ML Critical Paper 3
American University of Beirut
This paper critiques three advertisements and explains how men and women are depicted in them. Three images are chosen from an Arabic magazine, Lebanese “Mondanite”. The advertisements are varied in terms of race and gender, one includes two women (one black one white), the other a man and two women and the last one has two men. Each image is studied in terms of the product advertised and the utilization of stereotypes. A comparison is drawn between men and women and how they are represented in these ads. I briefly talk about the images’ backgrounds and how they affect the overall image and the connection between them. I emphasize on women’s exposed body parts shown in the first and second image. The conclusion stresses on the labeling of men and women and how stereotypes are still deployed in advertisements worldwide and compares and contrasts the three chosen advertisements.
Are we being followed?
It is almost impossible to avoid media messages nowadays. Whatever activity we take on, whether watching TV, reading a magazine or taking a car ride, we are bombarded by media messages. Essentially, advertisements are supposed to market commodities, but sometimes the product is overlooked and women’s bodies and sex are advertised instead. In this paper we will show how advertisements almost always imbed stereotypes in their compositions especially when it comes to gender.
YSL: face illuminator?
The Yves Saint Laurent cosmetics advertisement typically represents the prevalent message about beauty and perfection (see Appendix A). The product advertised is an illuminating foundation that supposedly brightens women’s skin to achieve perfection. We find two women in the image, one white and the other black. The advertisement focuses on the faces of the women and the perfection of their skin. The hair of the women is pulled to the back, and we can only see the upper part of their bodies. Some skin is shown, of course, to make the image more appealing. This is very common in advertising, as illustrated with model Roberta Mancino’s case, whom although a skydiver, also poses for advertisements like any ordinary model wearing revealing outfits (Vlahos, 2011).
There is a clear difference in the way the two women are standing and their facial expressions. The white woman looks confident, in control and is gazing at us assertively. On the other hand, the black woman is gazing at us while tilting her head in a manner that conveys sexuality. The tilting of her head and the way her eyes look express an aura of vulnerability and self-consciousness. The way this black woman is photographed in this image is very common in advertisements, especially in cosmetics. This black woman conveys a message to black women that they also can use this product, and that they would look as pretty as she does.
The background of the image contrasts with the perfection of the women’s skin, and the shadows are left on purpose. The golden coarse plate behind contradicts with the softness of the women’s skin, which is the main issue. The fact that the women’s shadows are kept gives a feeling of real photography. The reason behind that is that advertisers want women to believe that the image is completely natural, and that this is how they will exactly look if they use the product.
Salsa: low quality
The Salsa image is stereotypical of how advertisements are made (see Appendix B). The product advertised is clothes, which is very important in any culture. The clothing and the image are targeting the young middle class. The mood of the ad is supposed to be fierce and colorful, encouraging men and women to wear their label in order to attract attention.
The image typically presents two women and a man in an artistically weak manner. The man looks confident, standing straight and gazing directly at us. The woman on the left looks confident as well, posing in a way very similar to the man’s, her hands in her pocket. This woman, of course, is wearing lots of makeup, and her hair is made up and wildly coiffed. On the other hand, the woman on the right is posing in a different way. She is standing in a weird position compared to the other two; her image also looks like it was added later, adding to the weakness. This woman is posing in a sexy way, a hand caressing her hair and the other holding her jacket. The way she is dressed and the amount of skin shown is sexually provocative. She is gazing at the camera in a sexual way.
The advertisement takes place somewhere on the seaside, but there is something white in the background intruding. The image looks extremely made up and there seems to be something forgotten in the background. The image is supposed to look natural by using natural outdoor settings, but it does not. On the contrary, it looks very much fabricated, and the way the models are standing looks fake.
Hackett: British or awesome?
This image evokes a sense of British chauvinism in the way the men are posing and the written material (see Appendix C). Hackett is a British brand for men’s clothing, the word “London” is written directly under the brand’s name. The colors worn by men are very bright, in contrast to the background made up of stones. The phrase “essentially British” suggests that the way these men are dressed and their pose is purely British. In other words, the ad suggests that men will feel confident and stylish and thus British if they wear Hackett. It conveys an image of superiority regarding the British culture and their sense of fashion.
The men in the image are portrayed as very confident and strong. They are not looking directly at us; instead they are gazing at something else, probably women. The man on the right looks laid- back and casual, with his open jacket, rolled up sleeves and hat. The man on the left looks formal with his buttoned jacket and hands in his pocket. This is to show that this brand has all kinds of clothing, formal or casual.
The background seems like an old building, in contrast to the attire of the men. The contrast of the background with the men’s clothing reaffirms the message that men can wear this brand in any setting, on all occasions. The image concentrates on what the men are wearing as opposed to the blurred background. The men look like two stylish friends going out to impress someone, particularly women.
What we have noticed
In a nutshell, advertisements follow very similar guidelines. As we have noticed in the two ads with women, there are dominant stereotypes when creating ads. Women are almost always portrayed vulnerable or self conscious in ads. Women’s poses differ from men’s in that they contain sexual connotations. They usually don’t look directly at us, and when they do, they have this sultry look in their eyes that conveys defenselessness. In contrast, as we have seen, men either gaze directly at us or look in a different direction. However, they always seem in control, just like in the Hackett advertisement. They ooze an aura of complete confidence and self consciousness, very apparent in the way they pose. If an image contains both a man and a woman, as seen in the Salsa ad, the man looks stronger and in control as opposed to the women. Can we imagine an ad in which a man shies away from the camera striking a sexy pose, showing some skin or touching himself? Of course not.
Yves Saint Laurent (2013, March). “Le teint touche eclat”. Mondanite. 193. Retrieved from http://www.mondanite.net/magazine/38/march-2013-issue-193
Hackett (2013, May). “Essentially British”. Mondanite. 195. Retrieved from http://www.mondanite.net/magazine/40/may-2013-issue-195
Salsa (2013, May). Mondanite. 195. Retrieved from http://www.mondanite.net/magazine/40/may-2013-issue-195
Vlahos, J. (2011, M1rch 30). Raising her profile by showing some skin. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/fashion/31mancino.html?_r=2&src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Ffashion%2Findex.jsonp&
Appendix A, B and C