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"Here's how you run a short con, pay attention:"
February 2, 2014 10:55 AM   Subscribe

The Dove Sketches Beauty Scam
"Dude, are you doing the Dove ad now? That was so April 15th...?" Yes, I realize I missed the meme train, but it's better to be right than part of the debate, especially when there is no debate, this is all a short con inside a 50+ year long con. Remember House Of Games? "It's called a confidence game. Why, because you give me your confidence? No: because I give you mine."

Dove sketches, previously. Dove and beauty and photography, previously
posted by the man of twists and turns (51 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
...but what if I need a moisturizing soap?
posted by The Whelk at 10:58 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


House of Games is the best movie. The best. Besides Clue, of course.
posted by desjardins at 11:05 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]


That was one of the most rambling, incomprehensible things I've ever tried to read.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:05 AM on February 2 [30 favorites]


A lot of people love The Last Psychiatrist blog, and that makes me question my literacy abilities because I can rarely make heads or tails of it.
posted by the jam at 11:07 AM on February 2 [16 favorites]


This is probably because I spent way too much time listening to people bullshit their critiques in art school, but I thought it made perfect sense.

From an advertising perspective, these ads are kind of brilliantly evil. No one will ever trust a photograph in a Dove ad again, but a sketch? In some kind of pseudo-double blind sorta therapy like setting? I hope whatever agency came up with this gets a golden shower of awards no one cares about.
posted by bradbane at 11:17 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Whatever Dove does do, it does not leave soap scum. Thus no bathtub ring, no moldy shower, just clean skin with no pore-clogging. The first thing children should be taught is to understand that advertising is to sell, not to enlighten.
posted by Cranberry at 11:24 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


I get the point here and kind of agree with it but ugh, wow, a lot of that rubbed me the wrong way and was really sloppy (he misspelled Joe Mantegna at least once and the writing was pretty rambling).

The statement "And nothing makes a middle aged neurotic happier than 45 minutes alone in a loft with a good looking man who requires no sexual contact and just wants to listen to you talk about yourself, unless he's also sketching you attentively in natural light." especially bothered me and doesn't seem particularly thoughtful or respectful. Pointing out to women that they're being conned is one thing, but making it seem like the reason they can be conned is because they're self-absorbed and just waiting for a man to listen to them is not helpful and reducing women's appearance-based insecurities to neuroses is an offensive oversimplification.

Also, "like he's an ethical thief, like he's Lawful Neutral." What? No, an ethical thief would be chaotic good. Both parts of that are self-evidently wrong.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:25 AM on February 2 [35 favorites]


Interesting article with a lot of good points, but at the same time: Last Psychiatrist, heal thyself.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:36 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


So...this article was designed for me. Because I was the one to see it.

So am I being conned? Now that the author has my attention and has taken me into their confidence, what is the author of this article trying to con me out of?

*notices the ads on the web site*

Oh, right.
posted by darkstar at 11:36 AM on February 2 [8 favorites]


Wow, that was a pretty awesome essay. At least, that was my first response. Looking back at it, I realized he shied from making a conclusion.

Instead, he structured the writing as a circular ring: (A) A con game is the gift of confidence to induce reciprocal confidence, (B) a gift of confidence is repaid with a gift of confidence, (C) absence of reciprocation in the face of a gift implies a debt, (B) an absence of confidence implies a debt of confidence, (A) such gifts made to induce reciprocity are con games.

Instead, he could have made an argument against the original debt. He definitely seemed tempted to do so, but he turned around and walked back to where he started instead.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:39 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]


A lot of people love The Last Psychiatrist blog, and that makes me question my literacy abilities because I can rarely make heads or tails of it.

I give him an A on ideas and a C- on style and I skim it.

If some street hustler challenges you to a game of three card monte you don't need to bother to play, just hand him the money, not because you're going to lose but because you owe him for the insight: he selected you.

is quotable and right up in the front. It also is barely a grammatically correct English sentence! My high school English teachers would have red lined and commented Run On Sentence.
posted by bukvich at 12:11 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


This essay reads like it was written by one of my smart undergrads--the type who confuses being wordy with being profound (and also can't resist insulting the reader).

These criticisms of Dove's entire Campaign for Real Beauty (i.e., that it encourages consumerism rather than feminism) have been written about with more clarity and less condescension in places like Bitch Magazine and Feministing. Personally, I like this thoughtful and coherent article by Lauren Dye in the Canadian Journal of Media Studies: "Consuming Constructions: A Critique of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty." [pdf]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:24 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


I don't particularly love Dove's ad campaign; it seems just as manipulative as the ads it purports to be critiquing. But at the same time, Dove is the one mainstream soap, available in every store, that neither gives my poor sensitive skin a rash nor stinks of perfumes and scents. So even if they were being advertised by clubbing baby seals I would keep buying it.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:54 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


Dove = Unilever = Axe Body Spray. That's how they get you.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I always have interpreted TLP's posts as designed to be rambly, twisting messes of ideas. I get the sense that he knows that 80% of the concepts he's tossing at the wall probably won't stick, but the 20% that do are pretty powerful. I like having to figure out what the 20% is.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 1:01 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


Dude lost me years ago.
posted by edheil at 1:02 PM on February 2


Oh, and the first two lines of this is one my favorite AskMe answers.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 1:02 PM on February 2


You know what it takes to be The Last Psychiatrist? It takes brass balls. o^o
posted by fleetmouse at 1:17 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


I accept the fact that I am the mark most of the time.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:27 PM on February 2


Also Metafilter's own. (Only a narcissist would read this sentence.)
posted by forgetful snow at 1:44 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


"And nothing makes a middle aged neurotic happier than 45 minutes alone in a loft with a good looking man who requires no sexual contact and just wants to listen to you talk about yourself, unless he's also sketching you attentively in natural light."

If The Last Psychiatrist is indeed male, I hope he doesn't provide psychotherapy as well as medication management. What a load of contempt/countertransference/projection.
posted by blue suede stockings at 2:29 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]


So I reacted to the original Dove ads about like he did, apparently - "Man, what a really great way to get people to like you even though you are a scumbag corporation. Why does anyone even care about 'self-esteem'?" - but given how heavily he was pushing that perspective as the only right and true way to think, I am now deeply suspicious of my own responses. Either my reaction was part of some kind of broader asshole complex under which both he and I clearly suffer, or else there's some other reason he wants to make me feel smugly superior and I can't see what it is (like knowing there's a wasp in the room somewhere.)

Either way, I'm now upset and conflicted about something I had previously dismissed completely and cheerfully from my thoughts.

Maybe The Last Psychiatrist is actually Screwtape?
posted by Scattercat at 2:54 PM on February 2 [4 favorites]


I read the Last Psychiatrist as The War Nerd of popular culture. Although, I usually find the War Nerd more entertaining, I did enjoy this post a lot. "The world wants to be deceived."

I think it's good for for people to learn the ins and outs of con games, but not because it prevents people from getting conned like this--although that's a good side effect. No, I think the most important use is that very likely, one day, you will find you need to con yourself. On that day, you're going to want every trick in the book. Fortunately, you don't have to worry that you know too much about it, or that you're too smart to fall for these tricks. We're all born suckers. Even, maybe especially, smug, know-it-all bloggers who are trying to tell everyone how it really is.
posted by wobh at 3:21 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


So in writing this, in trusting us to assess his thought, the Last Psychiatrist gives us his confidence.

Now this is not a good syllogism:

A. A con places confidence in a mark
B. The LP places confience in me

THEREFORE: I am a mark and the LP is a con

yet I find it hard to resist the idea and in fact, I think this IS what he's trying to say about communication in general.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:06 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Isn't everyone a mark, or potentially one?
posted by divabat at 5:41 PM on February 2


A good essayist will present their ideas in such a way, that agree or disagree, I gain new respect and insight towards their argument.

TLP, on the other hand, is the opposite. Much like scattercat, I find his (and I'm pretty damn sure TLP is male) smug contrarianism masquerading as superior enlightenment shtick grating. When he writes about something I should fundamentally agree with (such as the basic argument in this essay), I find myself suspicious of my views, and when I disagree with him I am never more confident that his argument is wrongheaded. Is guess he's the anti con man?

In the future can people on metafilter at least warn us that they are linking to TLP so I'm able to avoid his drivel?
posted by aspo at 5:57 PM on February 2 [7 favorites]


Also, "like he's an ethical thief, like he's Lawful Neutral." What? No, an ethical thief would be chaotic good. Both parts of that are self-evidently wrong.

Negative, Captain.

If he was Good he wouldn't steal, and if he was Chaotic he wouldn't have a code. Hence: LN.

*spins propeller beanie, whirrs off into the clouds*
posted by Sebmojo at 6:18 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]


I had never heard of this blog. After reading a few more posts, I discover he uses the same formula again and again, each time shying away from a solid conclusion which could be agreed to or disagreed with. He has neither answers or solutions, nor does he try to. While I must to applaud him for his prolificacy, his courage as a writer leaves much to desire.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:23 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


That essay was pretty much the Platonic ideal of the essay everyone writes when they discover theory exists for the first time. But I thought that most people grew out of that stage, so it is a novel and horrifying discovery to find out that is not necessarily the case.

The essay also had the reverse (and, yes, petty) effect it planned on: now I want to buy Dove products, if only because this person disapproves of their marketing campaign and their existence to such a contortedly rabid degree; if they've pissed this person off so much, they must have some fragment of good in them.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:48 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


"If he was Good he wouldn't steal, and if he was Chaotic he wouldn't have a code. Hence: LN.

*spins propeller beanie, whirrs off into the clouds*
"

No. Robin Hood is chaotic good. Robin Hood steals — but for the right reasons. Being chaotic doesn't mean you don't have a code at all, but that your code is individualistic and anti-authoritarian. Lawful neutral is following a system no matter where it leads.
posted by klangklangston at 7:46 PM on February 2 [7 favorites]


dude are you startin sumthing because my 14th levle paladin has a holy avengar and and and
posted by Sebmojo at 10:37 PM on February 2


In conclusion, Dungeons and Dragons is a land of contrasts.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:38 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]


The first thing children should be taught is to understand that advertising is to sell, not to enlighten.

If you want the truth you cannot always come at things straightforwardly. You can see that the truth is often hidden, as with the NSA documents. The persecution of Snowden was inevitable to some extent but also somewhat of a blunder - it was an enormous signal that the documents were truth and they were damaging to Obama & the US gov't. Imagine if the response is "He's a crackpot, shit's fake," though the amount of documents is in this case overwhelming. Ads are dishonest, but they are also very honest attempts to sell you on something. In this way they can be used for enlightenment. Still it must be kept in mind that they are more enlightening about advertisers and corporations than anything, and only reflect reality to the extent that reality actually does obey the ad's script - buying diamonds yes, buying Zunes no.

I only recently switched over to Adblock. I am struck by how little I notice the difference - I already had that shit nearly completely blocked from my perceptions.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:02 AM on February 3


I wish people would stop spamming Metafilter with "The Last Psychiatrist". He's a moderately bright blogger with a single-issue approach to everything (it's all self-esteem issues / narcissism, basically), a know-it-all tone and a big misogynist streak.

I suspect he's popular around here because he was, at one point, a Mefite, but he mostly just comes across as yet another jaded cultural commentator. And based on his writings, he's the last person I would want near the psyche of any vulnerable person - thought I suspect that his title, with its self-glorifying "last" (as in, only remaining authentic), is actually just cosmetic.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:24 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


"Quick test for a con: what questions does it not occur to you to ask? […] you will find that you yourself felt good that Mantegna didn't take that guy's money, that he let him go. It endeared you to Joe, it made you feel more sympathetic to him […] the true mark is you.”

OH GOLLY GOSH THAT NEVER OCCURRED TO LITTLE OLD ME. DO I EVER FEEL STUPID. HA HA. YOU’RE SO WONDERFUL MR PSYCHIATRIST.

"And nothing makes a middle aged neurotic happier than 45 minutes alone in a loft with a good looking man who requires no sexual contact and just wants to listen to you talk about yourself”

Well, if that’s what he needs to believe.

"truth hurts, that's how you know it's true”

Truth sometimes hurts, but so do lies.
posted by tel3path at 5:48 AM on February 3


Well, there's this to look forward to, anyway: a purposely poorly written porno followed by analysis on "what porn means to you."
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:14 AM on February 3


I wish people would stop spamming Metafilter with "The Last Psychiatrist". He's a moderately bright blogger with a single-issue approach to everything (it's all self-esteem issues / narcissism, basically), a know-it-all tone and a big misogynist streak.

Yes! Sheesh. His otherwise interesting posts are sprinkled with unnecessary, sexist commentary. I truly hope he never gets laid.
posted by rcraniac at 9:28 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


This guy is a complete douchebag making feminism 101 points about the media while simultaneously hating women as people.

... and observe the most common criticism about this Dove ad: it has no black women in it. Never mind it does, that's a very telling criticism: why would you want black women in it? It's not the Senate, it's an ad, no, don't you hang up on me, why do you want blacks in the ad? Because it would represent the diversity of beauty? Because without them, it sends black women the wrong message about society's standards? Your answer is irrelevant, the important part is that whatever your answer, it is founded on the assumption that ads have the authority to set standards. Which is why, in your broken brain, the reflex is to complain about the contents of the ad, not assert the insignificance of ads. The con worked. Of course it worked: they selected you.

Shit that can only be written by a white male narcissist.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:08 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Seriously though, these points have been made 5,000 times by "radical" feminist bloggers. The difference being that many of them are capable of making the capitalism argument and the "also, strangely whitewashed" argument at the same time and not insisting on a monolithic POV. Let alone a misogynist one (and a misogynist one that tells you YOU'RE SIMPLY AN IDIOT if you observe its brick-to-the-face misogyny).
posted by stoneandstar at 2:10 PM on February 3


The question is, why bother? Why not either make grades rigorous and valid so we know exactly what they mean, or else do away with them entirely? Because in either case society and your head would implode from the existential vacuum. Instead, everyone has to get As AND the As have to be "valid" so you feel good enough to pay next year's tuition, unfortunately leaving employers with no other choice but to look for other more reliable proxies of learning like race, gender, and physical appearance. Oh. Did you assume employers would be more influenced by the fixed grades than their own personal prejudices? "Wait a second, I graduated 4.0 from State, and the guy you hired had a 3.2 from State-- the only reason you didn't hire me is because I'm a woman!" Ok, this is going to sound really, really weird: yeah. The part that's going to really have you scratching your head is why did either of you need college when the job only requires a 9th grade education?

See, you think you're onto something when someone uses your gender as a reliable proxy of how smart you are, feminist, but really you're being scammed by the colleges for a fuckload of tuition, which cancels that out! I'm sure you didn't notice, you were too busy masturbating to the fantasy of a kindly 40-year-old drawing your picture and living in the world. What's that, you are a real person and you need to eat? FUCK YOU! Food is a con!

I mean, I'm sure what he's really saying is "why are you a materialistic fuckwad bitch, why should anyone give you anything," but the point is that... ugh, there is no point. Fuck this punk. It's just confused academic rigmarole married to arrogance married to a stick up his ass. I've never met anyone who wanted to be a Freudian rockstar squatting outside the Matrix so badly but this is what it looks like.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:22 PM on February 3


This sounds like someone who not only reuses tea bags but carries them around with them.
posted by The Whelk at 2:30 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


YOU'RE A NARCISSISTIC IDIOT WHO THINKS THEY DESERVE FRESH TEA! LIPTON HAS TRICKED YOU! DAVID MAMET AGREES!
posted by klangklangston at 3:23 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


Err, klangklangston, Lipton only sell stale tea.
posted by ambrosen at 4:03 PM on February 3


It's like an intellectual /b/. I believe in pluralism / it takes all types, need some misanthropes around.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:04 PM on February 3


Wow, yall really hates you some TLP. So much glib sarcasm. Good discussion of ideas going on here! A+ Would read again.
posted by balmore at 10:01 PM on February 3


"balmore": You appear to be criticising the other commentators in this thread, me included, for being glib and sarcastic, by using the "Doge" meme and, also, sarcasm.

I would suggest that self-contradiction and reference-based humour are perhaps not the ideal way to raise the tone, if that is indeed what you are after.

It may well be that there are individual pieces by TLP that deserve deeper or more detailed consideration, and his larger point that many aspects of modern mass culture both encourage and depend on our complicity in narcissism, whilst not very original, has much merit. However, I stand by my points about his faults, which I feel apply to a great deal of his work.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:06 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


lucien_reeve: Sarcasm is awful, and I apologize for using it. It was a petulant response to feeling disappointed in the thread as a whole-- that people wasted time taking issue with TLP's style, and neglected his central (permanent) thesis on narcissism, which I find fascinating and relevant. I apologize for contributing in such a negative way. Metafilter is one of my favorite places on the web, and I hope you can see that I wasn't singling you or anyone out.

A+ would read again isn't the same as the doge meme btw, I think that's what you're referring to? I didn't use doge language
posted by balmore at 8:40 PM on February 4


"and neglected his central (permanent) thesis on narcissism,"

His central thesis on narcissism is incoherent and where he could have gone for insight into topics like how brands positioning themselves as empathetic participants in a bankrupt process of beauty standards is manipulative, he gets some polemical hardon that is done no favors by the hectoring tone and aggressive assumptions.

For example, the idea that I've seen the Dove ads because I'm their mark — I've seen them, I didn't share them, and I'm not the target demographic at all. If I'm their mark, this is the worst con ever, and no amount of Mamet-aping will overcome that. From there, he adopts the tone of a man lecturing women, and as such got snarky pushback here from both men and women who don't appreciate being lectured, especially for such weak pseudo-psychiatry.

There's kernels of corn in there, but I don't feel like picking through his shit to deal with them.
posted by klangklangston at 12:00 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


and neglected his central (permanent) thesis on narcissism, which I find fascinating and relevant

No snark, you can read fascinating, relevant writing on narcissism and cultural narcissism in many different places that is not as circular, confused, misogynist or generally misanthropist. His mind runs in circles like the fundamentally narcissistic mind of a depressive, which might be fascinating in a way (I think his insights are typically sophomoric and dickwaddish, but that's me), but requires editing-- or else why not read something better.

I have seen one Dove ad, I am a 20-something woman, I basically ignored it because I have never connected to that kind of aesthetic (there are different aesthetics I'm more susceptible to, all of them narcissistic I'm sure, including the ones I'm not susceptible to, like the emotionally-underdeveloped-misogynist-fake-internet-psychoanalyst one), I knew there would be a predictable internet maelstrom of "how precious!" + radical criticism about capitalism and complaining about complicity, &c. &c., the internet has already made me too old for this shit. But if someone sees that ad and it makes them feel better about themselves, why do I care? And if someone sees that ad and thinks "but they own Axe!" and gets angry, why do I care? Why are either of them narcissists in an indicative way, and why is identifying and rejecting misogyny somehow naive, and what if everybody buys Dove soap or nobody buys Dove soap? Why do I care? Everybody needs to buy fucking soap, whether Dove loves or hates women or doesn't care about anything but profits is a little beside the point to the consumer. But because the consumer is a woman, she's a fucking IDIOT and WHORE and probably just wants a non-threatening attractive man to appreciate her, how INSIPID.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:46 PM on February 5


I think I see one reason why there is so much disagreement about TLP's style in the thread. Many people read the blog and get the YOU'RE SIMPLY AN IDIOT message. Some of us who enjoy TLP are reading WE ARE ALL IDIOTS.

I don't know if that makes it better but at no point in reading through 50+ posts on his site do I get the sense that he's excluding himself as a target of the abrasive language. I guess other folks' mileage varies.

That said, I do understand that when he's specifically addressing women, he's obviously excluding himself, and all men, at a very literal level. That part is clearly no good and I get how it's damaging to the discourse.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 1:25 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


"Many people read the blog and get the YOU'RE SIMPLY AN IDIOT message. Some of us who enjoy TLP are reading WE ARE ALL IDIOTS. "

To go further, many people aren't described by what he posits, so it's not WE ARE ALL IDIOTS or YOU'RE SIMPLY AN IDIOT, it's I'M AN IDIOT overgeneralized to pretend that we are all idiots on any given topic. Which, fine, if you're breaking radically new ground or something, but if it's just another round of advertising manipulates self-involvement, the tone overtakes the content pretty quickly. If written without the bombast, it'd get a shrug and a "yeah, duh." He needs the bombast to keep readers, so he goes for it.
posted by klangklangston at 3:08 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


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