Monday, September 19, 2011
Dior J'adore: Reliving Hollywood Glamor
So, I've watched the new Dior ad about five times now and I'm still not sure what to think about it. For those who haven't seen it, Dior's ad for J'adore perfume features not only the actress Charlize Theron, stalking proudly through the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, but the images of Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe, brought to life through CGI. The living actress kisses Kelly on the cheek, glances over at the tuxedo-ed Dietrich, and, in the ad's most surreal moment, hands Monroe a bottle of perfume, as Marilyn whispers in a breathlessly worshipful tone, "Dior...J'adore." The ad ends on an image of Theron strutting down the catwalk, her sparkling gold figure turning into the Dior bottle.
My first reaction was a full-body shudder of, "Oh God, they're using dead women to hawk their perfume." Somehow, the thought of CGi-ed, reanimated actresses giving their seal of approval to a current product is frightening. The ad even seems to acknowledge this by hitting a "scare chord" at the moment when Grace Kelly first turns around. But I have to admit, there was an element of pleasure to the ad as well, in seeing these iconic legends again. When I showed the ad to my mom, she had fun picking out the actresses and told me afterward, "It's much more respectful than I thought it would be."
And she has a point. Except for the deeply jarring moment when Marilyn speaks (and wasn't she a Chanel woman anyway?), the ad can be taken as a simple homage to old-style Hollywood glamor. Which is a pretty clever choice for an ad campaign and a perfect association for a perfume. Scent evokes memory, after all. A great perfume can do more than attract a mate or match an outfit, it can trigger something deeply personal in our minds. Because of the way the ad is staged, the sense I got from it was not so much "Wear our perfume and be like Marilyn," but "The glamor of the past gives way to the glamor of the future."
Of course, just because the ad has a good thesis doesn't mean it's a successful one. Charlize Theron is a stunning woman who, on the basis of her looks alone, could go toe to toe with any of these actresses. But in terms of iconic glamor and star power? They leave her completely in the dust. This isn't Theron's fault. I think it would be the same problem whether the ad featured Anne Hathaway, Halle Berry, or Mary-Kate Olsen. The star system is gone and with it, the idea that actresses could be goddesses. This ad doesn't just remind us of classic Hollywood glamor, it reminds us of how completely it's gone extinct.
The ad raises interesting questions for me. How far is it acceptable to go in using these iconic images? Can loving nostalgia co-exist with such an eerie use of our current technology? And why, in an ode to the past, did they choose a song with the lyrics, "If it's already been done, undo it?"