Friday, May 30, 2008

What not to Wear... or how you should run your life?

“Reality TV circulates informal ‘guidelines for living’ that we are all (at times) called upon to learn from and follow” (Ouellette and Hay 2) Reality television sets norms that are supposed to be accepted and followed. Jessica, the subject of the What Not to Wear episode I chose to analyze, clearly sets gendered norms by accepting that she needs to conform to them. By allowing Stacy and Clinton to make her over and give her style tips she is agreeing with the message that a girl in the work force must embrace her age and power by dressing a certain way.

Jessica is an executive assistant to an author that writes “empowering” books for women. Although she is excellent at what she does, she is denied a promotion that she deserves because the firm is afraid that she can not represent them with her current style and wardrobe. Her current wardrobe consists of jeans and t-shirts. Her husband claims that she has not worn a dress since her wedding. This makes it seem that the ideal female wears dresses and is feminine, and Jessica is not that. She needs to change to fit society’s norms, because she is simply not good enough. Jessica makes it evident that there is a never ending need for bettering yourself. The problem with that, is that this becoming better is unattainable. Every time you make these unnecessary improvements to yourself there is something else that needs to be fix, until you develop an unhealthy obsession with things like plastic surgery.

“The real concern is the millions of viewers, scores of whom are young girls, who take in these misogynistic spectacles uncritically, learning that only the most stereotypical beautiful, least independent women with the lowest-carb diets will be rewarded with love, financial security and the ultimate prize of male validation.” (Pozner 99) After Jessica is made over, she is very happy when she thinks about how her husband will react to seeing her and says something along the lines of, “now that I look like this, maybe my husband will take me out more,” sending the message that women must look beautiful to be accepted to by men.

By using people that can relate to the general public as the focus of a reality television show, it seems all too commonplace for these makeovers to occur. It sends the message that people are not good enough just the way they are, and they never will be. Ouellette and Hay discuss this, “television’s embrace of the beauty/style makeover matters because TV is more in sync with the rhythms of everyday life than other media, and even its niche-oriented dimension is capable of normalizing the makeover as part of an everyday,

Jessica identifies well with the average woman, the viewers of these reality television shows. The gender roles that she teaches to her viewers are that women need to dress the part of a feminine, sexy lady to be taken seriously in the professional world. She looks to the male character in her life, her husband, for approval. “…makeover programs perpetuate existing gender and social hierarchies by imposing restrictive notions of beauty and taste on women and the working/lower-middle classes,” (Ouellette & Hay, 101).

Ouellette, Laurie, and James Hay. Better Living Through Reality TV. Blackwell, 2008.

Pozner, Jennifer L. "The Unreal World."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Advertising Fantasies

Okay, we get the picture! SEX SELLS, but why? Sex is a primal instinct that evokes fantasy. By filling advertisements of everything from perfume to alcohol with pictures of female body parts, it appeals to humans on a primitive level. The Skyy Vodka ad in the upper left corner of the collage sends the message that if you wave this bottle of alcohol in the air on a beach, a girl with those great legs will appear and start walking in your direction. It seems to be that in today’s world, using sex to sell a product works because the images used appeal to a natural, animal like instinct that allows the imagination of the consumer to fantasize.

Almost every industry you can think of including cigarettes, clothing, shoes, perfumes, and alcohol have a huge obsession with sex and pulling apart the bodies of women to sell their product. These advertisements not only portray woman in a degrading way, but also send out messages that aren’t intended to sell the product, but instead to set the ideal for their product. The ad for Trojan condoms, on the lower left, for instance, not only cuts off the girl’s face, but puts the condom inside of her bra. This implies not only that woman should be looked at as body parts, but also that it is a woman’s job to be prepared for a sexual encounter, because those men are out there to get her. Yet at the same time, that girl’s half of a head is smiling. The Tom Ford Cologne ad, uses a woman’s breasts, mouth and hands to make it appear that she is having an orgasm with a bottle of cologne in her cleavage. Kirkham and Weller state “The visual pleasures of the advertisements evoke the pleasures involved in the application of the cosmetic…” In other words, viewing this woman, allows men to think that if they wear this apply this product, not only will they feel great, but they will attract a woman and be able to make that woman feel great.

The most interesting ad I came across was the one on the lower right corner. It is an advertisement against fur products. It states in large print “Be comfortable in your OWN skin, and let animals keep theirs. How may I ask is a girl supposed to feel comfortable in their own skin unless they look like that girl. This is supposed to be a public service type announcement, and yet it still finds a way to put down women. It’s like we can never do it right. The society tells the woman to be glamorous and beautiful, but don’t think about wearing leather or fur, which in the fashion industry are huge. It almost makes me laugh to see such an ad with a naked woman on it. In Sut Jhally’s Image Based Culture, discusses a survey of what makes people happy and the answers to that survey have seemingly to deal with social aspects, and not material ones. That is why advertising must imply that their material products will bring on these social aspects such as sex.

Jhally, Sut. Image-Based Cutlure: Advertising and Popular Culture. The World & 1. Washington Times Corporation, 1999.

Kirkham, Pat & Alex Weller. Cosmetics: A Clinique Case Study. The Gendered Object. Manchester University Press. 1996.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blog #1

How does a girl know how to be a girl? One would think that she learns it from her mother. In reality it is the media and advertising of her favorite dolls that shape and form how a little girl walks, talks, and acts as a human being. As a child, my favorite color was pink. I don't believe it to be a coincidence that Barbie and I had this common, as well as many other favorites. The toys that are advertised today, such as the Hannah Montana line of products, play a large role in forming the identity of a young girl.

Hannah Montana, a pop icon that seems to be on every corner, tries to send out a message to all of her fans that she is just a regular girl. The problem is just that. She and her large line of products define just what it means to be a regular girl. The Hannah Montana line includes everything from microphones to t-shirts to wigs and even a makeover set, the last of which I find particularly disturbing. The young females of today do not need to be told that they need a makeover. That is simply implying that they are not good enough just the way they are. Hannah Montana products are targeted to a specific population. This population consists of white middle class girls ranging all ages into their early teens. When Disney, the creator of Hannah Montana, chose Miley Cirus to become this super pop star they knew who their audience would be and they knew exactly who could afford to buy their products. The argument could be made that Disney uses "inferential racism." (91) It is not that they are banning people of color from buying their products, but they are specifically creating a model female character that is white and middle class.

Through their toys, both boys and girls learn what the standard for society is and what is expected of them. Almost all of today’s toys have some type of gender specification, and when a girl wants to play with a boy toy or vice versa, it is frowned upon by friends and even parents. Toys made for young girls teach them, for the most part, to wear feminine clothing, and do their hair and make up for the sole purpose of attracting a boy. A clear example of this would be Mattel’s Barbie and her boyfriend Ken. Mary Rogers discusses the effects of Barbie on young girls, “...they pay increasing attention to the size and shape of their bodies…the style of their hair…and the making up of their faces.” (Rogers 94) On the other hand, toys intended for boys send the message of being tough, in essence to protect the girls. From a very young age, children are trained to fit into society by accepting these standards that their toys and games portray.

Advertisements for children’s products are prevalent everywhere you can imagine. From ingenious catchy television ads to brightly colored posters in the mall, the people who create the marketing and advertising of children’s products know exactly what they are doing. A prime example is a parent and a child walking through your local grocery or chain retail store. The marketing skill of impulsive point of purchase buying is at use when Hannah Montana endorse a brand of gum and those special eye catching packages appear on like at the cash register. Children are being trained every minute of everyday to desire the things they are most familiar with and to eventually become consumers, with their own funds, purchasing those products targeted directly to them.

Hannah Montana products, which range from clothing and accessories to game boards and make up kits, bluntly set the norms for young girls across the nation. Unfortunately, this is not a counry filled with Hannah Montanas leaving the majority of girls across the nation with a feeling of inferiority, always wanting to be what they cannot. Toys today are created with a clear cut gender in mind, so much that it is nearly impossible to find a gender non specific toy, except for maybe a slinky. Along with many other popular lines of children’s products, Hannah Montana plays a large role in forming a little girl’s ideas about the world, how it works, and where they fit into it.

Rogers, Mary F. "Barbie Culture." 1999. Rpt. in Gender, Race, and Class in Media . Ed.
Gail Dines, Jean Humez. London: SAGE Publications, 2003. 94.

Hall, Stuart. "The Whites of their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media." 1981. Rpt. in Gender, Race, and Class in Media . Ed. Gail Dines, Jean Humez. London: SAGE Publications, 2003. 94.