The Power of Imagery and Media | Jay A. Patel

Imagery has been a part of the growing American culture for many years. It has been used as propaganda by many media markets to sell an idea or a product to the consumer masses of this country. In doing so, media based imagery has changed the consumer’s way of looking at virtually everything. “Looking can be easy or difficult, fun or unpleasant, harmless or dangerous. There are both conscious and unconscious levels of looking. We engage in practices of looking to communicate, to influence and be influenced.”[1] The end result today is that our consumption of no only the media but also their products have increased. There is no satisfactory level, we just want more.

 

Today, media plays a big roll in the way the world works, especially in regards to America. Every aspect of our culture is dictated to us by media and in turn, we allow media to tell us what to do, what to wear, what to think and what to feel. In John Berger’s book, he explains, “The great hoardings and publicity neons of the cities of capitalism are the immediate visible sign of “The Free World”. For many in Eastern Europe such images in the West sum up what they in the East lack. Publicity, it is thought, offers a free choice.” [2]

Free will is practically nonexistent. The representation of media in our lives has gone from marketing into a power trip. Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes power as “the ability or right to control people or things.”[3] Imagery in media and in our modern pop culture, speaks for us now, we’ve given them this power of hegemony, but we also hold the power in ourselves to take that given power away. “The term “hegemony” emphasizes that power is not wielded by one class over another, rather, power is negotiated among all classes of people, who struggle with and against one another in the economic, social, political, and ideological arenas in which they live and work.” [4]

Using the power that we’ve given them, in conjunction with the methods of mass persuasion first used by Edward Bernays, media and media makers can now say whatever they need to have the masses consume their ideas or products. [5] A prime example of this is Coke’s America is Beautiful ad during the 2014 NFL Super Bowl.

This video shows how the marketing representatives from Coke are playing on the growing sensitivity to racial inequality. In this century, the younger American generations do not follow the same racial stigma that older generations harbored towards multiculturalism in the country. Many found this commercial to be moving and the truest form of what America is meant to be. People bought this “idea” when in reality Coke was probably trying to cater to a specific group and increase sales

Likewise, certain companies will use sex as a means of selling their product because “sex sells.”

More importantly, over sexualizing women in media sells. Here Burger King has found the best way to sell its food, using increasingly attractive women to sexually pose with or eat the Burger King sandwiches while a sexual innuendo filled tagline accompanies the image. This level of sexism can be found in most forms of media. As the old adage goes, “Sex, drugs, and violence sell.” In this case, sex is more widely accepted than drugs or violence, especially when it comes to selling a product. Here Burger King has turned human beings into objects to use as they please, and while human rights, pro-feminism, and anti-sexism groups view down on this, this kind of over sexual imagery is often considered normal to most people.

Media and the imagery that is portrayed in it have become a form of teaching for the masses. This pedagogy is widely accepted in America and has begun to branch out to our neighbors in the East. Today, you can flip through any magazine and the adverts will show you how to look and how to live while you aspire to one day become like those models in the magazines and billboards. Guy Debord states, “In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation.” [6] Unfortunately this is true because modern media is very prone to misrepresentations of society. What’s more unfortunate is that these misrepresentations are surprisingly accepted by society.

NOTES

  1. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of looking: an introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press: Page 10
  2. Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Viking, 1973: Page 131
  3. “Power.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com (17 Feb. 2014)
  4. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of looking: an introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press: Page 54
  5. The Century of the Self. Dir. Adam Curtis. Perf. N/A. BBC, 2005. Film.
  6. “The Society of the Spectacle.” (1) (Debord). N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. <http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/debord/1.htm&gt;.

Jay A. Patel

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