Making the Perfect Woman: Consumerism as a Religious Narrative – an excerpt from Divine Sex

The following is an excerpt from Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age by Jonathan Grant.

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Jesse Epstein’s short documentary 34 x 25 x 36 provides a philosophical window into a company that makes female mannequins. As the firm’s owner declares at the outset, “There are no perfect bodies out there . . . we make the perfect body.”

The goal, he says, is to “stir up the adrenaline in the buyer to say, hmmm, I could look like that.”

Describing a sculptor creating a template from a real human model, the chief designer says, “He’s taking the essence of her [the human model] and capturing what her features are about into an image that is actually more than what she is. We have the ability to alter things.” Comparing his work to medieval religious art, which captured the form of saints, he goes on:

We replicate what the perfect girl is for the times because actually it’s a continuation of the same thing [i.e., religious art]. I can see where it would be believing in something or, in a way, worshiping something because it’s something that you aim for. Do we worship perfect women? Do we worship people that dress in very expensive clothes? It’s playing with people’s minds about what their ideal is. In religion the ideal is salvation. What is salvation in our current society? Is it being looked upon, being photographed everywhere you go? To some people it is very important. People have to believe in something.

This modern “religious art” presents idealized saints to be emulated, and yet they are always out of reach. Whereas the purpose of medieval art lay in spiritual emulation, salvation within the lower horizons of the modern world is now found through embodied perfection.

This notion points to the myth of attainability within consumerism. Although this myth seeks to mimic and displace the religious narrative, there is a critical difference between them. Whereas Gregory’s vision is fueled by the progressive satisfaction of our spiritual yearning, which spurs us on to experience more of God, consumerism—like all forms of idolatry—is driven by intensifying promises that end up giving us nothing. Happiness and fulfillment always lie just out of reach.

In contrast to the progressive fulfillment of the Christian journey, consumerism is a form of institutionalized dissatisfaction that whets our appetite but leaves us hungry, revealing the myth of freedom within consumerism.

Having presented themselves as priests offering salvation, consumption and acquisition become gods in their own right. As we follow these false gods up the mountain, they offer us progressive self-realization and control through personal choice. In reality, we are caught in a downward spiral of provisional commitments.

©2015 by Jonathan Grant. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.