Dakota Fanning: Is banning her new perfume ad a step in the right direction?

Laura writes about the controversy surrounding child models in the adult fashion industry

By Laura Grande
Dakota Fanning: Is banning her new perfume ad a step in the right direction?

Marc Jacobs ad

I’d like to think I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to art and the world of fashion. But since when was it OK for children to have an adult’s sexuality? Kids and "adult" fashion is something I can never be reconciled with.
Only a couple of months after the controversy surrounding the French Vogue photo shoot featuring 10-year-old model Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau posing in decidedly adult-like attire (complete with stilettos and pouty lips), a new perfume ad featuring 17-year-old American actress Dakota Fanning has been banned in the United Kingdom. (More below....)
Fanning recently posed for the advert promoting Marc Jacobs’ new scent Oh, Lola. Although the image reportedly received very few complaints from the public, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the U.K. officially banned the ad late last week. This comes on the heels of Britain’s recent government initiative to “restrict the sexualization of children in the media.”
The ad in question features Fanning in a short, nude-toned dress with a large perfume bottle resting between her thighs. According to BBC, the ASA watchdog claimed that the ad made Fanning appear younger than 16 years of age. In a statement issued by the ASA they said: “We considered the length of her dress, her leg and the position of the perfume bottle drew attention to her sexuality …we therefore conclude the ad was irresponsible and was likely to cause offense.”

It's interesting to note that the ASA called the ad out on making Fanning look younger than her 17 years. While there are many teen models in the fashion world today, they are made up to look like adults, not children. I wondered, what statement were the people at Marc Jacobs trying to make in having Fanning appear younger than her age? In an industry that makes a point of dressing up young girls like women twice their age, the image of Fanning has reversed what we've grown accustomed to seeing from the industry, adding a whole new layer to the controversy behind it.
For some it might be a natural response to dismiss the controversy, arguing that Fanning is nearly 18 and the ad is not nearly as suggestive as the ones featuring Blondeau. I’ll admit that, at first, the Fanning ad didn’t bother me all that much. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered: where do we draw the line? Why should it be acceptable for a 17-year-old to pose provocatively just because she’s not as young as the age of 10?
Fanning's ad is arguably tamer; however, that doesn’t make it any more appropriate. Are we becoming so desensitized to suggestive images featuring children and teens that it has such little effect on us?
What is so frustrating about this recent bout of controversies is nothing will actually be done about it beyond banning an image here or there. In a money-mad industry like fashion, there will always be more images like the ones featuring Fanning and Blondeau.
The controversy surrounding Fanning’s ad will die down, just as it did with Blondeau's. Then everything will be quiet until the next ad or photo shoot featuring a young girl comes along and it starts all over again. It’s a vicious cycle.

What do you think of the Dakota Fanning ad? What more can we do to stop the vicious cycle?

This article was originally published on Nov 14, 2011

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