Tag Archives: aliens in pretty dresses

Stick Aliens Drink Soda

It’s been awhile since I did a post on the trend in advertising campaigns to not just photoshop women in ads into skinny forms, but to literally make them physically alien and insectoid in their concentration camp images, as something that is supposed to appeal to women in purchasing considerations. And not in a SFF sort of approach where it’s deliberately supposed to be strange, but in ads where we’re supposed to consider them beautiful human woman who we’d want to emulate. If we had elongated spines that turned in ways human bodies can’t actually go.

Previously, these ads have not made much sense in terms of the elegant products they were pitching — upscale fashion, handbags, perfume. And that’s what struck me about them. But this time, it’s a product where skeletalization of the body is directly connected to the product — Diet Coke. That staple of acidic corn syrup and artificial sweeteners that the company keeps pretending starving models drink to look the way they do. Sales of Diet Coke are declining, apparently, (along with non-craft soda in general,) so Diet Coke has launched a new campaign called “It’s Mine” with women grabbing after bottles of Diet Coke now packaged in cutsey colorful graphics of the kind they put on kids’ plastic cups. (Including pink and purple!) That pretty much hits the trifecta: women are easily distracted infants, greedy harpies and obsessive shoppers chasing after purchases.

But it’s this image in particular that ultra goes for the stick alien look:


The dress of course is supposed to resemble Diet Coke itself in a sort of bottle shape. (Hey, they may even have the word “sex” in there subliminally.)

But the woman, oh where to start with the woman. First off, she has one hip that apparently can elongate and swivel outward from her body and around. Her upper torso can twist at a dramatic angle from her lower half, facing forward, while her other leg goes straight back sideways. (Maybe she does yoga.) Her arms are cadaverous and her fingers elongated. Her neck is also elongated, really giving the stick alien appearance, further enhanced by her blonde-ish hair which has been done short and appears in the photo as kind of spiky, in a manner resembling antennae tendrils. (You think they’d do curls for a soda foam resemblance, but I digress.)

She looks, in a word, kind of scary. You would not be surprised to see webbing or ichor or something coming out of her hands and snagging the Diet Coke bottle.

The photo is actually kind of a still shot from a t.v. ad that Diet Coke ran for the Oscars ceremony. (Hence, the ball gown the model wears.) But that ad uses CGI to make the woman’s body like pouring soda with the dress rather than human mobility, and then clearly the image was further photoshopped for print for graphic design reasons over human ones. (In the t.v. ad, when the model drinks the Diet Coke she has caught, her arms are not nearly as frightening.) The print ad is now showing up in various magazines.

Again, it’s one thing to do all the tweaking and glass polishing they regularly do to women in ads. (I can no longer recognize the faces of actresses on magazine covers because they turn them into life-size ceramic dolls.) But to turn a woman in-human, beyond skeletal, does this work to sell the product by just producing a striking image? Maybe it works for something like Diet Coke, but it seems again a fascination of photo editors indulging in surreal art. Rather than selling sex or elegance that might be desired, it’s wiping out the human woman from the image altogether into the otherworldly.

In any case, way to keep it regressive on the product re-packaging and sales pitch, Diet Coke. The soda still tastes awful.


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Return of the Stick Aliens in Pretty Dresses!

Fashion is, in its shiny haute couture forms, about art.  Designers often go for the bizarre in order to startle and dazzle with thought provoking and often controversial  images rather than wearable clothes. So when designers and their photographers go in for having stick aliens as that image, it’s not the same thing as when advertisers and the magazines working with them use stick aliens images to sell products like purses, perfume, or even casual wear that would not seem to benefit from a stick alien image. It’s a game of strange expressionism that does actually keep people interested in fashion and what it might produce and thus, has a more clear rationale. However, sometimes the stick alien image of high fashion is so apropos about stick alien mentality in general that the bizarre image becomes a different sort of social art — an art that invites us to comment on the back-handed nastiness towards women that seems to run through the fashion and advertising industries. Such an image is the current cover picture for the Italian edition of Vogue Magazine, Vogue Italia. The cover, with the headline Avant- Garde, is apparently a tribute to a woman named Ethel Granger who loved to cinch herself up in corsets and have facial piercings and held the Guiness Book of Records record for tiniest waist. Why this would require a tribute is anybody’s guess.

The image isn’t actually photo-shopped, at least not much. Instead, famous photographer Steven Meisel cinched British model Stella Tennant into a special corset to make her waist 13 inches (and probably do permanent damage to her insides.) They turned her into a literal, real life stick alien. The image is meant to be daring, shocking and stir up lots of chatter and magazine sales,  and it’s done all that. It’s art. It’s art that shows the hatred and control fashion has towards the women they use as a tool of art, and does it by invoking both a time period in which women were restricted and lacking power and Edward Scissorhands. It’s a big middle finger from fashion and Vogue towards all the criticism of their stick alien photoshopping and anorexic model servitude of the last few years, criticism that has forced them to make changes they don’t like. It’s an image that says, “We can do whatever we want.”

And of course, they can. And we can blast that image all over for them while pointing out the hatred that they are showing for the women to whom they are supposedly selling clothes and fashion art. We can talk about it, we can talk about it to young women, even if they don’t want to hear it and don’t care right now. And that talking has had an effect, slow but steady. And in the end, the stick alien is not really any better at selling haute couture and fashion magazines than it is at selling perfume, purses and casual wear. (Well, unless you’re Lady Gaga playing around in a music video.) All of the sales rates and the ad rates for all of the fashion magazines are falling and digital sales are underwhelming and still highly disadvantaged for picture heavy mags like fashion. Fashion sales are falling as well, thanks to the economy. If they keep up with the misogyny as their favorite advertising technique, that’s unlikely to change.

So here it is, an actual stick alien, Sid Vicious/American Gothic style:

Edward Scissorhands would be sad.

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Stick Aliens in Pretty Dresses Persist

I haven’t had to do an aliens in pretty dresses post in awhile, for which I’ve been very glad. But I guess spring is likely to bring the stick aliens out in full force as clothing advertisers continue to use a skeletal starvation victim approach in selling their wares. The latest controversy occurred in Britain, when the Prada division Miu Miu did a handbag ad with model Kasia Struss, a 5′ 10″ very slim, pale model seen sitting in a mirror:

Complaints were made about the model’s diseased appearance, and the British Advertising Standards Authority reviewed the ad re the new rules there about anorexic models. The Authority ruled that lighting, the dress and make-up made the model look overly skinny and so the ad was okay.  If you think okay is using a model who resembles a concentration camp victim with elongated limbs to sell a handbag. It does make you look at the ad, but does it really make you want to get the handbag? Or worry that she will not be able to lift it? I’m hoping that they are right and it is just airbrusing, photoshopping, special effects and 1980’s lipstick that give the model her stick alien appearance. But lighting, clothes and make-up did not give her that collarbone and shoulders that scream anorexia, so I’ve really got my fingers crossed for photoshop.

This new controversy seems to have brought up again an infamous older stick alien controversy from two years ago, involving Ralph Lauren and model Countess Filippa Hamilton. A regular model for Ralph Lauren ads, Hamilton looked like this:

At 5′ 11″ and a Size 4 U.S., there’s not a lot of meat on her, but she’s purty and clearly human. In a Ralph Lauren ad that was over photoshopped, however, she looked like this:

(Yes, her pelvis is smaller than her head.) The stick alien ad appeared, mistakenly, in advertising for a Japanese department store carrying Lauren’s line of clothing before being pulled. Apparently, the Japanese didn’t notice anything was wrong with it.  But of course in the age of the Net, the photo spread round the globe, causing Ralph Lauren to throw a brief and useless legal tantrum, and to announce that no one was supposed to see the messed up photo. Towards the end of that year, however, Ralph Lauren dumped Hamilton as one of their models. Hamilton claims this is because Ralph Lauren saw her as too fat for their clothes.

What’s disturbing about this on top of the usual disturbing  is that Ralph Lauren, two years ago, at least understood that their stick alien picture went too far and was unattractive — even if they decided that somewhere between stick alien Hamilton and human Hamilton was where they wanted to be — whereas Miu Miu thinks their ad of a model who looks as if she needs to be hospitalized is a-okay, so much so that they are willing to defend it to British regulatory agencies.  This seems to indicate that the stick alien approach is becoming more prevalent, not less as hoped.

What also seems to come out of this in my puzzlement over the logic of advertising is that it shows it’s not the advertising companies driving it and conning the companies into it or the magazines, but the companies themselves. Clearly companies like Ralph Lauren and Miu Miu think that this look is a stylish lure for their clothing ads. They presumably have demographic research on this, which would be interesting to see, as my anecdotal reaction to such images is “oh wow, that’s totally gross.” I might not mind quite as much if they didn’t have the stick alien arms all the time. Those give me the willies.

In any case, please join me in sending good wishes for Ms. Struss to survive into middle age. Isabell Caro, the model who developed anorexia and became a prominent activist about this issue in the fashion world, did not. She died this last December at the age of 28.

Even if the laws she worked for are passed in countries to prevent companies from exploiting anorexic models and exacerbating their condition, there will still be the issue of this desire to photoshop alter models and actresses into stick aliens for ads. Which is why I didn’t put a Warning: disturbing image before Ms. Caro’s picture. Because according to companies like Miu Miu/Prada, Caro’s image isn’t disturbing at all.

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Puzzlements and Poetry in Spam Advertising

More fun spam comments:

For a Aliens in Pretty Dresses post in which Victoria’s Secret is mentioned re pictures of extraordinarily skinny models, etc., Victoria’s Secret Coupon Codes had this to say:

Greetings : )
You are shopping on-line or in-store? which would you go for? really wondering lol.. i love in-store just because i hate expecting it to come!

Kind of missing the point there, Mia.

For the post about beer drinking beer workers in Europe, this comment from a German site:

Appeal Roof,support rise circle enterprise source sexual sell meal aim station accompany share railway session summer fill sum below entry will paper interested age suppose figure somebody like generate deny role item yes concept fail leading notice assembly listen acquire charge arrangement push neck ring deal theatre observe yeah whole department pain myself strange sell husband couple test alone water develop either suggestion above particularly communication incident previous large apart fund come video join less sample on student ticket excellent species goal due discover name withdraw scheme like contribution provision generally his leadership

Okay, this is some kind of German spy code, isn’t it? Anyone who can figure out the secret message, let me know.

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I Should Probably Be Offended By This

But mostly I’m amused. I haven’t been able to do much with my blog for the last few months because of life stuff. Consequently, view counts of my blog have varied depending on the day, if I’ve posted other places on the Net, etc. (Spambots do not find your blog unless you post new entries, you see.) 🙂 But they’ve still been in the average range for my little fledgling blog. Today, however, I discovered that the number of views of my blog had increased 5 times over. Why?

Well, awhile back, talking about the disturbing trend of having photos of women in fashion advertising appearing like stick aliens, including bizarre photoshopping airbrushing,  mostly in terms of puzzling about what exactly is the advertising philosophy behind it, I put up, among other things, a photo of a Victoria’s Secrets model (as an example of the type of modelling today that is still not stick alienish yet.) And Victoria’s Secrets had a “fashion show” infomercial special on U.S. network t.v. last night. And apparently, in the wake of that, there are a lot of people searching for photos of Victoria’s Secret models. And so my blog came up in searches (I can’t imagine it’s very high on the search lists,) and some of the searches — probably mostly spambots programmed for the term Victoria’s Secret — came to my blog. And the ironic thing is that the particular, one Victoria’s Secret model photograph I had put up has been removed from the upload or virused and doesn’t even open on my blog anymore. You can’t actually see it if you come to my blog. It will not successfully gather for Google or whatever it is that is being done. (I did, however, get it originally from Google, so you can just go to Google and get some.)

But it is a very popular search term, apparently. So just for kicks, I’m going to try a little experiment. Here is a Victoria’s Secret model photograph from the 2010 fashion show:


I like this one because I like peacock feathers. Also, she has actual thighs. Let’s see if I can get 8 times more views than my usual average! I’ll keep you posted.



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The Return of Stick Aliens for Fall T.V.

I was more amused than freaked out at a promotional artistic photo of Mary-Louise Parker for her television show Weeds. Parker is nude (sort of) in the shot and draped with a big snake. The picture isn’t supposed to be realistic — witness the butt that looks like a store mannequin’s rather than a person’s and Parker placed in a romantic dream haze oblivious to her being in her mid-forties — but apparently the photo editor didn’t think voluptuous curves go with a Edenistic snake. Instead, they went for a stick alien look (without the pretty dress,) and not only nipped in Parker’s waist to Barbie-like proportions but check out her wrist and forearm. It’s spooky.

Of course, they aren’t counting on you to be looking at her wrist, nor can I say that Parker looks ugly exactly in the picture as a stick alien. But she would have looked just as sexy with the snake without the impossible waist or the frighteningly skinny wrist, so again, why do that? Is it just sloppy airbrushing technique? Did someone actually say, you know her wrist looks too fat, let’s just make it look like a bone there so her proportions seem all weird? Just the latest in my puzzlement over this strange advertising technique. I wonder if they’ve done marketing research studies that women respond well to anorexic features unevenly visited on the female body. Anyway, here’s the picture:

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Stick Aliens in Pretty Dresses Return!

I thought I was kind of done with this topic. After all, there was a rush of plus size models, multi-body size ad campaigns, etc. I didn’t think the stick aliens were gone exactly, but it did seem like there’s been a general turning away in the past few months from making women look inhuman in an attempt to sell clothes. But this just shows I don’t understand fashion. Proenza Schouler, which is apparently a fashion company, had an ad image for their new catalog campaign which has been photoshopped to present a model who has had all the flesh removed from around her spine.

The first ad I mused about was with actress Audrey Tautou in a Channel ad, whose perfectly normal if skinny waist had been shrunk and elongated into non-human proportions that made her look like an alien imitating a human in a long black dress. My question was, how does this sell a romantic, elegant image if the first response of most people is to go, “Eww, what did they do to her waist? That looks gross!” But that little airbrush trick was utterly nothing to the alien proportions Proenza Schouler decided to go with. These people are trying to sell clothes and having this picture will certainly make people look at it for shock value. But they aren’t going to be looking at the clothes or remembering the name of the company. They are looking at a woman who looks inhuman and going, “Eww, gross!” Is “eww, gross” really the image you want associated with your clothes? Maybe it is in the realm of haute couture, I don’t know. What, seriously, goes through the minds of the people in this company who put together, photoshopped and prepared this photo for the campaign? Is it just a desire to be edgy? Aren’t there other ways to be edgy that don’t involve revulsion? Are marketing consultants really claiming that revulsion is an excellent way to develop your brand? Or are they just hoping the Lady GaGa young folk will laugh and say, “They’re so weird and cool, I’ll buy their clothes”? Was it just a way of getting media attention, and if so, what’s the strategy? One day I certainly hope to sit down with a fashion marketing person and find out. Because truly, what’s your first reaction to this:

Mine was to try not to vomit.

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When Thoughts Converge

One of the odder things I’m discovering about blogging is that you write a bit about one thing, put up a video from another place on the Internet on another subject, turn your back and they start connecting. A good while back I did a post, “Every Generation Must Endure the Hazing,” on how the adults in each generation/decade, including the scholars and especially the media, tend to have a bizzarely consistent view of the current youth as always lazy, impatient, ungrateful, entitled, apathetic moral degenerates and a view of their own youth as rosy knights of the Round Table, neither of which is at all true:


Sometime later, I embedded a video of young girls doing a pretty amazing dance number to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” at a dance competition, “Yeah, Okay But They Are Really Good.” The girls are wearing Latino bikinis with ruffles and combined with the dance moves, it has them confidently and innocently aping adulthood.


It also caused an uproar on the Internet. Apparently, this uproar has continued and combined of course with the view of how we’re turning our girls and children in the current day into the worst, sleaziest, moral degenerates ever. Alda Calhoun for Broadsheet for Salon has done a piece about the situation that I’m in total agreement with, including unfortunately the racial aspect, although not all the girls in the dance video are actually white.  (The version of the video that I used has been pulled, but the Salon piece offers you a link to a version that works.)


Calhoun looks at how the argument against the video is an overclaim of concerns based on a “this generation is the worst” philosophy that repeats on a perpetual time loop, as shown dramatically in the 1999 essay by Mike Males that Calhoun links to, which talks about the same argument being leveled at the 1990’s “slackers” that was even more strongly argued against youth in the 1930’s.


There is a problem here though. Calhoun is directing part of her ire toward Peggy Orenstein, who did an essay about the video. I happen to know Peggy Orenstein. She is a nice person, a dedicated researcher who has done several good books in the last two decades on issues about girls and women, particularly her book Schoolgirls. But it is precisely this that also does generate my ire as well. There are issues about sexualization and thinness and messages that girls are getting that need to be talked about. But when it is put in terms of us having a collapsing society, of our children being now turned into moral degenerates, as they have so many times before, then those very real issues actually get lost in that hysteria. Yes, we need to talk about how girls can be confused by culture, but we don’t need to slam a bunch of seven-year-olds who had fun and danced their hearts out, who had pride in their really amazing performance, or castigate their parents because the girls replicated a dance video they loved and wore dance costumes. Those girls didn’t see what they were doing as sexual, and our adult fears — as Calhoun notes that span over the decades and have a lot to do with controlling females — that they’ll have sex early and get pregnant if they wiggle their hips now should not be dumped on their heads.

A pedophile, or for that matter a rapist, does not care about how a woman or girl is dressed or how she behaves. Their mental illness causes them to  rationalize even a terrified girl in button down clothes as “willing” to be controlled and abused. It is how we deal with such people and crimes in our society that is the crucial matter, not how females dress or how they dance. And until we stop claiming that current young people are disasters — who will then when adults declare themselves the greatest generation ever in hindsight — and always obsessing that young females are being turned into sexpots instead of treating them as equal human beings who are more than their gender, I’m not sure we can have an honest conversation about such issues, because it is coming from hysteria and not factual realities.

But conversations we will have, since the Internet keeps connecting us from one set of thoughts to the next.

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A Puzzlement of Advertising

Certain kinds of spam advertising perplex me. I received this one, for instance, from Louis Vuitton himself, but then he was trying to send me to some site that maybe sells his bags, and his name had changed to Tammy:

“Hi, I enjoy Louis Vuitton or anything fashion for that matter! I was browsing the web for some new louis vuitton luxury items and I found this site. This is a cool site and I wanted to post a comment to let you know, good job! Thanks Tammy”

Now, for all I know, if you try to go to the site offered or respond to the email address, it actually allows viruses to enter your computer and try to get information in order to clean out your bank account. But let’s go with the idea that this is legit and that Louis Vuitton’s company or the site selling his purses actually hired a spam advertising firm. First off, it was not, as you might have expected to occur, attached to any of my posts that had to do with fashion and advertising (Aliens in Pretty Dresses.) It was instead attached to my blog entry: “Haruki Murakami Has New Release.” I had been unaware of the deep link between author Haruki Murakami and Louis Vuitton before, but thankfully Tammy let me know that his wild SFF makes her think of high end fashion.

Second, obviously my blog was selected at random as part of a massive software program hitting thousands of blogs. My blog, if you actually look at it,  is clearly not a place where Louis Vuitton customers are going to hang out. And of actual Louis Vuitton customers, Tammy’s missive is written to appeal only to girls aged 12-16. Now, there is a small crowd of girls that age whose parents are rich and they might actually check out the purses, but again, they don’t read my blog. The Gossip Girls blog, sure, but mine, no.

Further, active blog writers check their comments and will delete the thing as spam, usually before it even gets on the blog, thanks to spam catcher programs. Inactive blog writers might not, but inactive blogs don’t have any readers. So basically, the odds of this ad actually inducing anyone to go to the site and buy a Louis Vuitton purse by placing cheery, clearly spam missives in thousands of random blogs attached to random posts are about the same as me being elected queen of Mars. But if these aren’t viral crooks running a scam, then Vuitton or the website paid somebody to do this spam advertising. Sure, it probably costs a lot less than direct mail stuff, since the company does it in bulk for thousands of clients, but direct mail might actually be effective. So are targeted ads, email lists, and many other Web methods. But generating un-targeted spam on the Web, especially for a luxury product? It does nothing. It has no effect certainly worth the cost. Yet this company is running an effective scam with commerce.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the companies that pay for these things actually took the money for it and gave it instead as an additional donation to charity? We’d have less spam, the good works would have more support in these troubled times, and the companies would have even more good will advertising for doing it. I may actually go petition Louis Vuitton on this. On the other hand, Tammy was amusing.

*Update: Apparently luxurygiftsbags.com is a real site, specializing in Louis Vuitton gear. I just thought I’d throw that in, in case any of you are dying for a Vuitton clutch.


Filed under Humor, Life

Coda to Aliens in Pretty Dresses, Part 2

If you’re on the North American continent, Saturday Night Live has as host this week actress Gabourey Sidibe, with musical guest MGMT. Her television show, The Big C, with Laura Linney and Oliver Platt will debut on Showtime Cable in August. And Betty White is hosting SNL May 8th as well. SNL has been ranging from moments of inspired brilliance to mediocre to were the writers drunk when they wrote this that they somehow thought it was funny levels, so it will be kind of interesting to see what they do with these two hosts.


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