There is no question that gender and sexuality are the principal dynamics that underpin all modern marketing. This portrayal, the first division, the first cut of the economic and social pie, though ostensibly comic, even droll, is in fact ideological in its central assertion. The basic structure is always in place, though the landscaping may change. At heart is the objectifying “gaze” ; objectification meaning fetish, commodity and by extension, eroticism. The elements can be flipped around and though a woman can be projected as mastering the gaze and superficially asserting her sexuality, not femininity on her terms, she is still represented in ways in which her proper eroticism is unavoidably some variation of eye candy and an archetype of a defeated quality; what Leonard Cohen wrote in his novel “Beautiful Losers”.
Despite lip service to a feminist mystique, the fashion and celebrity industrial complex could not exist without its foundation of sexual fantasies about women made with the male gaze in mind. Something Walt Disney understood so well in his creation of the culture of ecstasy. The theme of authenticity in its present sense is a product of the age of celebrity which began when photography and the printing press created a natural partnership. Walter Benjamin was perhaps the first to confront the issue of authenticity and its relation to the original image; the individual as a transformed product manufactured product ready for market into the public sphere.
The experimental nature of the Sofia Coppola films have to be understood in this sense; the narrative, the seeming lack of story is the story: a story of the silences between the grey zone of authenticity and the pose and this zone’s relationship with the “gaze”. This purely non-sexual yet fetishizing and coveting of women of the aesthetic modes of other women argument seems difficult to substantiate, as emphasis is increasingly placed on the body, emphasis equal to or even greater than the garments resting on it.
“Benjamin argues that as areas and elements of alternative and subversive culture are appropriated by mediums of mass production and representation and widely and eventually oversaturate the market, individual qualities are no longer distinguishable as originals. Using this idea, the increasing popularity of star and celebrity culture renders the artistic viability of fashion photography irredeemable and void. … create their ‘stars,’ their novelty ‘products’ are compromised and reduced by their prepackaged approval of quality and marketability in the public sphere. Their images of the ‘stars,’ rather than the individuals themselves, become commercial currency. The photographers themselves become a kind of commodity, and simultaneous producers of commodities.
[Adorno] saw the stamp of the machine everywhere, reducing everything to a ‘sameness,’ reflecting and reinforcing a sense of alienation in all aspects of private life and experience. As mass entertainment and advertising became more dominant, they increasingly leveled experience down to the ‘lowest common denominator.’ The threat of the culture industry was the production and reproduction of sameness in all spheres of cultural life. Through increased production and reproduction of images, identity and originality are nearly impossible to retain. Everything becomes a copy of some vague or possibly nonexistent entity.” Read More: http://www.daylightonline.com/thecounterfeitbody6.htm a
“We badly need new stories, we need stories that have different kinds of heroes…we need stories that replace that linear narrative of endless growth with circular narratives that remind us that what goes around comes around.” ( Naomi Klein ) Read More: http://www.ted.com/talks/naomi_klein_addicted_to_risk.html This presentation was sponsored by the Coca Cola Company who are perhaps the world leaders in public relations. Klein, willingly or otherwise finds herself as new or less frequently exploited category of trope as the “dangerous” outsider who brings a socialist warm and fuzzy face to acts as buffer between hard corporate interests and a sizable leftist constituency.
Not surprisingly, she finds “a cascade of unintended consequences arising from a massive corporate risk”. Its a plausible, predictable thesis but it is equally likely that the absence of risk , an ardent determination to maintain the status quo, maintain the market structure of various models of the nanny state is the real culprit. An inverted “shock doctrine” , with the perfunctory inclusion of “ why are women so frequently called upon to clean up the mess?”; effectively genderizing the issue. Her central tenet of “Shock Doctrine” that corporations and government allies are actively complicit in profiting from disaster and conflict dovetails nicely with the default position of all strands of conspiracy theorists can equally be subverted in favor of arguments that corporations are indeed under pressure to produce results, yet are highly sensitive to public issues, tend to be reactionary in the face of crisis; and finally that these “cases” of disaster are infrequent and that market booms and busts have been with us since the Dutch tulip bubble of the seventeenth century.
Nonetheless, Klein represents what Henry Jenkins in his media studies has understood to represent and active engagement with the public, in this case a version of participatory culture with the “fandom” as the most viable alternative in creating a compelling or at least less offensive relationship with the unwashed masses.
In her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein makes the case that corporations (and capitalism-friendly governments) not only profit from disaster and conflict, but actively work to exploit countries in crisis. The “shock doctrine,” as Klein defines it, falls into place after a terrorist attack, a killer hurricane, a regime change—when corporate interests swoop in on a disoriented people to rewrite the rules in favor of commerce and globalization.
[‘Fashion] is obsessed with gender, [as it] defines and redefines the gender boundary.’ So while it would seem that today’s fashions are more androgynous, even ‘uni-sex’ clothes display an overriding obsession with gender. Indeed, fashions in androgyny are further evidence of the degree to which fashion likes to play around at the boundaries of sexual difference .
This recurring theme in fashion photographic practice illustrates the continuing fascination with and concentration on conceptions of gender and the nature of display. The apparent timelessness of this aesthetic of representing models performing the ambiguities of gender in photographic images highlights the social influence on and regulation of the body. Fashion photography regularly tests these limits of social acceptability through unconventional and unclear representations. The degree to which androgyny is portrayed has varied over the different periods, but its quality has remained omnipresent. Read More: http://www.daylightonline.com/thecounterfeitbody6.htm
In a similar vein as the inconsistencies and transitory qualities of some figments of fashion photography, the representation of femininity has also been obsessively manipulated in the genre. The gaze, in part, has been pivotal in constructing photographic conceptions of femininity. While such constructs have shifted and changed form over the outlined periods, certain fixtures have remained in place. Regardless of the date of a photograph, the viewer can depend on the fact that the female model or models featured in the image will be presented in a subordinate and exploited fashion. Where risks have been taken and attempts to compromise or even overturn the gaze and the curse of inferior femininity, the gaze only shifts in that the featured woman now assumes the gaze of the male, while the male subject is feminized….
… But the fact remains that the imagery we see on today’s magazine pages—even in the so-called cutting edge fashion magazines that often claim to be debunking the fashion industry—are by and large sexual fantasies about women made with men in mind. And so it seems, regardless of changes in fashion photography evolving through different contextual, social and historical climates, presenting the female as a dominant or mere equal, has resoundingly failed. Even fringe publications and other venues of alternative, unconventional and de-institutionalized representation cannot resist the traditional aesthetic.Read More: http://www.daylightonline.com/thecounterfeitbody6.htm
Sexism has been explained as the consequence of the fact that even if people have internalized the values of equality on a cognitive level, on a subconscious level they continue to fall back on stereotypical assumptions with regard to gender and ethnicity. There is a rupture between cognition and emotive responses. Its possible that sexism in advertising is has become so ingrained that it is not even perceived. Which means its better to scrap it than reform it. Whether it is subconscious, and masked as humour or as art , there is an impervious dimension that is destructive. Some research asserts that repeated exposure to advertising stereotypes leads to the appearance of sexist beliefs, sexual harassment, violence against woman, eating disorders and stereotypical perceptions of behavior toward men and women; its apparent that marketers know which buttons to push and triggers to set and that its a practice of long tenure:
“While discussing the influence of advertising on the formation of sexist prejudice, Moshe Cohen-Eliya (2004) compares it with pornography and concludes that the influence of advertising is greater because most people are exposed to the former far more than to the latter. Even if advertising is an apparently inoffensive channel of communication, the rapid pace at which stereotypes are shown leaves the viewer no time to critically analyze all the information.In reference to sexist humor, Legman (1956) says that society allows infinite aggression under the mask of jokes. Citing Sousa (1981), Bergmann (1986) asserts that laughing at sexist humor may suggest to others that it is acceptable to hold the beliefs that are presupposed by the humor, and that these beliefs are just harmless stage-props for the fun of the moment.” Read More: http://www3.udg.edu/publicacions/vell/electroniques/congenere/comunicacions/pdf/14_The_moral_ambiguity.pdf
An admittedly “boorish” Coca-Cola web advertisement for its Zero drink has been scolded by Sweden’s sexist ad watchdog for portraying women as “pure sex objects”.
The internet advertisement features a fictional female character which the beverage giant argued was simply “dressed in jeans and a top in line with accepted fashion”. But what offended the person who filed the complaint was the fact that, if a number of questions posed on the website are answered in a certain way, the woman is suddenly standing near a bed wearing only a bra and panties.
While Coca-Cola chose not to comment on that specific aspect of the internet ad campaign, it explained that the website was supposed to create an image of how life should be. According to the complaint, Coke’s imaginary, worry-free life was therefore about sex without foreplay. The company countered, however, that it was trying to portray a world in which the weekends never end….
Coke admits that the Zero website is “boorish in tone” but denies that it is at all insulting. Rather “the woman is portrayed as a self-reliant person with an obvious right to place demands in her relationships,” according to the soft drink maker. But ERK viewed the advert differently, finding it insulting to women in general. In addition, the ad was guilty of preserving outdated views on gender roles and humiliating for both women and men, according to ERK.
And the new reprimand for gender discrimination isn’t the first for a Coke Zero ad campaign in Sweden. In December, ERK ruled against an ad featuring a guy breaking up with his girlfriend who says she understands because “there are so many girls to choose from”. The man then leaves the restaurant in the company of four scantily clad women. Read More: http://www.thelocal.se/18348/20090320/ a