The Old South and Avon Cosmetics

Three years after the movie premier of Gone With the Wind, several cosmetic companies saw the belle as something to capitalize on, selling the fantasy of the Old South with the use of their product. Avon’s advertisement from a 1942 issue of Cosmopolitan sells more than just makeup and perfume. They sell the promise that all the romance of Gone With the Wind will be yours with the use of their products. The image makes an unapologetic allusion to Gone With the Wind in several ways. The silhouette of old oak trees and rolling hills frame a plantation style home, a staple of Old South imagery. The plantation uncannily resembles the iconic home Tara, from Gone With the Wind, and thus, pulls the consumer’s imagination to the romantic tale of Scarlett O’Hara. Avon alludes to Tara in order to bolster their promise that if you use their products you will be transported to the Old South, made a dreamland by popular culture. The cosmetics company, thus, capitalizes on the popularity of the film and book to promote their products. By using a pop culture reference, Avon is able to associate the use of their product with icons, such as Scarlett O’Hara.

The belle’s floral dress references her purity, enhancing the advertisement. This generic woman becomes part of the natural scenery in her floral-print dress; the artist even renders a lily-white magnolia around her waist. This reference to flowers has a duel meaning. First, it allows the woman to embody the summer fragrance of the perfumes and cosmetic products as though all of her freshness and daintiness has been captured into a single bottle of Avon fragrance. Yet, flowers are also a symbol of fresh scents. Thus, if you buy Avon’s products, you will become a Southern Belle, the pinnacle of innocence and purity, and attain the fantasy lifestyle that the advertisement promises. This sales pitch, however, depends on the established trope of the Southern Belle as the flower of the South.

Of course, Avon conveniently omits one inescapable component of plantations: slaves. Plantations depended on slaves for their economic success. Yet, slaves are nowhere in sight. Slaves are the key to plantation life, for the products of their labor provided the crops, and thus, secured a fortune for the owners. A property like Tara, as seen in the film, would have required many slaves. The scene is sterile without slaves, allowing for Avon to escape any association with the un-pleasantries of slavery. Thus, the advertisement erases any unpleasant reminders of the institution of slavery, in keeping with the romanticized Old South lifestyle that Avon is so fervently selling.

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