Archive for the ‘media’ Category

The Female Character Flowchart

October 12, 2010

While Smurfing, I came across this awesome flowchart from Overthinking it, which, after this post I will delve into to see how much I love it. Just sit back and enjoy the pop-culture sexism decoded in this flowchart:

As the commenter on the site I found the link through (Jezebel) says, this is even before we start applying the Bechdel test.


A History of Fair-skin Preference in South Asia

April 14, 2010

Recently, the Vogue India magazine’s cover took head on the well-known preference for lighter or fairer skin as a sign of beauty in the subcontinent. This preference has been commented on before, with many interpretations of the phenomenon. In this case, for example, one interesting insight by the piece linked above talks about the capitalization of this preference by beauty product companies.

Fuelled by the appearance of light-skinned Bollywood stars and models, the demand for skin-whitening creams – from brands including L’Oreal and Unilever – grew 18 per cent last year and is set to increase by a predicted 25 per cent this year, the Times reports.

This is a significant aspect of the phenomenon. There are billboards, magazine ads, and TV commercials throughout South Asia that play on the standard of ‘fairer’ skin being more attractive. This fits a standard post-WWII late-capitalist model of subjectivity construction. A standard of the body is set as either preferred or as undesirable, marketing sets out to construct a narrative with the aim of inducing anxiety about reaching the standard (cover up undesirables, concern to reach desirables), and products are disseminated to temporarily relieve this anxiety. But, of course, there are so many things to be anxious about, late-capitalism aims to make us perpetually anxious consuming subjects. This narrative is pretty standard and is playing out in the particular case of fairer skin in the subcontinent. However, we do have to be attentive to the local conditions that make this particular manifestation play out in the way it does. So, to my mind, any analysis of this phenomenon should take into account a number of historical trajectories that impact light-skin beauty standards in India. (more…)

The message is MEDIA

March 19, 2010

In Lady Gaga’s video, Telephone, we see product placement. We see Virgin Mobile cellular phones. We see popular culture references. We see references to the transphobic accusations of her gender identity. We see a play of multiple queer identities, multiple movie genre references, fashion trend nods, variously interpreted sexual references, either through innuendo or explicit. We see the play of queer, trans-, racial, and gender discourses. Through it we can also read multiple histories: her career history, movie history, women’s history, pop music history, fashion history, technological history, the history of theory. The sheer plethora of semiological delights in the video is an awe-inspiring pot-pourri of modernity. This video is one signal of the reversal Marshall McLuhan’s the media is the message. Somehow the semiology of Lady Gaga’s oeuvre and this video in particular evoke a world in which all semiological boundaries are being blurred/exploded. The distinction between media (phones, cameras, video cameras, music videos, exploitation flicks, popular culture, cooking shows, etc. etc.) and the message that each media sends is increasingly getting blurred as every interface is omni-compatible.

Our telephones are mobile, but they are also cameras, and video recorders, and mini-computers. They are video game consoles, calculators, text-messengers, facebook updaters, web-browsers, mp3 players, sound recorders, alarm clocks, and our personal rolodex. Our computers are also omni-compatible. They can be mobile too, with webcams that take video and pictures,  have mics and speakers. We can video phone around the world with Skype for free; we can internet chat with gchat or msn. They are our dvd players, our movie makers, our music studios, and our media databases. Our video game consoles are our dvd players and our web browsers, our social networking sites. Our music videos are our advertisement, our cultural texts, our identity-formation magazines. All our media delivery devices are becoming similarly multifunctional. All of our media content is becoming one vast ocean of inter-textuality. Twitter and blogs and news and youTube and Huffington Post and craigslist and magazines and facebook and email and texting and word-of-mouth and branding and embodiment and advertising and peer-to-peer and the film industry and activism and multi-national conglomerates and political ideology and institutional structures and discourse and localized identities and globalization.

All of our media is becoming one… and the message is MEDIA.

‘The East’ in Advertising – Part 1

March 28, 2009

I try to compile advertising media images of Orientalism just to have a visceral representation of how Orientalism plays out in a certain sub-set of media. Perhaps one day I can put together a series of film clips that show the same.

The first video, an ad for a Nomad phone package, shows quite a number of tropes. It is about India, as Other. Let’s Watch.

It opens with a series of romanticized images of India as the exotic, bountiful, Other: full of the treasure we can have access to. Here take note the gaze of the camera: it is a romanticized, colonial gaze. We follow, in the narrative, the exploits of the white woman as she negotiates her journey through the East–hearkening back to 19th century travel journals (many penned by women) that were a part of sparking the imagination towards the East and a contributor to the discourse of colonial Orientalism. The images flash before our eyes and collect to our imagination the semiotics of Orientalism: elephants, gold, saddhu, available wealth, access to elite indigenous power.

But then, the union of East and West poses a threat. The white woman, duped, is now part of the harem. She has lost her Western privilege. She is trapped by the East in a despotic social arrangement. Other threatening tropes rise to our mind: despotism, barbarism, irrational inequality. On the one hand, we might argue that it was her own colonial and Orientalist imaginings that led her to this ‘trap’. Homi Bhabha has argued that the colonial imagination is both of these simultaneously. It is ambivalent: “The menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority. And it is a double vision that is a result of what I’ve described as the partial representation/ recognition of the colonial object.” The trap was set before the curtain even opened on this ad.

On the other hand, the East as both romanticized AND dangerous is a hallmark of Orientalism. It is an ambivalent, contested representation. Orientalism must represent the East as BOTH opportunity and threat. It must call to the desire of the Western Self, but must repel this call at the same time to preserve the essence of the West. The threat is to the very identity of the West as a Self. That is, if Orientalism is a discursive regime that imagines the East as Other in order to define the West as Self, any union is a threat, and necessarily so. So, this ad reinforces and recreates some of the most fundamental tropes of Orientalism.

A final point: It is no coincidence that the protagonist is a white woman. Women as property, tagged by race, insights the fear of the colonial gaze by having a brown, colonized man then possess the true property of White, colonial ownership. Racism, colonialism, misogyny, and Orientalism. All are different, and yet all are intertwined.

And the threat? Encapsulated quite well in the capping statement. In English translation it might be something like: Know what you are getting into before you commit. Reflechissez avant de vous engeger. Before you get with the Other, remember this commercial, where we point out that the mysterious Other can be a dangerous, duplicitous, threat. Remember this, so that you can go with the sure thing, the known. Ironically, I am sure some white women watching, who know the perils of Western Patriarchy, seeing the luxury of the harem, might feel attracted to this idealized image of Eastern Patriarchy rather than the sure thing, which they know so well and must deal with on a daily basis, something that is often no less threatening.