Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Seeing Ourselves: An Analysis of Ideology and Fantasy in Popular Advert
Seeing Ourselves: An Analysis of Ideology and Fantasy in Popular Advertising In the arena of advertising in modern Western society, the consumer can become numb from over-saturation. Advertising stretches over all forms of media, with independence that critic Judith Williamson says intentionally reflects our own human reality (Lord, 263). Advertising becomes a natural presence for consumers; it overwhelms us until we stop trying to understand and decode the images and slogans presented to us. In "The Rhetoric of the Image", critic Roland Barthes uses particular advertising images as dissection models to systematically extract the meaning of cultural codes. In her essay "Decoding Advertisements", Judith Williamson discusses the self-reflective advertising system that assigns human values to products to promote the purchasing of these products to satisfy a non-material need. Advertising, in effect, sells us ourselves, or at least what we would like ourselves to be (264). The combined theories of Barthes and Williamson are a solid springboard in discussing two a dvertisements: one in print and one in the medium of television. The print advertisement is for a men's cologne called "Romance". The magazine ad features a black and white photo of a man holding a woman as she bends backwards, careening almost to the point of falling off of a tire swing. The second ad is a thirty second "spot" depicting three young teenage girls who flirtatiously use their Coca Cola cards to get "free stuff" from a surprised (albeit pleased) male clerk. In both ads, beyond the surface of the initial message there resides a somewhat disturbing subtext of sexism, male dominance, and male fantasy. In order to sell their products, Ralph Lauren and Coca Cola ... ...d titillate. The old expression is "sex sells" but what really sells is male dominated sexual fantasy. This is not to say that all advertisements are sexist, or sexist against only women, but it is to say that in many ads what may seem like a simple image of "romance" or a fun trip to the store is really an entire structure of meaning. Roland Barthes and Judith Williamson employ almost scientific methods to extract rhetoric from advertising images but even their methods are not foolproof. The structure of meaning in an advertisement will vary upon the person perceiving it. The important thing is to recognize common dominant ideologies in ads, and the values that advertisements want us to desire and attain through their product. If we must buy into ourselves, we should at least make an informed decision before we accept and pay for ideology which is not our own.