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22 Oct

How culture has modified since Christina Aguilera’s 2002 hit

How culture has modified since Christina Aguilera’s 2002 hit

To mark its twentieth anniversary, the singer has updated her ‘Beautiful’ music video – here, we speak to the director to learn the way much, and the way little, beauty expectations have shifted

Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” is an iconic music video. Released in 2002, the song was the second single from her image-shifting album Stripped, a raw soulful ballad which followed the attention-grabbing first single “Dirty”.

With lyrics centred around insecurity, self-esteem and inner beauty, the video shone a highlight on the people affected by society’s strict beauty standards, and people outside of and rejected by the mainstream. Touching on themes from eating disorders and body image to sexuality, the video won a GLAAD Media Award for its positive portrayal of gay and transgender people. Now, to mark its twentieth anniversary, Aguilera has released an updated version of the music video.

“The film was a celebration of courage and self-love. It was an act of resistance, a love letter, a signal for change in the way in which we perceive beauty,” says director Fiona Jane Burgess, who was tasked by Aguilera with reimagining the video for 2022. Growing up in rural England, pre-internet in a house without MTV, Burgess only caught glimpses of music videos when at her friends’ houses, but this one stuck along with her and had a profound impact. 

“It showed me things that I knew but had never seen on screen before: a young girl overcoming her battle with anorexia, a young boy confronting his body dysmorphia, gay men kissing, a person in drag,” she says. “It gave me inspiration and motivation to know that I may very well be different on this planet, and my voice mattered.”

Unlike the unique video which featured a various range of ages, the 2022 version keeps its give attention to children, as Burgess was keen to explore the ways the wonder industry and social media are impacting people at younger and younger ages. “Greater than half of ladies and one-third of boys ages six to eight are unhappy with their body weight. And greater than 80 per cent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being ‘fat’. That is heartbreaking,” she says. 

There’s been a 50 per cent increase in reported self-injury amongst teenagers since 2009, and by the point they reach 17, 78 per cent of ladies within the US are unhappy with their weight. “The way in which we’re taught to view and value ourselves as children affects the way in which we view ourselves as adults,” she says. “With this film, I used to be fascinated by exposing the ways we, as a society, inadvertently expose children and teenagers to damaging body ideals.” 

We spoke to Burgess in regards to the impact of the unique music video, and the way she desired to update it for 2022.

What was the cultural impact of the unique video for “Beautiful”?

Fiona Jane Burgess: I feel like the unique video set Christina aside from her peers. It felt so vulnerable and raw and brave for an artist to reflect themes of depression, isolation and body shame, in addition to make a transparent statement about unachievable beauty standards portrayed in mainstream media. It confronted taboo topics and shone a lightweight on very relatable struggles. 

Also as a female pop star, Christina was sending a transparent message to the world; that girls can create work that’s socially conscious and questions the image and perception of traditionally marginalised groups inside mainstream culture.

While you first began desirous about making a new edition of “Beautiful”, how did you wish to update it for 2022?

Fiona Jane Burgess: With this re-release, I desired to create a movie that feels as emotional, provocative and fearless as its predecessor. 20 years ago social media didn’t exist. After I take into consideration how the wonder industry and society as a complete have modified within the last 20years, the web is by far the most important monumental shift. 

Young individuals are experiencing and understanding the world in ways we didn’t, for instance via influencers and content creators, they usually are also those most prone to being exploited by it. It is extremely difficult to supervise children’s online activity, and with this film, I wanted to focus on the risks of this, in addition to how young individuals are starting to react and reject what they’re being told (and sold).

“We’re making a cultural environment where it’s normal to wish you looked different indirectly, to want to vary something about ourselves” – Fiona Jane Burgess

When the unique video got here on the market was no social media. To what extent do you’re thinking that social media is answerable for the rise in eating disorders, self-harm and body image issues that we’re seeing now? 

Fiona Jane Burgess: I believe it will be too simplistic to suggest that social media is solely answerable for the rise in mental health issues we’re seeing in young people, but for a few years I’ve worked in an adolescent psychiatric unit as a drama facilitator, so I’ve seen first-hand the truth for a lot of young people who find themselves combating mental health issues and its relationship to their online existence, in order that’s why this appears like a very poignant concept for this video.

With this film, I desired to explore the stress between progression versus regression by way of beauty standards and the way our cultural relationship to it has evolved within the last twenty years. On the one hand, body positivity has had a radical impact, with activists fighting to make the wonder industry a much more welcoming space with more diversity on runways and on our screens, reflecting an acceptance and celebration of difference. 

But then again, there was an enormous surge in self-harm, body dysmorphia and alterations, cosmetic surgery, and a complete generation of teenagers wanting to seem like the filters on their phone screens, a kind of Kardashian effect. Who knows to what extent social media is responsible, but I believe the correlation between the 2 is undeniable.

Do you’re thinking that beauty standards are worse now than they’ve ever been?

Fiona Jane Burgess: Only time will tell. I believe there’s a type of tug-of-war occurring in the wonder industry, and that’s having a confusing and complex wider cultural impact. I believe we’re definitely starting to see more inclusion and acceptance of body diversity inside certain areas of economic promoting and throughout the fashion and sweetness industries at large, nonetheless, I believe that is in direct conflict with the hyper-perfect presentations of self we see online and still exist in most mainstream promoting. The rise in self-harm and cosmetic surgery speaks for itself. Prior to now 18 years, the variety of cosmetic procedures for men has increased by greater than 273 per cent and the variety of cosmetic procedures for girls has increased by greater than 429 per cent.

What worries me is that I believe we’re making a cultural environment where it’s normal to wish you looked different indirectly, to want to vary something about yourself, to perpetually feel inadequate and less-than. Despite a growing inclusion of plus-size models and activists, for instance, I worry that it’s easier to feel bad about yourself than it’s to feel good. One study found using social media for as little as half-hour a day can negatively change the way in which young women view their very own bodies. Nearly 80 per cent of young teenage girls report fears of becoming fat.

It’s hard to know whether that is worse than it has been in previous generations, but once I take into consideration my childhood growing up without social media, I feel like I definitely wasn’t very aware of my body or my self-image, in a positive way. I believe the issue is that it’s unimaginable for youngsters to avoid social media nowadays, and it’s normal to use filters to edit the way in which you look, for instance. I can’t imagine what impact this is able to have had on me, because I don’t remember feeling particularly self-conscious or self-aware until my body began to vary and develop, and even then there have been no smartphones or selfies. It’s hard to know if things will recover or worse from here, but I believe we’re already starting to see the impact.

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