We All Kind of Suck

Dove thinks you’re pretty. Pretty ashy! (Buy Dove skin moisturizing lotion and lube up those ugly spots.)
Dove thinks you’re pretty. Pretty ashy! (Buy Dove skin moisturizing lotion and lube up those ugly spots.)

A recent campaign by Dove, a soap company, told us that women have low self-esteem and are all much more beautiful than they think. (Also: just because you’re pretty doesn’t mean you don’t stink, so buy some body wash.)

In a video that was shared by everyone with more estrogen than R. Lee Ermey, Dove cast an actor to play a sketch artist (the police kind, not your friend who’s really into improv) who draws Holywood-ugly — normal-looking — women based first on descriptions of themselves, and then based on how another actor was scripted to see them.

In the end, it turned out that, when women described themselves, the sketch turned out awful. (Way to go, something else that’s your fault, uggo.) When a complete stranger was very polite in case the man was married to the woman he’s asking about, the sketch turned out a-iight. Certainly not as great as when you mail your photo into that SkyMall artist who turns it into a sketch.

And, of course, women decided they were wrong about how they looked and opted for the prettier picture that could have been influenced by just about anything in the room at the time of the interview. (“She, uh … she looked like a chair.”)

Does that sound cynical? There’s a good reason for that: science!

In a 2008 psychological study, Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Erin Whitchurch of the University of Virginia took pictures of test subjects and edited them to make flattering and unflattering copies. (They applied whatever techniques the DMV does to your photo to make you look like you’re three days into a speed-induced bender.)

When they submitted the modified and unmodified photos back to the test subjects and asked them to identify the real photo of themselves, the subjects overwhelmingly picked one of the prettied up ones.

We’re not just looking for others to validate how pretty we know we really are. As a species, we also consistently seek confirmation that we’re more likely to vote, that we donate larger amounts in charity than anyone else and that we all rate above average at driving, working and love-making.

Two orgasms! Two! Eat it, previous boyfriends! Oh, wait: you didn’t.
Two orgasms! Two! Eat it, previous boyfriends! Oh, wait: you didn’t.

It should go without saying that if everyone’s above average, then “above average” is average. But, try telling that to your parents when you bring home a C. (Or, later, a 5 that you plan to marry.)

But, that wasn’t the end of the original photos experiment. While you and I may think that we, in our own estimations, are pretty fairly awesome and better than everyone else, it turns out that all those other assholes also think they’re the competent drivers and prettiest.

When those test subjects were presented the original, pretty and nasty photos of other test subjects, they were able to pick the real photo right away. We’re also pretty good at predicting how much (or little) someone else will donate to a cause or whether they’re really going to vote or just tape last election’s sticker back onto their lapel.

Because it turns out that, while we’re really good at finding ways for others to compliment us and to compliment ourselves, other people are even better at seeing right through our bullshit.

So, if you’re sensing a trend in last week’s explanation of why your Game of Thrones recap sucks and this week’s explanation of why Star Trek Into Darkness sucks, it’s probably because you, I and everyone else kind of sucks.

That is to say that we all suck more than we each suspect of ourselves. We want to believe a Dove commercial campaign that says we have low self-esteem and are actually more beautiful than we think … but only somebody with low self-esteem would buy whatever a soap commercial is selling.

Hey, and I think that stripper really likes you, too.
Hey, and I think that stripper really likes you, too.

OK, so you’re not as great as you hoped you’d be. Neither am I, and neither is anyone else. But, we’re also not as bad as we think we are, either. And even if you take our individual great parts and build the perfect human being, nine times out of ten, you’ll get post-op Carrot Top. That other perfect one of ten? They get all the acting and modelling jobs, but they also become Scientologists so it’s all a wash.

Just try to be nice to yourselves. And if you’re feeling dry or stinky, buy some Lubriderm because, seriously, fuck Dove and their attempts to manipulate us.

Oh, and maybe donate to the Red Cross to help everyone down in Oklahoma City. I did, and I’ve got a pretty good feeling you will, too.

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