This week, however, Davis andfellow Sports Illustrated swimsuit models Chrissy Teigen and Nina Agdal showed off not only their bikinis but also some alternate personas in a new advertising campaign for DirecTV. Each model is photographed as both “herself” and as an alter-ego — the woman, perhaps, she should be afraid of becoming should she lose her looks (and fail to have the right kind of cable package!). So here we go:
Back when she had cable, Hannah Davis was a cat lady, perched on a beige couch in a beige room with beige lamps, her blonde hair darkened to brown and big glasses adorning her face.
But then Davis got DirectTV, and retired to the beach, lightened her hair, ditched her glasses and donned a bikini top that barely covers her nipples.
And then we have Chrissy Teigen as a weary, harried housewife, hunched over a packed dishwasher. Man, cable can really make you frumpy.
But then! She gets DirecTV, takes her top off, unwinds her perm, and buries her bare breasts in sand while posing provocatively on the beach.
But model Nina Agdal has the worst fate of the bunch. She stands over a pot of mystery meat, her hair tucked in a food safety net, a cigarette dangling from her lips and pointing towards the rows of Jello, peas and hot dogs. A lunch lady — who definitely has a basic cable plan.
But DirecTV rescues Agdal from this dead-end career and plants her squarely on a tropical beach, flowing hair blowing over glossed-up body. The only care Agdal has in the world now is preventing skin cancer — and figuring out how to keep up with all the shows on her 285 channels of DirecTV.
The campaign closes with a shot of all three models posing on a beach deck, telling readers: “Don’t be like that other Hannah, Chrissy and Nina. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirectTV.”
While DirecTV clearly intends the ads to be funny, the message it sends women and young girls is anything but.
It’s A Blow To Self-Esteem:
Apparently there is no worse fate than being a mom in acid wash denim, a supposedly lonely woman surrounded by felines, or a woman who is unable to earn her living off her looks and instead must turn to the food service industry to support herself.
“People internalize the ideal standard for beauty from the pictures they see in the media,” Art Markman, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Texas tells Yahoo Health. “They do this even without specific contrasts like the ones that are at the core of the DirecTV ad. Just the comparison between what people see in models and how they view themselves is enough to trigger a negative body image.”
Just last year, the age-old topic of media representation and body image was debated in regards to the relevance of Barbie, perhaps the original swimsuit model, and her (plastic) body’s effect on young women.
“Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress,” said Kim Culmone, VP of Design at Mattel in an interview with Fast Company. Culmone insisted that Barbie dolls — and other outside influences — don’t impact how girls develop a sense of gender identity and body image. Rather, she said, “it’s peers, moms, parents, it’s their social circles.”
However, experts beg to differ. “There have been plenty of published studies that show, among other things, that girls who regularly read fashion magazines tend to compare themselves to the models and have more negative feelings about their own bodies than girls who don’t,” Julie Dobrow, director of the Communications and Media Studies program at Tufts University, tells Yahoo Health.
Could It Also Affect Career Aspirations?
But we wonder about the effect that Barbie and the DirecTV campaign have on young women’s ability to imagine what the “correct” and “incorrect” career paths and life choices might look like.
The DirecTV campaign implicitly states that only a certain kind of woman and career — young, conventionally beautiful, a model — represents any kind of measurable success for women.
A recent study done on Barbie and her chosen career options showed that “girls in this study thought that boys could have more careers than they could, especially when it came to the jobs that men tend to dominate, like firefighter and police officer” and that “girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head actually reported feeling like they had more career options than the girls who played with Barbie did. And that was for girls playing with both the “doctor” Barbie and “fashion” Barbie. Barbie as a doctor apparently doesn’t open up girls’ career dreams any more than Barbie as a fashionista.”
Thus, it seems likely that an ad campaign that reinforces modeling as the only viable career for women would do the same.
We Love Humor, But Not When The Images Alienate Women
“Humor often requires extreme versions of statements. And the best humor can even be offensive in service of making a more general point,” Markman notes. “However, these images were not designed to make a social point. They were designed to sell a product. The media are already full of images that have a negative impact on women’s self-image. A media company like DirecTV should be more careful about the images they choose to represent their brand.”
Hopefully advertisers and toy designers alike will keep this in mind next time they craft yet another effort to sell women’s bodies — and body image — to women of all ages, everywhere.
Next Up: How To Feel Confident In A Swimsuit