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Mannequins and the peculiar morgue between Paris and Rome
December 5, 2013 2:31 AM   Subscribe

Because who is perfect? Disabled mannequins will be eliciting astonished looks from passers-by on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse today. Between the perfect mannequins, there will be figures with scoliosis or brittle bone disease modelling the latest fashions. One will have shortened limbs; the other a malformed spine. The campaign has been devised for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by Pro Infirmis, an organisation for the disabled.

Busty Mannequins and an Inflated Sense of Beauty in Venezuela In Venezuela, women are confronted with a culture of increasingly enhanced physiques fueled by beauty pageants and plastic surgery. - The New York Times

Mannequins in Art

Bonus science:
The Effects of Thin and Heavy Media Images on Overweight and Underweight Consumers: Social Comparison Processes and Behavioral Implications (PDF)
This study examines how advertisements containing thin or heavy models influence the self‐esteem of overweight, normal, and underweight consumers. Previous research has mainly examined the influences of variations of the comparison standard on self‐evaluative outcomes, whereas we examine how the relative position of the self on the comparison dimension may moderate these effects. Three studies manipulated the size (thin vs. heavy) and extremity of the size (moderate vs. extreme) of advertising models and exposed these images to individuals differing in Body Mass Index (BMI) levels. Our findings indicate that social comparison processes and subsequent self‐evaluative and behavioral outcomes are different for individuals differing in their BMI.
posted by Blasdelb (26 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Vanity has a high place in Venezuela in which Tulio Hernandez was famously quoted as saying that Osmel Sousa was "the Pygmalion of our national mythology"
posted by Blasdelb at 2:47 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"etween the perfect mannequins, there will be figures with scoliosis or brittle bone disease modelling the latest fashions."

I ... have complicated and mixed feelings about this.

The point is that people come in all kinds of shapes and varies abilities and that's okay! As a disabled person, I'm totally behind that message. But that video and those mannequins don't really manage to realize it — at least that's my impression. There's an amount of what seems to me to be spectacle to it and I'm very not comfortable with that.

The opposite extreme to the "not seeing" and "not accommodating" insults to dignity that the disabled live with, a spotlighting and patronizing unctuousness, is just as bad.

Awareness-raising campaigns and similar messaging run the risk of erring in this way. I'm not precisely sure how to avoid this; but in my opinion that video runs right into it. A different soundtrack, or none at all, would be a start for improving it.

However, I think the whole idea of an "event" with these specially produced mannequins is badly conceived. I like the idea of contesting the implicit messaging of idealized mannequins. But displaying conspicuously non-normal mannequins based upon actual people and for a limited time undercuts the intent. If they'd commissioned a large variety of new mannequins based upon many different body types and including many with disabilities, and if this was a permanent change to their display window, with all these new mannequins integrated into their regular displays, then that would send the right message.

This, though, does not.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:22 AM on December 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


What a nasty little goblin that guy is (in the 2nd link). And that's really not fair to goblins.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:55 AM on December 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


According to the market research study, 65 percent of Venezuelan women and 47 percent of men admitted that they think about their looks “all the time.”

Damn.
posted by pracowity at 3:59 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Give them an advantage in a certain international contest.
posted by sammyo at 4:17 AM on December 5, 2013


I think the second video is the first time I've ever wished Greek mythology punishments on someone.
posted by Decimask at 4:18 AM on December 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't have sound on this computer, but I watched the first video and thought it was kind of beautiful. Really beautiful people.
I've seen the second video before and I'd rather focus on the first.
posted by MrBobaFett at 4:59 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am currently living in Qatar. The regional chain, Lulu Hypermarket has mannequins that my wife describes as "lactating."
posted by mecran01 at 5:15 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember how disappointed I was when I learned that it's all just ass injections, and not the real thing.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:15 AM on December 5, 2013


Seriously, you could tell me Goblin spends the other 99% of his time and all of his cash rescuing puppies and endangered species with his bare hands, and I'd still wish Decimask's Greek mythology punishments on him.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:20 AM on December 5, 2013


Umm, the dude's name is Osmel Sousa, and besides, maybe making fun of his appearance is not the most self-aware way to attack his pretty repellant views?

Incidentally he has released a statement regarding his, now viral, coverage.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:58 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Umm, the dude's name is Osmel Sousa, and besides, maybe making fun of his appearance is not the most self-aware way to attack his pretty repellant views?

I think the comment 'goblin' refers to his inner horribleness, not his appearance.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:12 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Osmel Sousa was "the PIGmalion of our national mythology"

Seldom has an individual elicited the exact response as stepping in a pile of diseased dogshit.

I must also confess a smidgen of schadenfreude when noticing the years are not being kind to old Osmel - he has fallen prey to his own hype, trying to fend off the reaper with a scalpel.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:20 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sousa is repellent, of course, but time seems to be solving that. The new mannequins there are interesting -- they are clearly unrepresentative and impossible (without surgery) for people to attain. But so are the mannequins I see here -- the contrast between the people shopping and the weirdly angular mannequins is equally odd. So I wouldn't say the new inflated ones are "worse" -- they are just bad in a different way.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:37 AM on December 5, 2013


I think the Pro Infirmis video is pretty manipulative, and I see some ambivalence on the faces of the models, but overall they seem to feel a fair amount of joy, esp. when they are posing next to "their" mannequins. And in real time I was a total sucker for the soundtrack/film editing combo.

Ivan, I agree with you here:

If they'd commissioned a large variety of new mannequins based upon many different body types and including many with disabilities, and if this was a permanent change to their display window, with all these new mannequins integrated into their regular displays, then that would send the right message

Given the structural nature of our ableism, my guess is that there will need to be a lot of less-than-successful "events" like this, and maybe Bob Flanagan's shows and the documentary about him, before the able-bodied world accepts different body types as a matter of course, and designs built environments to be more accommodating.

I think about Marilyn Frye's concept of the "double-bind": efforts made to combat structural oppression, especially on a limited scale, can work to serve the very oppression they protest; but then, so does doing nothing.

Well, that's my 3 cents, at first blush.
posted by allthinky at 6:55 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


These busty mannequins are not new. I saw them on 34th street and 14th street in Manhattan twelve years ago, and in downtown Oaxaca 4-5 years ago.
posted by mochapickle at 6:57 AM on December 5, 2013


Purely cosmetic plastic surgery is a giant con. To the older multi-facelift crowd: You don't look younger. You look like a fucking alien.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:07 AM on December 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: all just ass injections, and not the real thing.
posted by Madamina at 7:15 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The human body is such a strange and fascinating thing. I share the ambivalence about the project (in the first video) because it is, ding-an-sich, a stunt. Particularly because there is no context for the mannequins in the store windows. I suspect a lot of the distaste registered by passers-by has to do with the lack of context and an assumption that the stores are trying to be edgy or provocative, rather than trying to be inclusive, with their lone atypical mannequin in the window.

But underlying the project seems to be respect for the people being used to model other bodies, or at least an interest in the beauty found in all forms.

There is certainly a need in the clothing industry to recognize that the majority of clothes--a majority to the point of being practically speaking "all" clothes--will hang on the bodies of ordinary people not models. If you have any interest in fashion or textiles or clothesmaking, you eventually see that clothes designed for design sake, clothes designed for display on models, never hang right on non-models, and that includes actresses who have a professional stake in remaining in perfect body shape and who have entire teams of dressers pinning and taping their clothes in place before they are photographed.

Too many clothing manufacturers make similar, if smaller scale, errors in the design of ordinary clothes, clothes designed as clothing. Just look at ask.me.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:21 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I sort of share the ambivalence others have mentioned about the tone in parts of the Pro Infirmis video.

But I *also* really love seeing bodies like mine (and one of the bodies in that video shares a lot in common with mine, at least superficially) be portrayed as sexy and desirable. Not that there aren't other art projects that have done that, but it still makes me smile.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:39 AM on December 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


If they'd commissioned a large variety of new mannequins based upon many different body types and including many with disabilities, and if this was a permanent change to their display window, with all these new mannequins integrated into their regular displays, then that would send the right message.

Yeah, that would be great. I've been noticing a shift back to more realistic mannequins (and by "realistic," I don't mean representative of the average customer in the street; I just mean not abstract, anonymous, headless torsos in stark black or white), but there's no reason they couldn't be more diverse. They're doing a slightly better job with race/ethnicity these days, at least.

Of all the weirdness of the second video, the thing that jumped out at me is that when they cut to a clip of Miss Venezuela in her white beaded dress, she didn't appear to have giant breasts like the mannequins, and the women emulating them, at all.

- - -

I've been fascinated with mannequins all my life. I used to have a big book on their history, and I even had a couple of old 1980's models around the house for dressup, but it all got put into barn storage that later got flooded. All I have now is most of the head of a child model. It sits on the top shelf of my closet, in one of my old cancer wigs, silently judging me with its faded glassy eyes.

Cynthia the "Gaba Girl" was an imperfect mannequin who took on a celebutante existence of her own: Wiki; Life magazine photo shoote from 1937
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:49 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recently saw some photographs of the famously busty Jayne Mansfield. By today's standards she'd be considered eligible for augmentation.

Body aesthetics are a strange area. I've always just been grateful if everything worked properly.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:52 AM on December 5, 2013


They seem to have chosen to make it just the two extremes, rather than a full range of humanity: at the one end is the usual 'perfect' mannequin, the taller-than-average, skinnier-than-most fashion model/beauty queen exemplar; at the other end they have one-off examples of people with extreme and obvious disabilities (like the scoliosis or the missing leg: no hidden disabilities like heart disease here!)

But how about the *rest* of humanity, the normally-shaped people you meet in reality: normal heights, normal weight ranges, normal faces?
posted by easily confused at 7:57 AM on December 5, 2013


Mannequins are so insanely terrifying....yet fascinating. Lifelong fear of mine. How I got over it? Falling for someone who, when he moved in, moved in WITH A FREAKING MANNEQUIN. Naturally she lives in the darkest corner of my basement!

Also, repeated watchings of Tourist Trap helped with my desensitization.
posted by medeine at 8:06 AM on December 5, 2013


I shudder to think of the next Paris Fashion Week where someone gets the bright idea to make their mark by using a full cast of runway models with scoliosis and amputated limbs. So edgy, so inclusive, so exploitative! Seriously, the Pro Infirmis project is lovely and well meaning and I'm glad it happened. I just shudder to think what will happen when the scumbag marketers get ahold of the idea.
posted by Nelson at 8:46 AM on December 5, 2013


kinnakeet: "I recently saw some photographs of the famously busty Jayne Mansfield. By today's standards she'd be considered eligible for augmentation."

Technically, I suppose you could say that of anyone shy of Pandora Peaks (GIS at your own risk), but no, I can't see her agent saying to her, "Those need to be bigger to get noticed!"
posted by IAmBroom at 12:28 PM on December 5, 2013


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