Friday, April 27, 2007

An Autobiographical Look at Commercials Today

As this semester and this experiment come to an end, I have begun looking back on what I have accomplished in this Gender and Popular Culture course. From my first blog post to this final post today, I feel that my perception of television commercials has completely changed. By analyzing my initial attraction to the analysis of commercials as well as the radical change in my observations of commercials today, it is interesting to see how much progress I have really made in the analysis and interpretation of these ads.

My initial reason for choosing to analyze commercials came from a discovery that my father and I had while watching television one day. After watching almost an hour of television, my father and I noticed the same commercials or same topic in commercials was reappearing constantly during the course of the show. I had originally wanted to analyze why this was so, and examine how marketers were stereotyping the viewers of these shows through limiting the kinds of commercials that they presented. In the beginning of the semester, I only thought about analyzing how the products that were advertised were related to gender.

It was one day in my Gender and Pop Culture class, however, that an assignment completely changed how I related myself to television commercials. The assignment, given in the beginning of the semester, was to create a collage from magazine images that would show the way marketing and advertisers would ideally view you. After making my collage I began to make a connection with the assignment and my blog topic. These television commercials and magazine ads were all directed at me. The ads shown in the collage as well as the commercials that I watched on T.V. were all a reflection of how society viewed me and others like myself. It was after that day that I decided to analyze all commercials in general in order to find the messages and norms that these ads were sending.

Now that I could personally identify with television commercials, I began to realize some of the norms and messages that these ads conveyed. Many ads were related to the images of men and women, including ads for weight loss products and tanning lotions that I have discussed in previous posts. These commercials send messages and reinforce the social ideas of today’s society, depicting how the “perfect” person should look, and how others who aren’t so “perfect” can change themselves to become closer to what society has deemed the “ideal” man or woman. Sut Jhally, author of the article “Image-Based Culture” describes how ads depict how men and women should be. Jhally writes, “… Images having to do with gender strike at the core of individual identity; our understanding of ourselves as either male or female (socially defined within this society at this time) is central to our understanding of who we are.” (Jhally, 253)

After watching and analyzing hundreds of television commercials throughout this semester, my perception of these ads has radically changed. I have realized that these image- based commercials communicate and perpetuate the social norms of today’s society. Some commercials challenge the societal norms, but can also be considered too controversial (such as my previous post entitled “Commercials in the News”). I have also realized that many of the commercials on television today are oversexualized and even include such elements as homophobia and the creation of the “perfect body.” Jhally also discusses how today’s ads are oversexualized, stating, “In advertising, gender (especially for women) is defined almost exclusively along the lines of sexuality. This image-system thus distorts our perceptions and offers little that balances out the stress on sexuality.” (Jhally, 253)

Analyzing the messages and norms that commercials convey has also helped me gain a better understanding of myself in relation to these ads. I am now able to understand that society views me as a teenage woman with the same standards that are placed in these commercials. Products like tanning lotions, facial cleansers, and cover-up makeup are all marketed towards myself and people like me in order to make us believe that such products are necessary for us to achieve the “ideal” look. I now have a much more critical view regarding these commercials, and find myself questioning the true purposes and techniques of these advertising methods as I watch more and more commercials.

The end of this semester and this class have made me realize how much I have truly learned. From disregarding the messages that commercials send, to being able to critically analyze gender norms and placing myself within their context, my perception of commercials today has entirely changed. I can now watch these commercials and be able to understand the true meanings of the ads, as well as the implications the messages and products have on today’s society. I am genuinely glad that I was able to learn this skill, which I can now utilize to be more aware and more analytical of pop culture today.

Jhally, Sut. “Imaged-Based Culture”. Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Feedback From Alex A, Author of "Gender Representation in Advertisements"

Alex's comments:

1. Your posts on “Commercials in the News” and “The Conflict of Appearance in Women through Commercials” are a very strong and analytical and provide very insightful and useful information in viewing commercials and advertisements.
2. A good way to use these post for your final blog post would be to make a timeline on how images of women (and/or men) have changed since commercials were first aired to today’s average commercial. You could also use the video blogging as an extra oomph to your final blog assignment.
3. It is obviously evident that you feel strongly about what you write about and I can see how your blog as evolve from your first “Links about my Blog” to “Commercials in the News” and can also be a great idea for your final blog presentation.
4. I think that your posts make strong critical arguments on how gender is depicted in your everyday commercial and how ignorant people are to the stereotypes that are unconsciously engraved in these commercials. I also appreciate how the links and sources you use help the reader become more identified to the argument you are making.
5. I thought it was great how you observed and analyze the Snickers Commercial. Your argument really made me angry in the sense that I wanted to send the company a letter ...even though they probably stopped airing the commercial by now. :)
Hope this helped!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Blog Buddy Work With Alex A, Author of "Gender Representation in Advertisements"

1. Where has your Blog buddy shown strong analytical work (be specific—is it a particular post, a type of analysis, a site for analysis that seemed to click more so than others, etc)?

2. How could your Blog buddy use this strength for the final Blog post and presentation?

3. Think about the following statements in relation to your Blog buddy’s Blog and then provide feedback on each area (constructive praise/criticism):

The Blog is on a topic that has been clearly evident in the Blog posts throughout the semester

The Blog is on a topic that seems to interest my Blog buddy

My Blog buddy’s topic is one that has produced a good set of posts that were analytical used gender as a primary category of analysis

The posts make analytical arguments. The posts are understandable and each post logically outlines and supports the argument presented. The posts were clear, provided insight, evidence, and analysis to connect the topic with the assignment for each of the posts

The sources cited in each post are relevant to the topic and help to aid the understanding of the argument and/or assisted in proving the argument.

The quotes used illustrate a broad range of course readings throughout the semester.

The quotes were clear and succinct; additionally, the material was presented so that I could differentiate the Blog buddy’s ideas from that of the author cited.

4. Finally, complete the following:

I thought it was great when you...

I found it confusing when you…

You’re really great at…

I wish you could focus (more) on/alter/edit/explain/expand on/etc these three things…

Friday, April 6, 2007

Commercials in the News

Although television commercials are extremely abundant in today’s society, they may often be ignored by their viewers. Many people believe that commercials are simply time wasted in between their favorite shows or even just used to make these shows shorter. However, there are some commercials that stand out among others. These ads are recognized by viewers and may even be discussed among friends later on. Some commercials even make news, and bring more attention to the topic of the ad. What could be the underlying reason why a commercial would be newsworthy? I have found that commercials often make the news when the topic or content of the ad is discovered to be controversial.

One commercial that made the news in 2007 was a Snickers candy bar commercial that was set to air during the Super Bowl in February. The advertisement depicted two men working on a car together in a garage. One man takes out a Snickers bar and puts half of the bar in his mouth while the other man notices what is going on. The other man grabs the other end of the Snickers bar with his mouth and the two men accidentally kiss. After their kiss takes place the two men seem upset by what has occurred and attempt to rip out some of their chest hair to appear more “manly.” According to there was an alternate ending of the two men fighting after their kiss as well. (MSNBC)

The act of kissing by the two men puts gender and sexuality at the main focus of this advertisement. Because the men are both mechanics, they are portrayed as the stereotypical man which causes their kissing to be somewhat unexpected. The men ripping out their chest hair and fighting seems to convey the idea of what the male gender represents as well as what constitutes being “manly.” The commercial also implies the homosexuality is not a ‘manly” trait and therefore the men must prove their masculinity by acting in this way.

The major reason for the controversy of this commercial is the homophobia presented in the ad. The gesture of the two men ripping out chest hair or fighting to appear more “manly” seems to reflect the homophobia the two men experience after they accidentally kiss. These ideas presented in the commercial can be closely linked to a statement made by author Terry A. Kupers in his article “Homophobia in Straight Men.” Kupers wrote in reference to the straight male, “We stiffen our bodies when approached by other men who want to touch or hug and we keep men at a certain distance- where we can watch them and be certain that closeness and dependency will not make us too vulnerable.” (Kupers, 501) This quote reflects the commercial because the two men immediately distance themselves from one another after kissing and want to avoid appearing vulnerable, thereby less “manly.” They also feel they must prove their “manliness” by fighting and showing their chest hair.

MSNBC news also stated in their article that the Snickers web site contained video of professional male athletes reacting to the kiss. The Human Rights Campaign and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) were both angry with the commercial because of the messages of homophobia that were presented. Through the reaction of the two mechanics, the ad seems to make a joke of the two men kissing and homosexuality. The reaction of the professional athletes seems to add to the teasing of homosexuality as well. Joe Solomonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign commented, “This type of jeering from professional sports figures at the sight of the two men kissing fuels the kind of anti-gay bullying that haunts countless gay and lesbian school children on playgrounds all across the country.” (MSNBC) Because of the controversy created by this commercial, the ad was removed from airing on television and on the web site.

The representation of gender and sexuality in the Snickers commercial, as well as the underlying theme of homophobia were the main features of the ad that caused it to make the news. Controversy and the eventual removal of the ad also resulted in greater attention by the news media.

"Snickers Ad Pulled After Complaints From Gays." MSNBC 7 Feb. 2007. 2 Apr. 2007 .

Kupers, Terry A. “Homophobia in Straight Men.” Revisioning Men’s Lives: Gender, Intimacy and Power. (1992): 499-501.

Links to sites:

Snickers Commercial

Snickers Ad Pulled After Complaints From Gays

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Kevin Federline Commercial

This commercial made news riight before it aired during the Super Bowl on January 24, 2007. The National Restaurant Association's cheif executive complained that the commercial gives the impression that working in a restaurant was "demeaning and unpleasant." (ABC News) What do you think? Should this commercial not have aired, as the association wanted it to be?

ABC News Article "U.S. Restaurants Blast Kevin Federline TV ad