I See You Looking

By Rodrigo Valencia

Everyday, the first thing that we do when we wake up is open our eyes. This is done by instinct, as it is one of the 5 senses that all of us humans have that’s like no other. Being able to see is probably the greatest gift that we all possess, since it is due to our sight that we are allowed to discover, learn, appreciate what we have and get to whatever point we want to get in life. For the past few weeks, in this class we have been in full use of our sight that’s highly necessary in this pedagogy of the image. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary pedagogy is “the art, science, or profession of teaching,”[1] and in this class we have been specifically focusing on the ways of looking at certain images and how to interpret them.

In a world where technology constantly undergoes upgrades and new forms of social networking gets introduced to society it is impossible not to get influenced by it. This millennium has so far witnessed people of all ages being fully involved in cultural activities regarding the proliferation of images, ideas and trends that have been greatly influenced by mass media. In other words, pop culture has penetrated the minds of average citizens who have basically adapted to live under certain norms that have developed as the use of technology devices has increased. In its entirety, what society has been experiencing for the past few decades as a result of mass media and constant modernization is a spectacle. According to Guy Debord who first introduced this theory in 1967 in his book The Society of The Spectacle, “Understood in its totality, the spectacle is both the result and the project of the present mode of production. It is not a mere supplement or decoration added to the real world, it is the very heart of this real society’s unreality. In all of its particular manifestations — news, propaganda, advertising, entertainment — the spectacle is the model of the prevailing way of life.”[2] This combination of social ways of spreading information, news, products and just about anything, has gradually transformed this society into the type that bases everything through representation instead of direct experience as it was the case in the past.

The spectacle is manifested in mass media.

The spectacle is manifested in mass media.

Hegemony has always been present in a society where the categorization of the masses is a way in which everything is structuralized. Used as a general term, hegemony is defined as, “the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group.”[3] In terms of mass media and the spectacle, this word takes pretty much the same stance when it is used to define the distribution of power exerted by these corporations that survive with the use of mass media. The way media is used by these companies also represents their amount of power in the industry and to what extent they are dominating society. Through the many methods of spreading media, such as advertising, different groups make a statement of how powerful they are. When effective methods of marketing are displayed by companies, there is always an effect on society. Power is reflected through imagery and the way media makers decide to convey their message.

Everyday, we are all bombarded with advertisement and there is almost no way of preventing it, wherever you go ads present themselves in all types of forms. Throughout time companies have developed ads that appeal to our senses making them powerful and very influential. This is when representation comes into play which according to  Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, authors of Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, refers to “the use of language and images to create meaning about the world around us”[4] Rather than viewing media representation as an imitation of reality, we see it as something completely original and credible. This is a negative aspect of the spectacle, since mass media typically depicts different elements of society in a fictitious form that we then try to mimic unaware that it is all a fantasy.

Go on google and type in “Kanye West and Kim Kardashian” or better yet “Jay-Z and Beyonce.” Automatically the first thing you see is images of them being portrayed as the perfect couples, which is all a media representation.

It is very typical to find images of the couples always having a great time, appearing to have a "perfect life."

It is very typical to find images of these celebrity couples always having a great time, appearing to live the “perfect life.”

 The media pictures them as kings and queens which ultimately tricks the average citizen to think that whatever they wear, say or in general do is socially acceptable. These depictions of the two couples have made them perhaps the most popular as well as rich. With net worths that go beyond the hundreds of millions, they have all become  part of this consumerist society. Not only are they consumers of even bigger brands, but they have also created a brand of themselves to sell to the general public who are the major consumers. Nowadays, everyone is so materialistic that they make it seem like it is basically a competition of who has the best clothes and items. By continuously buying products that are not needed and are only acquired to  recreate styles that celebrities have put out there, people display a certain type of superiority that’s completely created by the spectacle.

Celebrity Sneaker Stalker, a service provided by the company Nice Kicks, has a weekly update of what celebrities are wearing.

Celebrity Sneaker Stalker, a service provided by the company Nice Kicks, has a weekly update of what celebrities are wearing.

With advertisement displaying images that makes people consume or believe in something, a case of sexism joins the discussion as an influential topic thats fueled by media representation. We constantly come across ads or videos that depict women in very little clothing which in a way does get a bigger audience, but it also sexually objectifies women. For instance, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” videoclip is the perfect example of sexism being part of media. In this video three young women are displayed basically as sexual objects, with the three artist (Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I.) controlling them and singing the explicit lyrics that directly state that these females are objects. Another important term, the gaze, plays a big role in this act of sexism involving images. Used in general terms, the gaze is how an audience views what’s presented and in this case with sexism it is all about how males look at females that are presented as objects in images. In ads, how men look at women right into the eye and get a sense of command is why females are the ideal tool to sell a product for many companies. They are the object that’s being sold, males buy the product and they get the type of girl that they want (usually like the ones on the ad), and it also works the same way with females, they buy the product and they get the men that they want. This is really how the whole spectacle is summarized, through images that do not only represent what they literally display but they also have different meanings that are only revealed with extensive analysis.

"Blurred Lines" is perhaps one of the most sexist videos of the decade. Robin Thicke was named the sexist of the year 2013.

“Blurred Lines” is perhaps one of the most sexist videos of the decade. Robin Thicke was named the sexist of the year 2013.

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