In America, few things are more quintessentially 2019 than the frequent need to question whether something is real. Is the Twitter account that wants to argue with you about politics run by a real person or a bot? Does YouTube truly encourage kids to commit suicide? Has the viral video that everyone’s talking about been doctored? Things that many people would normally take for granted now feel slightly askew.
This unsure cultural footing brings with it a certain tension. You could be fooled at any time, or you could be passed information by someone you trust who’s been fooled. This is largely a problem of technology, both of how much it permeates everything about life and of how little time everyone has had to adjust to its changes. As we go further through the looking glass, the promise of finding reality feels only more powerful.
Marketers, to their credit, sensed this nascent shift before almost everyone else, and especially as it applies to the ways women view themselves. Since the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty spawned its first viral commercial in 2006 by taking viewers through the layers of digital artifice that go into making a single ad, personal-care and clothing brands have been lining up to sell people “real” products, made for real women to achieve real beauty in their real lives. The American retailer Lane Bryant calls its rewards program “Real Women Dollars.” Earlier this week, the British plus-size clothing retailer Evans launched a model search looking for “real women” with “real bodies” to star in ads.