modern beauty standards and how we internalize subtle messages about the “perfect look” from a very early age. This time, however, it’s not a mere representation of how real women size up to Barbie, but also about how women of color feel the pressure to abide “white beauty standards” and the confusing cultural messages that derive from it, or as the Atlanta based photographer herself explains it: “This body of work addresses the loss of personal identity many women experience, specifically women of colour.”
There is an ongoing debate as to whether the dolls we play with during childhood really help shape our body image and our idea of how we should look in a subtle yet pervasive way, but by juxtaposing the image of a conventional Barbie doll with a more realistic image of a woman, the photographer really manages to show the contrast between the standardized idea of beauty and what beauty really is.
These photos also bring into the spotlight the perceived importance of keeping up with trends and the idea that looking a certain way is of paramount importance: “American concepts of the ‘perfect female body’ are clearly exemplified through commercialism, portraying ‘image as everything’ and introducing trends that many spend hundreds of dollars to imitate. It is a lot more widespread than at any time that ladies are enlarging breasts with silicone, building brief hair for a longer time with synthetic hair weaves, covering pure nails with acrylic fill-ins, or most likely replacing all-natural eyes with contacts, ” the photographer explained in an e-mail for Huffington Post.
It might seem simplistic to point the blame for body image issues and the pressure to be beautiful on a beloved childhood symbol (little girls aren’t likely to immediately make connections the same way an adult would), but it still begs the question of whether or not we should strive for a more realistic presentation of women and redefine our beauty standards especially given the influence such a narrow definition of beauty has on young girls and the way they see themselves. It might not be the cause of poor body image, but it is a noteworthy correlation nonetheless.
What do you think? Is it justified to want a more diverse representation of beauty even as far as dolls are concerned in order to encourage a better body image? Or is this issue just a matter of assigning blame and finding a simple and convenient answer to a more complex problem which is entirely a parent’s responsibility?