Above: A poster advertising Joy a perfume by Dior, seen at a bus-shelter in West London, December 2018. Credit: Oscopic.

Blue-Eyed Ideal Woman

A perfume advert by Dior. The photo consists of a portrait of Jennifer Lawrence--the movie actress and superstar; star of the Hunger Games series of movies. Joy is the name of one of the most famous perfumes of all time by Jean Patou created in 1930. Dior's Joy is new, and unconnected to the famous Patou Joy. (The original-and-unconnected product was actually purchased in 2018 by the LVMH luxury brands conglomerate which also owns Parfums Christian Dior.)

One basic connotation of water-and-sun is: holiday, or summer, or summer holiday. The photo could be read as "white girl on holiday," with the components combining in the simplest and most obvious reading of the image: Joy is a perfume that is great for summer holidays.

Backlighting is a classical Hollywood 1930s lighting technique used to aggrandise an actress, turning her into a Screen Goddess. So, on one level, the young woman featured is not represented as an ordinary reveller. She is a goddess, it could be said: she is an aggrandized or intensified young woman. It is also notable that the blue of the water is echoed in the blue of her eyes: she is a pale-skinned blue-eyed goddess.

On this we might think of the similarity of this image to the opening scene of Richard Wagner's 1856 opera Das Rheingold (the first opera of the four in the Ring), in which three Rhinemaidens (or water-sprites) Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Floshilde, play fecklessly together. Wagner went back to Old Norse and Middle English myths for his characters in the Ring.

In the 1930s, in Germany, the National Socialists propagandized and idealized the pale-skinned, blue-eyed, European woman as an "Aryan" ideal. Assuming nothing in such an advert ever appears in it at random, the recent Joy advert is notable for its promoting of this "Aryan" ideal at a time when diversity, difference, and multi-culturalism tends to be the grand preoccupation of the day. The Aryan-ideal white-woman-with-blue-eyes was intentionally used for this ad. It's a stereotype that is associated with racism and white supremacy.

(27 December 2018)