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An Audreybot


I'm a pretty big Audrey Hepburn fan. I enjoy her movies, I think she was a stunning woman who wore amazing clothes (how can you not when Givenchy is a personal friend?), and she seemed like a truly kind and giving woman. Outside of her career in Hollywood she was a mother and humanitarian. Much of her later life was dedicated to working for UNICEF. She was fluent in six languages. She was sixty-four when she died. All of these are just a few empty facts about someone who was no doubt a complex being and yet none of those facts or her complexity seem to matter because: she was very pretty. Why do I feel that this is what we are stating her worth was? The recent resurrection of her image for a chocolate commercial. It isn't the first time her image has been used to sell a product posthumously (Gap comes to mind), but unlike past commercials where actual footage from her films was used this time the company created a CGI version of the style icon...and I'm just left feeling very cold.
Is this a thing now--that 20 years after your death a robotic echo of your youth will be used to sell product? It just feels like such a shallow (not to mention creepy, her expressions in the commercial are as vacant as you'd expect from a zombie) reincarnation of a woman who was so much more than what she looked like in her early 20s. I suppose what bothers me the most is that it isn't Audrey. It isn't what she looked like in the 60s (which is when the commercial was set). It isn't a photograph she posed for, or a scene from a film she acted it. It's merely a re-creation of her appearance. That's it. It has none of her charisma, personality, and not to mention it lacks her consent (although permission was gained from her estate). To quote Audrey Hepburn herself, "The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years." There's no soul in this commercial and she hasn't been allowed to age. It's like they turned her into a blow-up doll for public enjoyment.
The fact that it is Audrey Hepburn is what caught my attention, but it just has me raising my eyebrows incredulously (once again) at our culture's obsession with appearances--especially in regards to women and youth. It just seems so wrong and reductive. Did anyone else feel bothered when they first spied the commercial?

19 comments:

Ashley said...

I completely agree. My first thought on seeing the commercial was whether they had the permission of her estate (my dad's a lawyer...), followed by, that's not even her acting, followed by, this is creepy, followed by a small bit of sadness. I adore Audrey Hepburn. Not just her elegance and beauty, but because she truly was a strong, giving human being. She suffered much and had some terribly struggles in her life, but always radiated poise and kindness. As an Actor you take your life experiences and use them as fuel for your character, which she always did impeccably. But here we don't get to see anything but her image, and not even a terribly realistic one at that. I just find is sort of sad. Why couldn't they have found a young modern woman to play the part? It's odd and frankly, very sad to me.

Hannah Christie said...

I couldn't agree more, my friends and I were having this exact discussion just a few days ago. I find it eerie to manufacture the actions of someone who is no longer alive. And the fact that the man appears to offer a her a lift based only on her looks is another reason this advert fails to impress!

erin said...

this also speaks to the whole concept of the "uncanny valley," which was hilariously referenced in an episode of 30 rock. your observations are definitely spot on.

said...

I remember checking out a huge biography about her form my small-town public library as a kid. Ever since, her humanitarianism and lifelong personal struggles stuck with me. I guess what I'm saying is, you hit the nail on the head. And after reading your post, I can't even watch the commercial. (I've never seen it, and I can't bring myself to click the "play" button.) Thank you for being classy. You definitely have a bit of Audrey vibe going on, and I mean that in a much deeper way than just your physical beauty.

Kate said...

I completely agree - I was puzzled as to how this was allowed and that it devalues her memory and is a pathetic use of an icon.

fashionsmidgen.blogspot.com

Kate x

Kimberellie said...

I wrote a big long comment on my thoughts and not being certain because it was done with the family's permission. But then I thought about it, & really, in the end, I completely agree. It is a shallow parody of a vivacious woman which lacks her life, consent, & character. And like you said, it is a sad reflection of our society's obsession with youth & beauty. One of the reasons Audrey Hepburn did not continue making movies as she got older is she did not believe that Hollywood let people "grow old gracefully". & This is proof that they most certainly haven't. (terrible paraphrase...but I hope I got the heart of the quote...I didn't look it up).

Ilana Morgan said...

love her too
xo Ilana @ My Modern Vintage: Enter my Amazon e-gift card Giveaway!

wingeddeer said...

Oh my god this is so disgusting...
thanks for pointing it out and shining a true light on her.

Jessica B said...

I agree! It reminds me of the Buffy-bot on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's like she's almost normal, but it's too mechanical and emotionless, like she might throw someone across the street at any moment.

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

Oh wow, that is creepy! Why not just use a girl that is young and alive now?
How can they even do this without her consent?

La Petite Tiendita said...

I totally agree with you and galaxy isn't the only one, have you seen the newest Dior commercial? Where Charlize Theron is sharing a catwalk with Grace Kelly, Marilyn and others? Thats creepy too and it made me feel so upset when I saw it for the first time...
http://youtu.be/sLNn_KngOuY

Kitsune-kun said...

If she were still alive it wouldn't bother me as much. I understand that there is some admittedly amazing technology to showcase, but this wasn't the right way to do it. It feels downright disrespectful to just resurrect and play with someone's entire image and persona like a puppet. it would have been more effective, and ethical, to pick someone alive and widely recognizable, and with their permission do a side by side contrast of the animation and the real thing. the blank, blinky eyes were so creepy.

also, no one should be teaching girls that it's a good idea to get into a strange man's car. it isn't romantic, it's stupid.

the whole thing felt like it was trying so hard to feel like roman holiday, and came off feeling like a stepford wives/bodysnatchers/psycho hybrid.

Sarah - Har ni te? said...

I totally agree! Although I live in Sweden where I haven't seen any commercials similar to this one, the things you write about our society only caring about looks is so true.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely creepy, but somehow not as creepy as hologram Tupac. That needs to be nipped in the bud, yesterday.

Off the topic, I'd like to make a request. You write so beautifully, but your formatting makes it difficult to read because everything is jammed all together. Could you start making space between paragraphs? Usually I skip your longer posts because they mess with my eyes... thanks!

Rebecca said...

I completely agree! I know her son Sean Ferrer approved it because he said that she always loved chocolate but I still just don't like it. It doesn't show her charm, her compassion, her talent. It really just makes her another pretty girl that is used commercially--and that makes me really sad.
tr[i]b[e]cca

Lydia said...

I'm so accustomed to Audrey Hepburn's image and style being overused/misused in fashion magazines, that I probably wouldn't have even noticed this if you hadn't pointed it out. I love the fact that it bothers you, too.

Your post reminded me of an article I came across earlier today about Marilyn Monroe's library.
http://gothamist.com/2013/03/12/what_was_in_marilyn_monroes_persona.php#photo-1
Once upon a time it was considered laughable that a blond movie sex symbol would also have loved to read - would, in fact, have had a brain at all.
I would like to think our society has grown beyond that absurd attitude, but advertising just seems to keep pulling us back to it.

Let's enjoy the beautiful vintage styles of the past but lose the restrictive (and frankly pretty boring) ideas about what it means to be a desirable woman.

Tasia |Ruffles and Sequins| said...

I really don't like that they did this....but it does make me want to watch Audrey movies. Not eat some intergalactic chocolate.

Ana said...

It's awful what they will do with the famous deceased. It's creepy, the same way the last song by Michael Jackson was weird when playing on the radio when he was already gone. There is just something unsettling about it.
Since you are an Audrey Hepburn fan and also read a lot, I thought of asking you if you read her biography? I was thinking of getting the book ''Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn'' but not sure if it's the best one. Well, if you have any advice I would be happy to hear it

Alexandra Marie said...

wow- I agree- pretty weird and freaky. And the more I think about it the more I see you're right- it was such a misrepresentation of Audrey