Media, Art and the Right to Feel Beautiful

By Jack Raisch '15

“Art is the catalyst, the tool to ask questions through it.”

This quote proved to become reality just moments after Brian LaDuca, Director of ArtStreet, spoke them at the “Creative Culture Exchange: Media, Art, and the Right to Feel Beautiful” dialogue Tuesday, Feb. 25, hosted at ArtStreet.

This dialogue was just that – a back and forth of ideas around controversial subjects with the motif of media and beauty. Several diverse members were selected beforehand to be in the “Hot Seat.” These members were prepped for some of the questions meant to inspire conversation, and they were crucial in creating the honest tone and direction of the entire night. 

Members ranged from a grade school teacher (who also dresses in drag as a Rubi Girl) to high school freshman DECA students. University of Dayton students and professors also comprised the panel, including associate English professor, Andrew Slade, PhD.

The audience reflected the diversity of the “Hot Seat,” with teachers, parents and students alike. While opinions differed and thoughts brewed, everyone was invited to engage and participate.

The questions reflected different mediums of beauty, such as the iconic, unapologetic Barbie or the viral Dove short that bombarded many Facebook newsfeeds. Thoughts spewed: How did we feel about them? What was their say about society? How did we react? Are they responsible for negative societal actions? Internal thoughts rapidly become outspoken words.

No matter the question, one thing remained the same: we didn’t dip our toes, we jumped right in.

Tired, craving a Chipotle burrito and a running lists of errands filtrating my head, I was originally not sure how engaged I was going to be in this dialogue. I took a seat in the back, hoping to become another fixture of the room. Yet, seconds later, I felt my hand fly up with an opinion about to explode in my mouth.

In one particular conversation, the group conversed about the famous Dove commercial that had average women explain themselves to a forensic artist. Not seeing the women, the artist drew them exactly as they described – whether it be long faces, or self-proclaimed chubby cheeks. The twist was that these participants described other women in the project. The end showed these two descriptions side-by-side, one overtly darker and more self-critical, while the other drawings showed kinder, softer versions.

This short is an advertisement dream. It showed women clad in trendy clothes and haircuts. The scene was a chic open warehouse, with flowing white curtains to emphasize style.

Questions then spilled out as soon as the video had ended. Was this empowering or subtly degrading? Where did validation come from? Was this an innocent social-conscious move or a strategic advertisement? These questions did not prove to have solutions, showing how much of a grey issue this area has become.

My eyes did not sneakily dart at the clock as 7 p.m. quickly become 8:30 p.m., and they were still more ideas to be said. I was no longer tired or thinking of a psychology midterm, but rather beauty standards, validation and how both pervade out lives from even before birth.

When I took the brisk walk to Stuart Hall, I reflected on the talks. I was glad that this dialogue got me talking… now, I’m afraid I won’t shut up.

Jack Raisch is a New York transplant who walks fast and talks faster. A junior studying Psychology and Writing, his goal is to take over the world (but will most likely start with advertising – ask him again tomorrow, the answer may change). If you ever need to capture him, Highlander Grogg and bad Netflix movies can be used as bait. 

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