Friday, August 5, 2011

Little Girl, Big Controversy

There's a big controversy online about the appearance of a 10 year old model on the cover of French Vogue, dressed up in glamourous clothes, sexual poses and fully done up with makeup. While some parents groups are saying that this is sending the wrong message out to children, others have simply called the images creepy. But I think that people are forgetting the real point of this whole debate: marketing.

Leaving aside the pedophilia argument and all that stuff about how children should be allowed to be children, you have to look at this from the point of view from those who are pioneering this new field of fashion: marketers. With all the talk about recessions and bad economy, people just aren't snapping up glamour goods at the same rate as they were back in the good old days. This has made it increasingly difficult for corporations to take advantage of the frivolous or insecure tendencies of most adults with disposable income.

But market research has indicated that an ever-increasing and ever-younger group of consumers does have money to spend on themselves, as shown by the hugely popular Twilight series which has grown the 'tween' market. Not only is this segment of the population playing a larger role in growing social media and feeding into the tween economy of vampire love books, they can also be targeted for glamour goods.

The added value of this young demographic is that they're already insecure. With the awkward transition years of puberty and changing hormone levels, the marketers don't have to go to the trouble of creating insecurities to exploit; they just have to exploit them.

So you see, the real victims here aren't the children about to lose their childhood or the growing threat of pedophiles lusting after them online. The real victims, as they often are, are the marketers. They're just trying to turn their lives around in a bad economy so that they can go back to posting billion dollar profits by reminding people that they're inadequate unless they buy their products.

The image of the glammed up 10 year old for me was a stark reminder of what it is that people in the industry see every time they build a new magazine cover. Yes, they sell you glamour, a lifestyle, a fantasy that you can't possibly live up to or ever expect to experience in your lifetime. But the bottom line is that they see you as a product. A sum total of the brand name that you wear or the things that you can afford to buy. It's something which seems less obvious and less insiduous when you see adult models. But the image of the young child reminded me that we're all being exploited and that's the bare truth. It just took a child to remind me of that all important fact.

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