Images are interpreted differently from consumer to consumer for various reasons. The pedagogy, the art, science, or profession of teaching, of the class has taught me to look at visual presentations on a deeper level. An image often varies from what the image creator intended it to mean for various reasons. Sturken and Cartwright argue, “People often see an image differently from how it is intended to be seen, either because they bring experiences and associations to a particular image that were not anticipated by its producer or because the meanings they derive are informed by the context (or setting) in which an image is seen.” (9) I could not agree more. Consumers consume images and interpret it based on their previous experiences. I recently saw a Palmer’s Cocoa Butter commercial on television. (5)
Two black muscular twins walk a football field promoting a cocoa butter product while actors dressed as football players run up the two men and quickly get blasted away by an invisible shield, like dry skin would be blocked away by the cocoa butter product. This commercial resonated with me on so many levels. I used to play football in high school and I use to put cocoa butter on. Cocoa butter is a good product that worked well for me in the past. I haven’t used cocoa butter in years because I forgot about it, but this product reminded me of it. Now I intend to buy the product. That was a successful ad campaign by that company to me. I know what it is like to have dry skin and I know that cocoa butter can help cure that. Somebody else may not look at the ad the way I did. I remember after my senior year in high school, I went to a prep school after I graduated. Long story short, I came out of the shower one day and I was chilling in my friend’s dorm room. My friend Kyle Curran, who is a white kid from Vermont may I add, looked at me and said, “What’s that on your leg?” I had just came out the shower so I was ashy. My skin had white dry flakes on it. He didn’t know/had never seen ash on a black person before. I laughed and explained it to him what it was. There are different ways of looking at advertisements. The actors were black and talking about blocking dry skin with cocoa butter. I’m black, had dry skin, and used cocoa butter previously. I’m black and no what it is like to have dry skin so I can resonate with the advertisement. The way I look at the ad would be different then the way Curran would look at it. I went back in my head to a time and place where I was that guy on the field and needed cocoa butter. Curran wouldn’t look at the ad the way I did, because he can’t produce images in his head that coincide with the ad. This example shows that consumers have different ways of looking at ads.
Unfortunately, the Palmers Cocoa Butter ad couldn’t end without some form of sexism occurring. More and more in today’s television ads, you’ll find a hot girl in an ad she really doesn’t belong in. Advertiser’s are constantly pushing the “Buy this product, you’ll get the hot girl” agenda in their advertisements. You’ll be watching a soda commercial and as a guy is drinking the soda and there will be a hot girl staring at the soda like it’s a 14 karat diamond. That image has sexist undertones in it. In the end of the Palmers Cocoa Butter Commercial, two hot cheerleaders fall from the sky in the guy’s arms. The ad is about promoting cocoa butter. Why are these girls needed? It’s because of the sexism of today’s advertising culture. The representation of women needs to be better.
Above is a picture of Rosie The Riveter. The object of Rosie The Riveter, who was a fictional character, was to encourage middle class white women to work factory jobs during World II. (3) An object is the end toward which effort or action is directed; goal; purpose. (4) Many women were just homemakers during these times. They weren’t really in the labor force for the most part. Things had to change because their husbands were hard at work away from home fighting a war. The United States needed bodies to produce mass-ammunition and the only people home were women so they took on the job. This picture is essentially a representation of that. African-American women already did labor during these times. “Photography has been a tool by which to exploit.” (2) The government needed the white rich homemakers to leave the house and pitch in. That is likely why Rosie The Riveter was white. Working in a factory would help build muscles hence the characters stature. Her hairpiece is important also. You usually only see women during those times, wear that hairpiece when they are getting ready to do some type of dirtywork. Working in a factory is hardwork so the hairpiece is a good portrayal of that. This picture is a good representation of the ideal female factory worker. The characters gaze also plays a factor in the picture. There is a lot of emotion in the human eye. Eyes can sometimes reveal inner emotion. When you look in the picture, her eyes are directly looking at you. Just like the infamous Uncle Sam picture below.
When a character is looking at you in the eye and has a serious face, it makes you take the character and the situation serious. It is a tantalizing feeling. The gaze of Rosie The Riveter’s eyes paired her seriousness of her face, lets you know she means business. The caption “We Can Do It!” does nothing but add to point the picture is attempting to get across. The picture essentially says, “Women let’s unite and pitch in and work hard while our spouses aren’t here. We’re women but we can work just as hard.” The campaign was a success. Women left the houses and hit the factories. The media has more power than you may believe.
The people who own media industries have the power to control social content. “According to Marx, who wrote in the nineteenth century during the rise of industrialism and capitalism, in the western world, those who own the means of production are also in control of the ideas and viewpoints produced and circulated in a society’s media venues. Thus, in Marx’s terms, the dominant social classes that own or control the newspapers, and, since Marx’s time, the television networks and the film industry, are able to control the content generated by these media forms.” People who own media platforms have more power than they probably think they have. For instance, the Trayvon Martin shooting caused a media spectacle. It was broadcasted everywhere and grasped the attention of our nation. You essentially had to live under a rock to not have heard about the story. The stories had to be ‘okayed’ by someone in power. A few days ago a story popped up on my twitter timeline about an ex-Florida A&M football player who had been shot by police when he was just seeking help from them. The story written by the Associated Press says that “A North Carolina police officer charged with shooting and killing an unarmed man who had apparently been in an automobile wreck was scheduled to appear in court Monday to face a voluntary manslaughter count. Johnathan Ferrel, 24, a former Florida A&M University football player had sought help at a nearby house, according to a statement from Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. A woman answered the door and, when she didn’t recognize the man, called 911. Officers responding to the breaking and entering call found Ferrell nearby. Ferrell ran toward the officers, who tried to stop him with a Taser. Police said he continued to run toward them when officer Randall Kerrick fired his gun, hitting Ferrell several times. Ferrell died at the scene.” (7)
This is a very important story, just as important as the Trayvon Martin shooting, but the media didn’t broadcast it like they did the Trayvon Martin shooting. If I go to a bar and say Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman, people will know who they are and what I am talking about. Now if I say Johnathan Ferrel, they would be clueless. I remember the day George Zimmerman got acquitted. I was sick to my stomach and had to work. It reminded me I’m living in a white man’s world thanks to powerful people in the media industry. This is exactly what Marx was saying. People who have power in the media industry control what the masses talk about. If a man gets shot in Florida and the media doesn’t report it, did he really get shot?
Power and hegemony are in a sense, integrated with each other. “Hegemony is a state or condition of a culture arrived through a negotiation or struggle over meanings, laws, and social relationships. Similarly, no one group of people ultimately “has” power; rather, power is a relationship within which classes struggle.”(11) I feel there is cultural hegemonic undertones in reference to the Trayvon Martin shooting and the Johnathan Ferrel shooting discussed previously. I continue to ask, why is the Johnathan Ferrel shooting not being publicized as it should? I believe the dominant forces in the media don’t want black people uprising. This is similar to the Rodney King beatings and the OJ Simpson trial case. I was watching a documentary last year in one of my classes about the two events. After the Rodney King beating, black people revolted in California. The O.J. Simpson case occurred not too far after and the Rodney King incident was still fresh in people’s minds. The documentary basically said Simpson got off because of the Rodney King beatings. If Simpson had been found guilty and went to jail, revolts were sure to happen again in the black community. People didn’t want that so they decided to let Simpson go free. The Trayvon Martin shooting caused an uproar across the nation, now if America found out about the Johnathan Ferrel shooting which occurred not too long after, who knows how the black community would react. I don’t think the ‘powers’ at hand truly want people to know about the Johnathan Ferrell incident. As Barbara Krueger once said, “Truth has been put into crisis.” (1) The media really has a strong hold on popular culture.
Popular culture are the ideas, images, and perspectives generally accepted currently in a society. Basically everything you come in contact with is popular culture. Your name brand shoes, your phone, the apps you use, your MacBook amongst other things are popular culture. Things are constantly getting sucked into the popular culture umbrella. Popular culture was homogenous with the term ‘low culture’ which was specified as the working class culture. The working man did basic everyday things like, watch television, go to the movies, read the funnies in the newspaper amongst other things. They caught flack from the high culture or the ‘high society.’ The high society would go to opera’s and art shows and things of that nature. Doing so made them feel like they were better than others. The lines are starting to get blurred. High culture people are starting to integrate into the popular culture field and vice versa. (12)
1. Krueger, Barbara. “Arts and Leisure.” Remote Control. N.p.: n.p., 1993. 1989
2. Lippard, Lucy. “Doubletake: The Diary of a Relationship with an Image.” (1996): 81. Rpt. inThe Photography Reader
3. Lowen, Linda. “Who Was Rosie the Riveter?” About.com Women’s Issues. About.com, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. <http://womensissues.about.com/od/womenintheworkforce/f/RosieRiveter.htm
4. “Object.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.
5. “Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Men Body & Face Featuring the McCourty Twins.” YouTube. Palmer’s, 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.
6. “Pedagogy.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.
7. Press, Associated. “Ex-FAMU Safety Shot Dead By police.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 16 Sept. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. <http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/9677206/ex-florida-rattlers-safety-jonathan-ferrell-shot-death-police>.
8. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of looking: an introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 12
9. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of looking: an introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 46
10. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of looking: an introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 51
11. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of looking: an introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 54
12 Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of looking: an introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press: 50