Shonda Rimes gave an eye-opening speech last year about how hashtags and social change movements are not interchangeable.
"Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter," the "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal" creator said to Dartmouth's Class of 2014. "I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It's a hashtag. It's you, sitting on your butt, typing into your computer and then going back to binge watching your favorite show. For me, it's 'Game of Thrones.'"
The "real" women featured in the spot are all arguably beautiful on the outside, not to mention beautifully diverse. Spoiler alert: Most of them choose the "Average" door (at the beginning of the ad, although by the end, they summon the immense courage to walk in through the "Beautiful" one. Pass the tissues. And the Tums).
Dove may be trying to blur the lines between a social change movement and an advertisement, yet let there be no mistake: They have soap to sell.
The average women shown are amazingly well-coiffed, impeccably dressed and mostly very thin; they mostly come across as sophisticated, articulate and radiant. No, the women shown in the ad aren't Victoria's Secret Angels—although does that mean if they're really real, we're supposed to imagine we're like them? So then what happens if we're not really actually that attractive (or if we're heavier, greasier, darker or paler) like the average women shown in the ad? Are we still meant to #ChooseBeautiful? Um, OK.
Where are the actual average women with adult acne, crooked smiles, unruly hair, no makeup, muffin tops and yoga pants? Really—here we are in 2015, and we're still having beauty defined for us as a reflection in the mirror?
Why isn't Dove showing women proclaiming they feel beautiful because they choose to be recognized as intelligent, powerful, funny, proudly chubby, self-sufficient, athletic, independent, OK with having a bad hair day or gratified by a good hair day—all of which can also be empowering? Of course, none of those are associated with soap (other than the bad hair day and maybe the good hair day), so that's probably not the message Dove is as interested in spreading.
Dove conducted a study and found that 96 percent of women don't choose to identify themselves as beautiful. As a result, they argue that "feeling beautiful is one of those choices that women should feel empowered to make for themselves, every day." Hence, they can rationalize continuing their campaign.
What would actually be a great new campaign for Dove after a few years of shoving insecure yet still obviously attractive women at us would be less phony empowerment that does more than try to evoke tear drops and some touchy-feeling emotion that only ever lasts for 12 seconds before you're onto the next thing on Twitter or Facebook.
How about women talking about feeling good for who they are, not what they look like? While self-esteem has nothing to do with soap, a positive association with a brand spreading a less frivolous message can't hurt.
Dove may be trying to blur the lines between a social change movement and an advertisement, yet let there be no mistake: They have soap to sell. Despite what they claim women say about their own beauty, you may still reasonably interpret yours as being more than skin deep—even if no one at Unilever (Dove's parent company, which also boasts SlimFast and Axe among their brands) ever wants you to forget that your skin needs to be cleaned twice daily with soap.