Monday, April 13, 2015

ART 340 Project 1: Cosmetics

In The Practice of Everyday Life, De Certeau explores the relationship between "production" and "consumers" and states that consumption is "devious, it is dispersed, but it insinuates itself everywhere, silently and almost invisibility, because it does not manifest itself through its own products, but rather through its ways of using the products imposed by a dominant economic order" (xii-xiii). De Certeau is not only interested in why consumers buy things, but how they choose to use those things.

This made me think of cosmetics and my conflicting feelings about them. While makeup can give women confidence and make them feel beautiful, the reason women think they need makeup to be beautiful in the first place is because American culture has been telling them so for decades. Women invest ridiculous amounts of money into products that shape and color their faces so that they can feel pretty. It is a twisted way to make money that relies on constantly telling half of the population that they are not good enough. And yet, despite knowing all of this, I still wear makeup almost every day. It makes me feel confident and it gives me control over how I look and how I present myself to the world.

This film is an attempt to illustrate these mixed feelings. I used an audio clip and screenshot from a 1950s Maybelline commercial I found that is incredibly sexist (link below) to illustrate that the negative messages we've been sending women about their looks are basically the same as they were 60 years ago. I made the shots of the makeup products highly saturated to emphasize their power and appeal, then contrasted it with black and white shots of me as I used the products to do my makeup. The black and white also reflects the old gender roles that makeup reenforces, but the last shot in color questions that with a glimpse at a modern, positive view of it. Then it is called back into question by the parallel of the final shot of my face and the shot of the girl in Maybelline commercial. I used an upbeat ragtime song ("Sunflower Slow Drag" by Scott Joplin) to emphasize the theatricality of doing makeup and the idea that it is preparation for a performance. I also included quick flashes of the price of each product, with a total of money invested before the final shot. Though my short film is critical of the cosmetic world, I hope it also provides some hints of another point-of-view. Enjoy!


  1. This was very well put together. I liked how you conveyed your meaning through a kind of tongue-in-cheek music choice as well as the "cutesy" titles. It definitely felt like there was this huge mass of things you put on everyday and it's such a part of your life.

  2. I found myself really enjoying this video for different reasons. For one thing, I associated the color of the price of each makeup item with the color of maybelline's most popular mascara which is pink and green. Not sure if that was intentional, but it worked either way. Also your choice to make the clips of the makeup on your desk in color versus black and white when you are putting it on was effective to communicate different feelings. The vibrancy and abundance of all the makeup in one place vs. the mundane and questionable act of putting it on. Great job!

  3. I really enjoyed your video because of the historical context that you provided with the introductory clip and with the music. It was interesting to watch how you connected the act of putting on make up to larger gender power structures and stereotypical roles.