Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Urban Experiment

Leafing through the new Urban Outfitters catalog I had to do a double take at page 3. What's up with the girl on girl action? The last time an apparel catalog had two girls making out in order to display a new dress collection was...let me see...oh, that's right, never!

This was clearly a calculated move on the part of Urban Outfitters; some art director said: "Hey, you know that Kaleidoscope Dress is just the thing one would wear for the occasion of experimenting with another girl!"  Which makes me wonder what they were trying to accomplish by this image? Is this for the benefit of their female customers, their male customers, or just free publicity provided by the shock factor and an organization that calls itself A Million Moms, (which is urging everyone to unsubscribe from UO catalogs, while a million dads are busy taking a second look)?

If you study the picture, you'll notice that it's made to look as if it was taken with a cell phone or some other cheap  camera with harsh shadows falling on the wall behind the pair. The blurred windows also add to the snapshot feel, as well as the overall harsh, unflattering lighting. The smoocher in the giant black platforms looks like she's a lot more into it than the other girl - who has the uncertain expression of someone experiencing her first girl kiss. Perhaps it was a game of Truth or Dare? The image is intentionally vague on the matter. The question that begs to be asked is, "Is this appropriate?"
Now that we're on the subject of UO catalogs, I want to bring up something that's been bothering me for a while now; the way their images represent teenagers. Most of the catalog shots have had this substance-induced, I-am-going-to-regret-it-in-the-morning feel to them. The girls are always looking insensible and crawling half naked through some bushes,  projecting the appearance of someone who was just raped or about to get raped. 
What message do these images send to teenagers? What does it say about your average UO shopper? Shouldn't a huge brand like UO attempt to send some kind of a positive message? Can't they do a soup kitchen or the joy of recycling theme or something? Call me old fashioned, but I wouldn't want my daughter wearing skirts that display a clear view of her underwear and tops without a bra, while crawling through the under-bush with a dazed expression.
Here's a page from an older Urban Otfitters catalogs, featuring a nude teenage girl. This may get a lot of boys to sign up for catalogs, but it seems clearly wrong in my book. Shouldn't there be at least some semblance of modesty in our society, at least in public, at least when kids are concerned?

What are your thoughts?


Terrie said...

I was startled by that shot too! It was very unexpected, but considering the "themes" of most of their photos, as you discussed, I suppose it shouldn't be so surprising. I don't have a problem with it, but I do agree with you that these kids always look wasted and what's their point? Is that the "urban" look?

modernmom said...

I guess you can call me old fashioned as well, because I have a BIG problem with it. I will be unsubscribing to the catalog and writing the company.

Girliest Nerd said...

This is a really interesting article on UO Inc.:

SubWife said...

Well, there's a line of thinking that for profit corporations exist for one purpose only - to earn money for their owners/investors. So whatever increases the earnings is good as long as it's legal. If being socially conscious is bringing in more customers, then it's good; otherwise - not. And, I guess, if you object to what they are doing, you and those who agree with you can boycott the their products, which will force a corporation to adopt policies their customers agree with to avoid losing money. Personally, I don't agree with this line of thinking, but the reality is that if the CEO is not bringing in the dough, he and his team are sacked, no matter how good they are for the rest of the society.

JewishGirlBlog said...

My initial reaction was the same as yours---that this was a provocative attention grab. Then I thought twice and wondered if it's just a sexual equality thing. The kiss here seems tender. we see hetero love stories in catalogs all the time; if I were LGBTQ I would understandably feel left out of a brand in the absence of images like this.


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