Sociology of Popular Culture Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

Popular culture defines what is desired by any given sociological group based on pressure by peers. Every moment of the day, we are saturated by culture. When we turn on the television, not only are we watching the programs but we are inundated by advertisers trying to convince the viewer that there is some new product that needs to be purchased or a new movie that needs to be seen or a new service that is essential to the happiness of the consumer. On the Internet, each inquiry provides banner headlines where we are also bombarded with advertisements and attitudes. Similarly, there are billboards and ads on cars and radio commercials while we drive to and from work. It is characteristic of a capitalistic society that so much of our culture has to do with the consumption of goods and services (Yar, Lecture 2, slide 2). Everywhere someone or something is trying to convince us of a view or convince us to purchase because monetary gain measures our culture.

The process of gendered spectatorship is part of our visual culture. This culture always takes the position of an anonymous male spectator. People who enjoy sub-normative behaviors most often do so in private because of the fear of pressures from other members of society. Even in the confines of their private homes, those with gender-specific desires of the other sex often ignore their desires because of a belief that this anonymous spectator can see them even while alone. There are three types of speculation of female presented in popular culture that reflect these hidden desires; voyeurism, objectification, and threat (Yar, Lecture 5, slide 10). Voyeurism is when and unseen male spectator views an unseeing female and uses this watching either to provide power or to remove power from the watched individual. Objectification is when women are "reduced to sexualized objects who can be 'consumed' as [a] source of sexual stimulation" (Yar, Lecture 5, slide 10). Lastly, the threat is the idea that an sexualized woman poses a danger to the purity and decency of males who can lose their authority while under the power of these stronger females.

Using Semiotics, or the systematic study and analysis of signs, analysts can examine any image and illustrate how it relates to the modern culture as a whole (Yar, Lecture 3, slide 3). The image that was chosen for this assignment is an advertisement for a line of Jurlique skin products put out by that same company. Specifically, the advertisement is for a line of Jurlique products which are lavender-scented lotions and sprays and are designed for a person's, more than likely a woman's, skin care. Women are stereotypically more easily to influence than men because of a supposed predisposition to being overly emotional beings. Males are stereotyped as strong, rational, and aggressive. Women are supposed to be vulnerable, emotional, and nurturing (Yar, Lecture 5, slide 2). These stereotypes are played upon by producers in order to sell merchandise. This is particularly true with regard to products which make appeals to vanity, also a supposedly feminine characteristic. Make up, clothing, hair coloring, and other products designed to affect a person's physical appearance are far more often advertised to appeal to women than men. The concept of gender itself is forced by sociology and is often confused for the physical difference between male and female. Sex is the physical separation and gender are "qualities and characteristics (real or imagined) associated with persons on the basis of their sex" (Yar, Lecture 5, slide 2).

This advertisement is directed at women who are concerned about both their skincare and their overall physical appearance as well. It also indicates from the text and the color scheme, as well as the overall presentation of the advertisement that women who are either stressed or overwhelmed, or both, will benefit from the purchasing of this product. The overall effect of the advertisement is to assure women who see the ad that buying these particular skin care products from the Jurlique company will not only benefit their skin care and thus their physical appearance, but their life as well in that their stresses and anxieties will be reduced after using them and then relaxation and a feeling of calm will follow. Semiotics studies the combination of signifier and signified. The former is the image in and of itself and the latter is the idea or concept that is relayed through the image presented (Yar, Lecture 3, slide 3). By examining the signifier and signified in the advertisement, it is easier to understand the deeper meaning of this picture.

The layout of the image is rectangular-shaped. It is half-page ad rather than a full page or multiple page advertisement. The left side of the advertisement shows three long lavender flowers. The three flowers are laid at the same angle and parallel to one another. The flowers are staggered to show different lengths although it seems the flowers are actually the same size. Flowers are typically an appeal to the female audience. This is because women are the gender whom stereotypically enjoys flowers and the presence of them is believed to have a calming effect, particularly flowers that are purple or blue which psychologists believe causes the brain to relax more than some high-intensity colors like red, yellow, or orange. The right side of the advertisement has a group photo of four Jurlique products, lotion and body wash and such, which the customer can purchase. Each item is infused with the lavender flowers like the ones on the left and smell of them. These items are staggered, which serves to have a more relaxing impression and seems less-forced than a straight presentation. This organization gives the appearance of nonchalance and lack of uniform which all assist in the subliminal and overt message of the advertisement. The purpose is to remind women of the effects of purchasing any or all of these items. Beneath the products, an opposite image shows the reflection of the materials. This is a subtle representation of how these items will aid in the improvement in the reflection and physical appearance of the person who buys them. It is a silent sentence, telling women that these products will make you like what you see when you look at yourself. Your mirror image, like the one in the advertisement, will be attractive. All that is required is for someone to incorporate Jurlique skin care products into their everyday morning routine, as important a step in hygiene as brushing teeth and hair or putting on makeup and brushing one's hair.

Almost centered but more to the left, which also adds to the appearance of nonchalance as in the icon of the four skin care products on the left, are the words "Be Cool, Calm and Collected." These words are presented in a brown and rounded font against a lightened lavender background. These colors are mirrored in the lavender flowers on the left of the advertisement, the purple in the flower and the brown in the stems. The words "Be Calm" are the key to this advertisement. The producers of the Jurlique skin care items are pledging to the consumer that these materials will make your life calmer and more peaceful. Beneath the larger words are printed "This season, settle into soft, lavender-scented skin" in much smaller type. The whole effect is designed to be calming and relaxing to the target audience of women who can be stressed from work, family, or any number of other things. To women who feel any of these anxieties, which all people do from time to time; this advertisement would be a very appealing answer to their problems.

The United States is a culture based on fetishism. Marxist criticism defines the culture and the products of that culture through the financial gains made evident in the works. "Through fetishism, we misrecognise human values as the value of things" (Yar, Lecture 2, slide 6). The advertisement described in the above explains exactly this perspective. Women in the United States are stressed because of pressures of work and home and they are encouraged to make purchases in order to alleviate their problems.

The selling of these products is all based on stereotypes and how producers of consumable items believe they should advertise their merchandise in order to have the greatest number of items sold. From the earliest of ages, society tries to instill in men and women that the differences in physicality go deeper than differences in body parts. Gendering happens from near birth where baby girls are supposed to wear pink and baby boys are almost always associated with the color blue. This process continues throughout childhood and well into a person's adult years. In childhood, little boys are taught through commercials to want to play with army men and other masculinized toys. Little girls are taught to desire feminine toys like dolls and toy kitchens. Stereotypical behavior, like aggression is encouraged in males and kindness and creativity is…

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