Friday, March 26, 2010

Advertisements and sexy women

I was looking through Dwell Magazine the other day and noticed that the ads for household products are as sexy as those for clothes which are in Vanity Fair, and both of these genres of ads portray women exceedingly differently than I do.  Can you figure out what the ad on the left is trying to sell?  Where does your eye go?  What is it you'd like to buy/have when you see this ad? 
I immediately noticed the woman's legs and hair since they offer the greatest contrast in the picture.  And I want to be her, getting up on a beautiful sunlit morning, having such a gorgeous picture window next to my toilet (uh, do I really want a huge window next to my toilet?).  Anyway, she's beautiful.  Her legs are perfect.  Her hair is perfect.  Then I wonder what I'm being sold.  Oh, bathroom fixtures.  But they look plastic and cold and uncomfortable, and I have no interest in a bidet - I never have been able to figure out what they're for anyway, but now magazines are trying to sell those, just like they're working on selling outdoor kitchens, as if we need a $15,000 "room" outside to cook in, when most of us don't use the perfectly wonderful kitchen we have indoors already.

So this ad makes me feel inadequate because my legs don't look like that; I don't have or know how to use a bidet; my bathroom is much smaller than that; I wonder if my husband wishes I looked like that.

This next picture is supposed to be selling a red sofa, I think.  But all I can see is the pretty woman with cleavage perched uncomfortably on the sofa, hanging up pictures on a line.  I can feel my stomach contract with tension because that's how I would feel if I were perched like that on a squishy sofa with my high heels off the edge.  It seems like it would be much easier to stand up and hang up the pictures, but then, of course, the sofa wouldn't be as noticeable.  Why is it necessary to have a pretty woman in the picture at all? 
This is what I mean when I say that sex is used to sell things, and that the media is giving us a warped sense of how women should look.  The next two pictures are much more obvious.  They're from Vanity Fair and are for clothing.
How many women do you know who are that skinny?  With legs that long?  I think the picture has even been distorted to be longer than it should be.  And look at those shoes.  Unless you're a ballerina with experience en pointe, how could you even think about walking in them?  Your feet would be damaged in an hour.  Her look is provocative and discomforting.  I feel like she is saying, "Come hither, but when you do I'm going to cut you to shreds." 
This last picture I think is very beautiful compositionally.  I love the curves and the light and the dark, the waves and colors.  I think it's truly beautiful.  But besides that, it is again a rather unrealistic vision of how women really look.  How many of us curve like that with our eyes closed in seeming ecstacy with our hair blowing in the wind and our lipstick glimmering sexily with no panty line or bra line showing through such a skin-tight dress?  It is very appealing to think I would look like that if I wore that dress, but I have a feeling there aren't all that many women it would look so good on.  So looking at her, I could again feel inadequate that I don't look like that and probably never will again, if I ever did.  I don't know if grey hair blows in the wind like that.

I heard on NPR that as women age, they would have to exercise 60 minutes/day to not gain weight.  I guess that explains why there's middle-age spread for most women in the US these days.  Not too many people spend that much time exercising, I don't think.

1 comment:

  1. Susan, after reading your comments on the 2nd picture, I went on and looked at the others first, to figure out my reactions before reading yours. I did find the 3rd picture kind of sexy, but not completely. I liked from her shoulders up and the general pose because it had that wonderful 1940s retro look to it that I like so much. That was what hit me first, then I saw two things that turned me off.

    First, I saw her shoes, which reminded me of the tacky platform shoes of the '70s disco era and that just killed it all for me. Then I saw how mean her face actually looked, and that had the same effect.

    I agree with you about the proportions. Her face is too long and so are many other parts. The sizes don't look right and, honestly, she's so thin something just seems wrong.

    Notice, though, I pointed out what I noticed first. The rest is what I notice, pretty much in the order I noticed it. I'd say the "concept" looks sexy, but then they ruin it with details that are either unrealistic, harsh, or absurd.

    --Hal Vaughan