Bad Makeup and the Uncanny Valley

So I was looking at Walmart’s free samples, as I sometimes do when I get bored. It’s a great opportunity to get free teeny packets of granola and newfangled tampons. Plus, it means I get more in the mail besides bills and junk mail. In any case, there was a free sample to try some Maybelline foundation (err, ‘liquid makeup’). Now, I don’t use foundation. Never have, except for a few times in middle school when my face got hijacked by a bored friend. I’ve been under the impression that the people who do use it use it as either a blemish remover (to hide all those old acne scars, etc) or as a gesso of sorts for the face (i.e. viewing the face as a canvas of sorts for painting makeup and using the foundation as a means to start with an even base, as a geisha would). The free sample of foundation, though, used these as it’s advertising points:


The idea of airbrushed equaling perfection is bad enough, much less the oxymoron of “airbrush natural finish”, which is text further down in the ad. Or, for that matter, the curiousness of considering it natural to have a face completely devoid of any means of the skin being able to breathe. What this did lead me to think about, though, was the uncanny valley.

For those unaware, the uncanny valley is why something almost but not quite human comes across to actual humans as quite disturbing. It explains zombies, as well as people being creeped out by The Polar Express. So I’ve decided that there’s a conspiracy, here, between the makeup industry and lazy animators. It would take some crazy algorithms to produce the sort of chaos necessary to replicate all of the variances of skin shades and body irregularities and eye movements and slight facial changes to make something appear as a real person, and not simply as something eerily close to a person, so close as to be uber-creepy. Such algorithms would take hard work, and it’s just easier to pay off the makeup industry to convince people that pores and irregularities are what’s actually unnatural. Make people look like almost-people, so that the uncanny valley eventually becomes normal, rather then creepy.

On another note, I wonder how a Turing test would deal with humans trying to pass themselves off as robots, rather then robots trying to pass themselves off as humans.

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