Friday, July 8, 2011

MAC Semi-Precious Collection: Girls and Gore

Part 3 of the "I Don't Get It" series.

After coming in from the mail box the other day, my husband handed me MAC's Summer 2011 postcard and then ran to the bathroom to get sick.

With the Twilight series so popular and with True Blood starting its fourth season, the nation clearly finds vampires hot and sexy, and Alexander Skarsgård can bite my neck any time. Is MAC now giving its own tribute to vampire hysteria? Because their Semi-Precious advertisement conjures up images of vampires when the postcard shows, in disturbingly lurid detail, a model's chunky and dripping lips the color of clotted blood. Has she just finished feasting on someone's spleen?

I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Also, "Precious" conjures up other disturbing memories for me. Permit me to digress for a moment.

"It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.
Yes, it will, Precious, won't it? It will get the hose!"
Back on point, I love dramatic red lips on pale faces, but I don't find MAC's ad particularly attractive. Compelling, yes. It compelled me to write this post. I'm sure the model is stunning, even if the photo editor felt the need to erase half of her nostrils and elongate her nose. Maybe it was the up-tilted angle and the nostrils were so wide and gaping they looked like they might engulf the reader. Instead, she ends up with a nose so disproportionately long from nostrils to tip, it looks like a bleached stingray.

I realize that advertising is one part fantasy, one part drama, and one part ca-ching, but the Semi-Precious  campaign reminds me of MAC's Mexican bordertown-inspired (Rodarte) collection, with the image of a corpse-like girl protecting her womb as she stands to the right rear of a ghostly figure dripping in pearls and blood. MAC said the collection meant to represent the ethereal, ghost-town beauty of a landscape south of the US border, and they have long since apologized for what many considered bad taste. Whatever their claims and recapitulations, I always believed that MAC intended to emphasize (and capitalize on) the darker side of Juarez, with their edgy, ugly, lurid, somewhat vulgar imagery.

Fine. Not all art is beautiful--ugly can be beautiful, and the Rodarte collection did not hurt the MAC brand. I wasn't blogging last fall when the controversy was being discussed, but I certainly noticed it.

I don't mean to rehash a discussion about that collection. I merely find myself amused on occasion by MAC's "edgy" advertising, which never compels me to buy.

I wonder how many of you received the less lurid Semi-Precious postcard.

The model is gorgeous, but this ad swings in the complete opposite direction with nude lips. And once again, there's a strange ghostly image superimposed over the model. Smoke? Wisps of mist? Is the woman being erased? I am not sure what this collection hopes I will think about it.

I suppose when you are a brand that releases dozens of collections a year, it gets challenging to come up with new concepts, to always be topping yourself when you continue to raise the bar. Maybe I am boring, but I prefer to spend my money on the brands that highlight classic feminine beauty and mystique with luxe or simple imagary, not death and/or gore.

So it's not that I don't get it--drama, edge, even controversy sell, and MAC wants to be edgy for their demanding 20-something demographic. I do get it. I just don't want this one. Do you?


  1. Nope. In fact the imagery often puts me off M.A.C. when actually they do have some very fine products for achieving a classy, feminine look. I just bought some very pretty blush from their Mineralized collection, and their Studio Tech is a fabulous foundation.

  2. une femme, thanks for stopping by. I agree MAC has some great products, and I hope my post doesn't position me as a MAC hater. Some of my all-time favorite eyeshadows are the buttery Copperplate, satiny Mystery, glowy Shale, and Typographic, which makes a softer eyeliner than the cult favorite Carbon. I even like Satin Taupe! And Viva Glam VI is one of those outstanding face-brightening lipsticks, if only it weren't so drying. Unfortunately, their foundation products all turn orange on me--that seems to be a recent theme with Estee Lauder-owned brands (e.g., Bobbi Brown), but the old Prescriptives custom-blend foundations and powders were HG.

  3. I love this post!

    But I completely disagree! I don't see clotted lips in the first picture. I see deep deep blackened red glossy lips that I'd wear in an instant if I thought I could get away with it (I couldn't!). Now you've pointed it out of course I'm looking at it with fresh eyes and can kind of see it but its not a leap I'd have ever have made on my own and I still dont' really see it that well ;)

    The Rodarte image, well given the context of the collection is absolutely vile.

    But I also like your take on the second Semi Precious picture but don't see it either. My thoughts on the blurring at the fore of the picture is a sort of looking through a gemstone type of effect.... but who knows! Thats just my interpretation!

    I really can't see any gore at all in these pictures although I understand why you do if that makes sense? I dont' think they are shocking at all! Unlike the mac rodarte one which well.. I blogged about it at the time... grim.

    Very interesting though, it did make me stop and look at them more closely but I don't really see it and its lovely to have a discussion!

  4. Charlie, excellent point about looking through a gemstone at the second Semi-Precious image. I see that now, and I didn't think find that one lurid (though I still do not care for nude-toned lips, even glossy ones). It's the first image, where I see a small flap of meat hanging off her mouth. My aversion is less about the color (I wear lots of blood red lipstick) than about that odd blob skulking about on her lower lip!

  5. I disagree with most of MAC's marketing, so how they present this collection is more or less irrelevant to me...I ignore their ad campaigns because I'm not the biggest MAC fan anyhow, and if something catches my eye it's typically in a blog or in person.

    That being said, I got a hands-on look at this collection yesterday, and it's truly stunning. The eyeshadows literally had me drooling...densely pigmented, marbled little wonders in brilliant gemstone shades, many of them blackened...which I love! Perfect for smokey eyes. The iridescence is also remarkable--these truly look like gems without being overly metallic or glittery. I may just head back to Macy's today to pick up a couple of them.

    Oh, and that lipstick? In real life, it's actually quite lovely...a deep blood red to be sure, but quite flattering on my (and probably your) pale skin.


  6. urgh. I know what you mean now.

    Funnily enough about a year ago I publically announced loudly on Twitter how Ellis Faas Ellis Red made be feel absolutely sick as it was so like blood. I'm a red lip lover but that was so like blood it actually made me feel incredibyl nauseous... now I have it in two versions!

  7. See?! This is why I rely on reviews. I was not tempted to even stop by the MAC store, so it's nice to hear a first-person report on the colors. Those little eyeshadow pots do look nice, though they remind me of the Vincent Longo Pearl X eyeshadows from his Galaxy collection.

    I just got rid of tons of product, so I am going to refrain from all new purchases. For now. :)

  8. Noooo! Sorry, Charlie. I didn't mean to put you off your beloved colors. Try looking at it the way you had before and do NOT read my Ellis Faas review of Ellis Red lipsticks. I love them, and I bet I'd like the new MAC lipstick on my lips, as Shannon says. But since I don't need another blood red, I shall pass.

    Maybe you need a blog sale, Charlie!

  9. I rarely find MAC's promo images flattering - it's only when I see photos of actual products that I become interested. I picked up Musky Amethyst (the dark lipstick from this collection) yesterday, and I really love it...but I can honestly say that I pay absolutely no attention to these weird promo pics when I look for MAC products - I usually wait for actual product shots. And if that's all I had to go on, I probably wouldn't have been interested.

    Which is a shame, because other brands can use beautiful advertising to their benefit, as it's meant to do.

  10. Very thought provoking post! I agree with both you and Charlie. The first image is a bit strange with her nostrils photographed at an unflattering angle. I don't really see blood or gore, but the dark red color doesn't look particularly enticing either. As for the 2nd image, I also think the blurry, haziness comes from looking through the precious stones. Either way, I'm not a huge fan of MAC's advertising images in general.

  11. These comments are great,thanks Larie and Kristie. I still see what I originally noticed--what has been seen cannot be unseen, after all--but now I see other, less sinister, things too.

  12. The bronze eyeshadow in the second to last photo is GORGEOUS!

  13. Don't worry! You've not put me off at all, but you're right, I'm due a blog sale soon!

  14. MAC has clever PR and always will. I really don't own many MAC things. As I see it MAC +photoshop = great photography and if the word MAC wasn't there, the photography alone is beautiful and not really the makeup. *ducks flames*

  15. Fires up the blowtorch ...

    I agree most of MAC's photography is very artistic. Surely they use several different photographers and a staff of Photochoppers, though.

    Oh, and the model in the first photo (the one with the meat lips) has the most beautiful colored hair ... whether it's really hers (enhanced with dye) or enhanced by clever computer applications, pretty is pretty.

  16. I love your comparisation with Silence of the Lambs ;) I have ordered two of the eyeshadows unseen (only swatched by Temptalia etc) and I kind of regret my order. I never use my other MAC mineralize eyeshadows and fear these will just stay in their boxes.

  17. Hi Flyavsted! That's what blog sales and eBay are for, hee! I recently bought two MAC eyeshadows from that Blogger's Obsession and I regret it, not because they aren't pretty, but because I don't think they will get much use. I should hold onto them until they are sold out and people are crying for them and then put them up on eBay!

  18. I bought two of the shadows from Bloggers Obsession as well, I love Sparle, Neely, Sparkle, but Hocus Pocus is only swatched and left unused as well. I much rather use my Chanel and LMDB eyeshadows. Are you on twitter? I will post the two mineralize ones on ebay ;)

  19. I bought Hocus Pocus and Parisian Skies. I think I will try to give them some love this weekend. I also have my preferences for eyeshadows (Chantecaille, LMdB, Laura Mercier, Ellis Faas, and RBR).

    I'm afraid I am a Twitter Luddite. I fear that if I start I will never be able to tear myself away from the computer!

  20. I bit the bullet today and purchased 2 of the Semi Precious mineralized eyeshadows. I walked out with Smoked Ruby and Faux Gold. When I got home I slapped them on and in less than 5 minutes had a gorgeous smokey eye. The Smoked Ruby is stunning...I'm reviewing next week.

    Turns out, the shadows are really nice...high pigmentation, easily blended, no creasing so far. I'm not normally a fan of MAC but in this case couldn't resist the unique colors, and I'm glad I caved! I see myself getting a lot of use out of these, especially since I managed to abstain from all the Chanel eyeshadows this season!

    Next up...the Blue Tie palette from Dior. It never ends, lol! But I can't wait!


  21. Very amusing article, and you are right to say that MAC are all about their target demographic. At 40 I consider myself too old to shop in a MAC store and wouldn't want to as I get bored just thinking about those thousands of little black pots. It doesn't actually matter what they do in terms of advertising, as the Rodarte collections showed, nothing can hurt them. I just don't know why they bother advertising as surely far more valuable is the global 'club' of young obsessives that will buy and promote everything they release among themselves. I find this fascinating from a marketing point of view and think it could be used exclusively to great effect. I'm not trying to be flippant or insulting to the young women who love MAC here, but I genuinely think they could far more effectively just send out a postcard every two months with a little black pot on it, stamp 'new stuff out now' on the back and let the fans go to it.

  22. Munichjoolz LOL about 'new stuff' but it's true! If Estee Lauder had only invested a tiny portion of that marketing money for Prescriptives (a line I really liked because it was well edited and not overly huge), the brand might still be available at counters.

  23. Shannon, you didn't! I can't wait to read your review.

    As for the the Blue Tie palette from Dior, I blame Kristie for my lusty lemming. I was able to avoid everything but the Tuxedo nail polish, which I ordered in a frenzy last night in case it runs out. As an aside, while I was on the Nordstrom web site, I was shocked to see LMdB Splendid Frost in stock. At least I think so, even though it was listed under the Cirque Kaleidoscope. I ordered it, and we'll see what colors I end up getting. Both look gorgeous, but I really wanted that Splendid Frost.

    Wait, didn't I JUST have a blog sale? *hopeless*

  24. I've always been partial to burgundy/plum rather than true red, so the ad doesn't put me off. I understand your position, though. I also have strong feelings about certain kind of makeup looks that makes me want to point and laugh or hurl into a bucket! But there are so many bizarre ads, commercials, music videos, etc. that MAC ads are actually quite tame in comparison. I don't think I've ever looked at one and had a strong reaction to it. Then again, I don't look very closely at the ads while I scrutinize the actual products to death, so for me (like a lot of people) it always depends on the quality of the actual item in the end. I checked out the stuff briefly a few days ago and they're all WAY too powdery and messy. No thanks!


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