Earlier this week, Blake Lively's Preserve posted an ode to the antebellum Southern belle, worthy of a teen circa 1915 who just loved all the pretty dresses in Birth of a Nation. Turns out part of the paean looks a lot like an article from Examiner.com. We checked the rest of the site and found another damning similarity—and loads of truly abysmal writing.
The term "Southern Belle" came to fruition during the Antebellum period (prior to the Civil War), acknowledging women with an inherent social distinction who set the standards for style and appearance. These women epitomized Southern hospitality with a cultivation of beauty and grace, but even more with a captivatingand magnetic sensibility. While at times depicted as coy, these belles of the ball, in actuality could command attention with the ease of a hummingbird relishing a pastoral bloom.
Compare that (seriously, so badly written) final phrase to the conclusion of this paragraph, from "Southern belles: a beautiful part of southern culture."
Southern belles were not considered chosen "items," such as the precious porcelain dolls that sometimes lined her parlor. She was smart, articulate, and very choosy on how things were to be handled in her home. From the cut of fine fabrics in the curtains in herliving room to the smallest detail in her kitchen, the southern belle of the 1800's knew how to relegate authority and tasks with the ease of a hummingbird enjoying a rose bloom.
It's that last phrase that really raises eyebrows. As imagery goes, hummingbirds are awfully specific.
So we ran the rest of the site through a plagiarism tracker, and we spotted one additional instance of shadiness—this fitness article, which supposedly provides workout guidance from trainer Dan Saladino. Take a look at the dumbbell exercises, specifically:
- Choose a flat bench to begin the workout. Place a dumbbell on each side of the bench.
- Place the right leg on top of the end of the bench, bend your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor, and place your right hand on the other end of the bench for support.
- Pull the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side and keeping the torso stationary. Breathe out as you perform this step.
- Lower the resistance straight down to the starting position. Breathe in as you lower the dumbbell.
- Repeat the movement for the specified amount of repetitions.
- Switch sides and repeat again with the other arm.
Now, look at these instructions from About-Muscle.com (I've trimmed out a couple of irrelevant sections in the middle):
1. Choose a flat bench and place a dumbbell on each side of it.
2. Place the right leg on top of the end of the bench, bend your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor, and place your right hand on the other end of the bench for support....
4. Pull the resistance straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side and keeping the torso stationary. Breathe out as you perform this step....
5. Lower the resistance straight down to the starting position. Breathe in as you perform this step.
6. Repeat the movement for the specified amount of repetitions.
7. Switch sides and repeat again with the other arm.
These same instructions appear damn near verbatim at BodyBuilding.com and this Flashcards site as well; this particular smattering of text appears in multiple places across the Internet. Now, there are only so many ways to describe exercises. But parts of this are word for word. Also: About-Muscle and Bodybuilding.com are essentially content farms. What does that make Preserve?
In a particularly rich note, Lively's recent baby announcement contains the warning: "All photos are property of Preserve. Any reuse of these photos without prior written consent is illegal and will be prosecuted."
But after combing through numerous Preserve posts, what I found myself thinking was that they ought to plagiarize more. Fashion writing is often... well, quirky. But trying to make sense of Preserve is like trying to reorganize your closets stone drunk on hipster-made faux moonshine. In the dark. That post about Southern belles was just flat badly written. (A term can't "come to fruition," for fuck's sake.) And here is Lively Herself on boldness, or something:
If you wear risk, the world will notice your clothing first, not you. You are the character behind it and thus you get to adopt all of its eccentricities, all of its detail, all of its courage, even if those aren't the threads you feel naturally woven of. And soon, all that rubs off, it feels as though it weaves itself within you. The courage of the piece becomes your own. You, the wearer, become the eye catcher, even in the most simple of designs. For it was never the clothing at all, but the confidence in the statement. It was you all along that had the power. The clothes were simply the mask which let your cajones arise.
And here she is on "the eve of Pandora," whatever the hell that means:
As the leaves loosen and the air sharpens, the environment becomes more dense. Not only dense with piles of foliage on the ground, extra coatings of clothing atop previously bare skin, and more substantial meals on the stove, but dense with expression. Trees that were a uniform green begin to explode into fiery tones. Dinners that were light and crisp become blanketed in béchamel, honeys, or the comfort of cinnamon. The way we decorate ourselves veers from airy and minimal, to complex cloakings. The fall season is a time of "more"—more expression, more opportunity, more experimentation, more fun. So, as you embark on this new season, let your curiosity guide you. Explore. Repurpose the old, and discover the new. Mix, match, make mistakes, and make statements—in your home, in your kitchen, and in your closet. Let curiosity guide your expression.
Read that again. It is criminally bad writing.
Obviously, the whole point of Lively's website is to a) display pretty pictures and b) move product. It's not like Preserve set out to be some bastion of journalistic integrity and craftsmanship—it's basically advertorial, a less-charming Internet version of the J. Peterman catalog. Nobody expected finely wrought prose, and it's clear copy ranks a distant last place on their list of priorities. But I will say this for Gwyneth and her Goopy empire: They do the work. The words add up to sensical sentences, and they produce these words themselves. It takes the unhinged laziness of Preserve's writing to make you grateful for those very basic necessities.
Image via Getty.