The Meaning of Images in Mass Media Advertising

The Meaning of Images in Mass Media Advertising

The intended meaning of any particular image in an advertisement today must be determined individually and could be defined with any degree of varying specificity. One could look at a single photo ad in a particular magazine; they could examine the entire national collection of automotive television commercials. On could also broaden and generalize their analysis o include all media advertizing that uses images, In such a writing as that, it is important to understand that the author does not intend to include every specific instance of image advertizing in his or her analysis.

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For example, in this paper the author will be using the world of mass media advertising as his subject. Certainly there will be some ads that fall outside of this argument. The author intends the following paper to focus more on the culture and general immoral intentions of mass media advertising. The reason for the road focus is that for the paper to be effective it must encompass the scope of the problems inherent in today’s mass media advertizing. For example: rampant sexism, the general immorality of so much of it, and manipulation of so many different kinds.

Mostly this essay will focus on how the media advertisers attempt to force consumers to believe that identity is not formed a priori, but rather that it is something which can be bought, sold, worn, or displayed. I will argue to the opposite of that effect, detailing how one’s identity most closely resembles a material-less spiritual bond and is only warped, twisted, and veiled by the mass media advertisers and the consumables they sale. It is imperative for the cogency of this paper that the terms of consumer or consumable verses necessity are defined clearly.

The concept of a consumer relates to one who purchases unnecessary or superfluous goods on top of all of their necessary purchases and payments. For example and I-Pod is a consumable product. Not because it is edible, but because it is not essential to the survival of the one who purchases it. This does not make the person who buys the I-Pod or the I-Pod inherently bad or immoral it is just that their practice of purchasing the unnecessary just relates them to the concept of consumerism. A necessity is something that the average human cannot live without.

For example, nourishment, water, shelter, warmth. It is plain to see the distinction between the two categories. The piece by Jo-Anne Finkelstein, “Self as Consumer” details the way that the consumer has been shaped and viewed throughout the years. In her work she describes how at once 20th century media pushes the ideas of an autonomous and individual self yet at once subverts that idea by encouraging uniformity in the process of exactly what styles and mechanics of socialization one undergoes.

Finkelstein goes on to use a piece painted by Andy Warhol in which he painted himself in six separate and differently colored panels being strangled by a pair of hands that were not his own. Finkelstein says that since the work was a self portrait and the hands do not belong to Warhol we must conclude that they represent a culture that commoditizes everyone of worth in order to put them on a shelf and sell them to the masses. He was little more than a “readily consumable commodity being choked by a society that transforms everyone into… object of amusement for others” (Finkelstien 180).

The society we live in today takes individuals from birth and socializes them into tragically star-crossed adults. At once they want to be their own person and to live an autonomous life free of “the man” lording over them but on the other side at the same time people want to fit in with the rest of society. The only way that they can show their autonomy is by choosing which pre-designed style to adopt and how deep into that style they can go. Not to mention the advertiser’s main concern which revolves around how much money any particular person is willing to pay to fit in with their group.

In the clothing and accessory world of ads recently we see more and more women sexualized at younger and younger ages to shock the consumer into paying attention to ads. Often in conjunction with said immoral sexualization is a masculine form dominating the scene, usually standing above the woman. One ad even showed a woman at the bottom of a staircase with the man standing on the top landing looking down at her. The purpose of this gross moral practice is again shock value.

The average American sees literally thousands of ads every day and an advertiser will do anything he or she can to make his or her ad get noticed it the swarm. Besides clothing and style advertisements though there is the world of pharmaceutical marketing. Possibly one of the more malignant forms of manipulation in the media today is the ads put forth by these corporations. They use manipulative techniques like showing a sad exhausted migraine-afflicted mother unable to play with her children. They then offer an answer to her troubles.

Their medicine, it can cure her and allow her the family time she deserves. This type of familial psychological manipulation is highly prevalent in the magazine and television ads of today. The way we are contently afflicted by advertisements is not only an attack on our psyche but also our freedom. If one wanted to dress a way that had never ever been dressed before whether their reception was positive or negative they would doubtless at first be looked at askance for stepping outside of the social norm.

We have today a right to choose our identity but only as long as it fits snugly in a box pre-determined by the powers that be. Our freedom relies upon our ability to choose what we want when and how. And our freedom is limited not only by a complete lack of choices but even by a limitation of choices. Our freedom is impugned upon from the time we are young when we first begin to witness the swirling mass of advertisements and begin to be socialized and boxed in by them.


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