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Looking good doesn’t always correlate

Derek Franz
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

“It was kind of embarrassing,” my friend admitted after taking part in an advertising campaign for a $600 watch.

For this story, I’ll refer to this friend as “Model A.”

Model A is a figure in the international climbing world. He does not wear a watch when he rock climbs. However, for the sake of the ad, he had to pretend his watch was incredibly important to him at all times … which is why it was hard for him to do the “interviews” with a straight face. Or maybe it was because I was one of the onlookers and participants myself, and I had a crap-eating grin as I stood behind the cameramen.



“I really like the barometer when I’m out climbing,” Model A said, glancing down at the device he had never seen until two minutes before, thinking what else he could say about it.

Fortunately, the interviews where a minor element of the day. Most of the time was spent posing on some famous rock climbs. That’s where I came in – I was Model A’s belayer, holding the rope and periodically lowering him down a short way to repeatedly climb a section in front of a dangling photographer.



“That’s good, now could you maybe grab the hold this way?” the photographer coached. “And maybe jump to the hold to make it look more dramatic.”

So Model A would dyno to the hold, his feet flying off the overhanging rock before he kicked them back on. Then, in an impressive display of athleticism, he would hold a core-sapping pose as long as possible before sagging back onto the rope to do it again.

Years ago, when I was even more naive than I am now, I was duped by some climbing photos created in a similar way. I recall studying a photo for a hard climb I wanted to do, thinking that was the hand hold I should grab with my right hand instead of my left. At last, as I struggled to the section of rock seen in the photo, I put great effort into grabbing the particular hold with the same hand as the climber in the image. Then – what?! It was wrong! The sequence set me up for total failure.

Who would have guessed that a photograph could be misleading, misrepresenting the truth for the sake of aesthetics or other purposes, like making a watch look good? “Caveat emptor” is the Latin saying for “let the buyer beware.” Ironically, I also learned that phrase from a climbing guidebook when I was 14.

If a fact and a lie can share the same bed, I wonder what kind of children that makes – or has already made. We are those children, America!

We model ourselves after models – more than we consciously realize – and even models model themselves after models. That’s basically a lie built on a lie built on a lie. We aspire to be as perfect as what we see all around us, to live up to the standards: to look as good, to be as confident and funny and carefree and powerful.

As I belayed, I was also subject to filming by default. I found myself with an itch on the end of my nose. Normally I would simply scratch it by wiping my forearm across my face, since my hands were occupied with the rope. It occurred to me, however, that it would appear as though I were wiping a string of snot across my arm, which I also do sometimes. So the camera clicked, my nose itched, and I stood there, posing, trying to be as natural as possible.

Like the film character Derek Zoolander says, “Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?”

You know, there just might be … but you won’t hear it from me … in the watch ad.

I will say this, though, similar to what Model A admitted. Sometimes looking good doesn’t correlate with feeling good. At least Model A got to keep the ridiculously good-looking watch, which he probably will not wear on any more rock climbs.

– “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. This column is dedicated to the “Derek Zoolander Centre For Children Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.” Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at dfranz@eaglevalleyenterprise.com.


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