H&M’s virtual bodies

09Dec11

ImageIn a move which makes air-brushing look old hat, H&M announced that the bodies of the models on their website are not real women. Instead they are computer-generated, with real heads airbrushed on.

It is one hell of a post-modern twist. Reality – even a skewed, marginal one – is no longer enough. Super skinny models are no longer cutting it, even if they’re still cutting out pleasure from their diet. What does it do to the word womanly, which now requires computers to reach its climax? Does it make it separate from itself?

Around the neck area they look like aliens. Tits, waist, thighs, though, all look like a woman – not your average woman, but your hot, sinewy, booby woman, the one all females of six years old and upwards learn to want to look like. Industry want them to want it too. It works out pretty well for the latter. It makes them rub their bloody hands together in glee.

Hard not to want it, when their rock-hard bodies are in your eye line all the time, on the sides of buses when you’re strolling happily to work (thanks Marks and Spencers), on every TV show, on the front and inside and back of every publication in every shop.

ImageH&M call them ‘mannequins’, which is even stranger, because it’s normally easy to see when a mannequin is a mannequin and not a real body – even if you have to double take at the figure in the corner of your eye. With hindsight, it’s obvious that mannequins were the pre-cursor to the digital generation (and haven’t we all noticed how thin the mannequins are getting; the ones in Topshop have thighs as wide as my wrist).

The film Mannequin was not postmodern; it was the gothic coming-to-life of the inanimate object. But it was a mainstream film with a woman in it, so it was also about the dream of a woman, about what she looks like, less about what she is like.

The second episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is about to show you a more nightmarish version of our current world, taking an obsession with technology, celebrity and pornography to a rotten conclusion. But this is happening in the real world, technology manipulating bodies to sell us stuff, just like all the dystopian literature said they would.

Things get weird when it’s hard to tell what’s even real anymore.

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2 Responses to “H&M’s virtual bodies”

  1. What’s really weird in this whole weirdfest is that the photo is just…odd. Sure, the necks, but everything. Like when they do that thing where you take celebs’ features and mush them all together – you know, the eyes are the celeb’s with the ‘cutest’ eyes, then the nose is from the celeb with the cutest nose, if there’s a bum in the mix it’s always Jennifer Lopez’s, etc and it all just looks Frankenstein-ish.
    And then what’s really, really weird, is that nobody involved in this whole process ever said, ‘You know, a real woman would actually just look less weird than this…hey, why don’t we just use one? I know some really thin ones with really big boobs!’

  2. Ha! That’s such a good point! Thanks for commenting – it’s sort of nice to write about something weird-bad for a while, rather than just bad … xx


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