The Pop Culture Makeup Collection: For Better or For Worse

Star Wars Makeup Collection

Sometimes a media makeup collection is a stretch, but sometimes it nails it.

You can make merchandise out of anything. It seems as though every semipopular story franchise now comes fully equipped with action figures, posters and Hot Topic T-shirts. But that’s not where it stops and, as any pop culture enthusiast has surely discovered by now, makeup palettes are a popular addition to media, from Cinderella to The Simpsons. Whether you want to paint your nails with colors inspired by Girls characters (Shoshanna is “virtuous and vivid violet”) or use glitter straight from The Rocky Horror Picture Show Collection, there’s something for everyone who wants to use skin, nails and lashes to pay tribute to a TV show or movie.

Occasionally a pop culture makeup collection ties in reasonably well, particularly when a movie or show has standout visuals or a specific cinematographic style. But many are reaching to connect a character to a compact. This is our media makeup collection roundup, where we look at both the best and most egregious attempts to partner palettes with pop culture (for better or for worse, the majority of them were limited edition and thus are no longer available).

That’s a Stretch

In the “that’s a stretch” category, we have the following:

Covergirl Star Wars Makeup Collection

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Makeup Collection by CoverGirl 

This collection features two different kinds of mascara, three shades of nail polish, and lipstick. The lipstick comes in six different colors: three “light side” shades and three “dark side” shades. This is a bit of a stretch and is also the only real connection ever drawn between the movie and the makeup collection. There is both a “light side” mascara and a “dark side” mascara, though there seems to be little noticeable difference between the two. The light side mascara is waterproof, which is a little counterintuitive (doesn’t Kylo Ren seem like the character in The Force Awakens most in need of waterproof mascara? Rey seems like she’d get by just fine without it). All of the products have Star Wars: The Force Awakens emblazoned on their cases, just in case the “light vs. dark” theme of the makeup collection wasn’t enough to clue you in.

Covergirl Hunger Games Makeup Collection

Capitol Makeup Collection by CoverGirl 

The Capitol, center of all things material and extravagant in The Hunger Games, is a place where the over-the-top makeup collection is a must. One of its emissaries glued butterflies to her eyelashes in what somehow wasn’t the strangest look in the movie. So, in some ways, a makeup tie-in actually makes sense. But The Capitol and its opulence are also thinly veiled critiques about capitalism, consumer culture and society’s obsession with opulence and excess. This is something middle school readers picked up on but CoverGirl seems to have missed when they created this collection, which contains nail polish, nail stickers, “lipslicks” and mascara. It’s fitting, in an ironic way, that a cosmetics conglomerate tried to capitalize on it.

Deborah Lippmann Makeup Collection

Girls Nail Polish Collection by Deborah Lippman

Celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippman partnered with HBO in 2013 to create a limited edition set of four different nail lacquers. Each nail color was purportedly inspired by a different character. According to the unnecessarily alliterative product description, Hannah is “hapless hunter green,” Marnie “prim and proper pink,” Shoshanna “virtuous and vivid violet,” and Jessa a “bohemian burgundy.” All of which sound like a thesaurus married a set of Pantone paint chips. But my favorite part of the description has to be the following: “The collection is witty and empowering while celebrating the various dimensions of feminine identity.” It’s unclear how, exactly, the nail polish is witty (the alliteration?), and I don’t even want to touch the “various dimensions of feminine identity.” Being able to choose among four different shades of lacquer isn’t exactly what I would call empowering.

Nailed It

On some occasions, however, makeup and media partnerships work out. Here are two of my favorite examples of pop makeup that nails it:

MAC Maleficent Makeup Collection

Maleficent Makeup Collection by MAC Cosmetics 

Here is a tie-in that actually works. Maleficent is one of the most glamorous Disney villains (not that she has much competition — Jafar and Scar aren’t exactly coming for her crown), and the 2014 movie starred the dazzling Angelina Jolie. Naturally, pernicious panache was there for the taking. The 14-piece Mac line released for the film was inspired by the visual hues of the movie and by Jolie’s titular character. The line came with a shadow palette, liquid liner, brow pencil, nail polishes and faux lashes; all three of the red lip products included in the line were used to create Maleficent’s look during the movie’s filming.

Estee Lauder Mad Men Makeup Collection

Mad Men Makeup Collection by Estee Lauder 

This is another example of an adept translation of media to makeup collection. Mad Men is as famous for its ’60s feel as it is for its Emmys and acting. Much has been made of the show’s attention to costuming and styling — half of Mad Men’s appeal seems to have stemmed from its visual details. And while the blatant misogyny portrayed on the show may have gone out of style, the rich red lipstick and blush of the Mad Men era is still en vogue. The spring 2013 collection from Estee Lauder came with red lipstick, pink nail lacquer and rouge, all of which were packaged in retro cases.

In short, sometimes the tie-ins make sense; other times we’re left wondering how far companies will go to try and sell us eye shadow. Smaller niche sites like Shiro Cosmetics make eye shadow themed after Harry Potter spells and motifs. While some admittedly make no sense to me (like a chocolate brown “Boy Who Lived” shade — are we finally coming around to Tumblr’s idea that Harry was half Indian?), there’s a difference between fans creating products as a tribute to their favorite stories and makeup companies trying to make a lazy profit off of fan love. The pop culture makeup collection surely can be done right, but it should be more than slapping a franchise’s name on a bottle of mascara. What’s your favorite (or least favorite) pop makeup collection? end


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