The Mystical Scientist: In Search of the Fountain of Youth
Age-defying cosmetics and makeover programmes using surgery, make-up, and clothing to make the participants look Ten Years Younger imply that consuming commodities will allow the consumer to turn back time, suggesting that old age can be prevented. Adverts for The Body Shop’s Drops of Youth range contain stem cells extracted from marine plants, placing the product at the cutting edge of scientific technology. At the same time the adverts claim the products contain ‘a few
drops’ of the fountain of youth. The cosmetics are simultaneously mythical, natural, and scientific.
Judith Williamson writes that science, such as diagrams of cross sections of skin or cell structures, is included in adverts to give the impression that the advert is informative without actually providing the viewer with any knowledge. She says that ‘only forms of knowledge are appropriated by advertising, so we […] never actually find what is known. The obvious ideological function of this is to make the subject feel knowing but deprive him of knowledge.’ (Williamson,
Decoding Ads, p. 116)
By showing us complex diagrams that we cannot decipher the
science is a ‘mystically incomprehensive’ mix of ‘strange words, cryptic diagrams, and magical, mathematical symbols’ (Williamson, p. 116). The adverts show us
something without telling us anything. The claims made in
the adverts appear objective and clinically proven because they are supported by pseudo-scientific language
The science in advertising is the voice of a mystical scientist - part-chemist, part-shaman - who extracts stem cells and blends
them with a few drops of the fountain of youth to concoct an
elixir of the life that promises immortality.