Dove's Latest Video Deconstructs The Selfie

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Can selfies help redefine beauty? That's the question posed by the new Dove #beautyis video. The seven-minute film, called Selfie, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival today. In it, Dove touches on themes ranging from teenage insecurity to the beauty lessons we learn from our mothers to "the power of self-portraiture" and how "social media is widening the definition of what beauty is."

The video was shot in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where professional photographer Michael Crook led a workshop for high-school girls and their moms. In the first part of the workshop, the girls talk about their insecurities and the things they try to hide in photos — braces, big hair, red cheeks, wide arms. They also discuss how some of these issues stem from their mothers' own insecurities. Then the girls take some selfies, and teach their mothers how to do the same.

All the photos are eventually blown-up and displayed art-exhibition style. The girls and their moms leave comments on each other's photos with little sticky notes, things like "great hair!" and "big eyes!" In the end, the girls are able to see past their own beauty hangups a little bit and look at themselves through fresh eyes. In doing so, they're struck with renewed confidence and self-worth.

That's cool to see. But like so many Dove ads, this one definitely sends mixed messages. On the one hand, the idea seems to be that everyone is beautiful in their own way, and we shouldn't worry so much about looking like women in magazines but have confidence in ourselves. Then again, the only reason these girls and their moms learn to better embrace their own looks is because of other people complimenting their selfies.

The ad concludes by pointing out how social media and technology give girls the reigns to define what beauty is for themselves. That's an important message — but not necessarily the one this Dove ad shows. Watch for yourself and see what you think.

Image: Dove