Sex Role Messages in Television Commercials

Television commercials and advertising in general have had a history of misrepresenting accurate gender depictions in society. A 1974 study conducted by Courtney and Whipple reveals an inconsistency with that decade’s advertising viewpoints toward gender and what was actually going on in the country. “In 1974, one-third of married women in the United States were employed, but commercials seldom featured a working wife,” (Lovdal 1988). Lovdal did a content analysis update through Denison University to see if gender role depictions were given a more accurate depiction in the 1980s television commercial media culture. Three hundred and fifty three commercials were viewed and coded for this study.

The results discovered in the content analysis did not vary too much from previous studies documenting such advertising for the previous decade. There were no significant differences judging upon the T-scale findings. On the contrary, there were less inaccurate depictions, i.e. the percentage of women representing domestic products had dropped a little, and less men were being made to represent non-domesticated products like cars. However, one thing that remained the same and in large detail was the reliance on a male narrator in commercials featuring women. This advertising device cast women in a subordinate role and diminished their impact in the advertisement.

Lovdal, L. (1988). Sex role messages in television commercials. Sex Roles, 21(11/12), 715-724. Retrieved from


Reflections on the “Growing Up Online” video

In the PBS video “Growing Up Online”, we saw several different youth (and adult) perspectives on social networking and how it effects young people. It went from funny moments to talking about some really serious stuff associated with social networking, such as online bullying leading to suicide and blogs that encourage girl’s eating disorders. Despite being almost five years old, I found the video was still relevant, though a little removed from my own history of social networking.

There was one author interviewed throughout who wrote a book about the MySpace phenomenon. One thing she said really caught my ear: “We need to start looking at our kids more as participants and less like victims.” This correlated with the part of the video that meant the most to me, the one about the mother and her four kids and her desperate attempts to be involved with her son’s online life. I felt that this woman was overreacting. I graduated high school a year before these kids did. I never had MySpace and didn’t have Facebook until college (remember when that’s what it was made for?), so I never experienced the social networking drama that these high schoolers in the video do. BUT, the community I grew up in was very much like that one, and that mother struck me as just another overprotective parent, updated for the digital age. The parents in my community were always trying to catch kids sneaking into the pool, or which kids on the block were having a secret underage party. That mother was just using social networking as another way to spy on her children, with the guise of, “Oh, well online predators will get you if I don’t protect you!” It was sad to watch her in denial, that part in a parent’s life when they first realize that their children don’t need them anymore. She was just trying to hold on, and Facebook was the outlet she would cling to.

I felt that the parent’s interviewed in the video were overly paranoid busy bodies who are at the beginning stages of not understanding their children anymore. The whole notion that they aren’t safe on the internet is just a paranoid extension of the Reagan-era “Don’t talk to strangers!” movement. These parents had these kids in the 80s when that fear was huge, and raised their children with perpetuating fear brought on by programs like Oprah and Dr. Phil who highlight out of the ordinary circumstances and make parents believe that they are raising their children in the most unsafe time in history. Chill out people! Not only do your kids know not to talk to strangers, but they know more about the internet than you! So start treating them more like participants and not victims!

While I am ranting and making sweeping generalizations, I want to add that adults aren’t always safe on social networking sites either. Through my parents, I know two older (50s) couples who have recently divorced because of old flames that they reconnected with on Facebook and ended up having affairs with them. So while you’re so worried about your kid’s youth group photos getting looked at, you might should stop and think that your own marriage is in trouble through social networking. But I say stop the paranoia! When kids become teenagers, they have secrets from their parents. This has always been the case, long before the internet even existed. So, really, over protective parents aren’t new either.

Anyway, that was just one part of the video that made me think. The part about cyber-bullying was very sad. I’m not sure if kids can get away with that so much anymore, since Facebook is so open about identity. When I was in middle school and AIM was really popular, I can remember people making fake screen names and making fun of people on there annoymously. But there was the Rutger’s student, Tyler Clementi, a year ago who committed suicide after being outed as homosexual on Twitter by his homophobic roommate. So, cyber-bullying still exists, but I’m not sure of how to stop it. Instead of trying to keep kids from the internet to prevent bullying, we should just teach them tolerance and increase anti-bullying campaigns in all classrooms.

Facts about Face-ism

In our textbook, Face-ism is defined as, “the tendency to represent people in terms of their face or head as opposed to their body,” (Sparks 212). In a chapter regarding media stereotypes, the issue of Face-ism comes about when we observe the difference in how women and men are photographically represented in media. The book argues, through the representation of a ratio, that generally men are represented with 65% of their pictures being their head/face. Women’s faces, on the other hand, are only represented with 45% of their depictions, meaning the rest of their body is shown in more detail. The textbook also argues that people respond more positively to pictures that reveal more of a person’s face, thus making it so that women are potentially misrepresented in media by Face-ism.

One interesting aspect about Face-ism discussed in the chapter is the fact that this is nothing new to media. In fact, the textbook argues that for centuries, in everything from classic artwork to postage stamps, this aspect of face-ism has re-emerged time and time again.

Although to Sparks the concept of Face-ism was really new and interesting, it made me think back to a film course I took in which we discussed and analyzed the “male gaze”, which in film is when the camera lingers for a long time on aspects of the female body not pertaining to the scene. In other words, the camera lens becomes the male’s eyes looking over the female, making such cinema sexist and one dimensional. There is not much of a female equivalent to the male gaze. This occurs because the majority of the people behind motion pictures, directors, writers, producers, studio executives, etc., are mostly male. I think that in media, unfortunately, this has the same effect. “Sex sells” is what they say, so I think that magazine editors, when trying to get that cover to sell, put more of an unfair emphasis on the female body, continuing the male gaze notion.

We also talked about this in class in regard to television news programs, where you might have a male news caster sitting behind a desk, but a female reporter standing before the camera, more of her body showcased. I think there is a lot of evidence to support these claims about face-ism, whether in print media or in television. However, I’ve almost noticed an opposite effect when it comes to the profile pictures people make for themselves on Facebook. In other classes, we’ve talked about how generally in a male Facebook profile picture, the guy will be photographed mostly full body and in the middle of some sort of activity. Female Facebook profile pictures, on the other hand, generally show more poses and close-ups of the face. While the Facebook connection might be a generalization, I think it is interesting food for thought on how we view ourselves in social media, to how we generally view men and women in regular media.

The Top 5 Films of Jean-Luc Godard, according to me

A cinematic innovator who began as a critic planting the seeds of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard has never been shy to say something controversial or make films that deliberately remind people that they are watching cinema. Even into his 80s, Godard continues to provoke audiences.
Jean-Luc Godard
Our thoughts are not the substance of reality, but its shadow. ~ Godard’s narration from 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her

After his work with the film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma ended in the late 1950s, Godard began making a series of radical and ever changing features that would constantly bend the rules of editing, sound, storytelling, and all realms of conventional narrative cinema. Between 1960 to 1967, Godard directed 15 films before going underground for a short time to make political films, something his career had already developed into by the time of the infamous student riots of May 1968. It is very hard to make an ordered list of his best work, but I am bored at work and thought I would give it a try.

5) Band of Outsiders (1964)

Based on the 1958 American crime novel Fool’s Gold by Dolores Hitchens, Bande à part (the film’s French title) is perhaps Godard’s most playful film, and often considered the Godard film that even people who hate Godard can enjoy. It involves a young trio (2 boys, 1 girl) who attempt to rob the girl’s aunt of a hidden fortune. Though like most of Godard’s films, the story is just the starting point for cinematic exercises and shenanigans, full of film and literary references.
Starring Godard’s then wife Anna Karina, the film includes tongue-and-cheek narration from the director, a memorable sequence with the main characters running through the Louvre to beat the museum’s fastest visit record (previously set by an American, of course), a “minute” of silence that reminds the viewer of the difference between dialogue and background noise, and a dance sequence that inspired a scene in Pulp Fiction.

4) Tout va bien (1972)

Co-directed by Jean-Pierre Gorin, this Marxist drama is almost two separate films, dealing with a strike at a sausage factory as observed by an American reporter (Jane Fonda) and her French director husband (Yves Montand). The first half of the film takes place mostly at the factory and is filmed brilliantly on an ant farm-like set paying homage to Jerry Lewis’ The Ladies Man (a similar set was used for the Belafonte in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). The second half deals more closely with the two main characters, their failing marriage, and their growing political ambivalence a few years after being tremendously affected by the student riots of 1968.
Shot in vibrant colors with very precise staging and mise en scène, Tout va bien improves upon the disintegration-of-marriage theme explored in Godard’s Contempt, and goes about itself in a similar radical fashion to Week End, though it’s as if this time around Godard isn’t trying to destroy cinema, but lament for it. The long take through the supermarket is a great damning image of consumerism, and one cannot help but think Godard is revealing more than a little of himself through Montand’s character.

3) 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)

Godard, even for him, does something unique with this feature. A hard film to describe, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her deals with an upper-middle class woman who decides to prostitute herself in order to better afford material household items. A skewering satire on the economic miracle of post-WWII France, Godard transitions to a cinematic essay format for the film, putting less emphasis on story and focusing on the themes of consumerism, prostitution, the Vietnam war, and the continuing urban development of 1967 Paris.
Godard narrates the film in a rushed whisper, as if hiding under a table and expressing all of his thoughts as fast as he can, but quietly enough so as not to reveal his subversive hiding place. Shot in bright colors with an emphasis on the colors of the French flag, most of the narration is shown over shots of construction sites building a modern Paris while Godard discusses consumerism as prostitution of the mind. The color schemes appear artificial in contrast to the political message of the film. And there are so many great images to choose from, whether the extreme closeup of cream mixing with coffee in an allusion to the cosmos (see clip above), or the final image of a number of household cleaning products laid out on a lawn. A film more about the 1960s than anything else.

2) Masculine Feminine: 15 Precise Facts (1966)

This could be considered the first real sequel to The 400 Blows. Starring that film’s lead and French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud as Paul, the film follows him and his romantic and political misadventures in 1966 Paris after his recent release from military service. The sentiment of the youth established in Truffaut’s (a longtime colleague of Godard) The 400 Blows feels updated here, as we experience lust, infatuation, and a political awakening. Told in chapters (with headings like The mole has no consciousness, yet it borrows in a specific direction), the film is one of Godard’s most free spirited and youthful. He had his pulse on the youth of that generation, and it is as if Léaud’s Paul is an extension of the Antoine Doinel character he portrayed in The 400 Blows, only represented through Godard’s lens of the mid-1960s.
Like Godard’s other works and other movies from the French New Wave, Masculine Feminine does innovative things with the transitions between chapters and sound, with certain parts of the picture serving as mere episodes or moments to showcase the times. In the above clip, Paul interviews a beauty pageant winner, starting the interview off friendly enough, but eventually asking about birth control and the word “reactionary”, revealing in a 6 1/2 minute single take this girl’s (and most of the youth’s) shallowness and naivety. Referencing Bob Dylan and the Vietnam War, the film is another step in the political direction that Godard’s career was soon to evolve into.

1) Pierrot le Fou (1965)

I lied. Pierrot le Fou is Godard’s most playful film. It his most everything film. The film’s visual style exudes color in an intoxicating way, making it the best collaboration between Godard and his frequent cinematographer Raoul Coutard. It also offers up what might be the first case of postmodernism in cinema, with scenes referencing Robert Louis Stevenson to comic books, going from musical numbers to downright Hitchcockian moments of suspense. Godard draws from the old lovers-on-the-run sub-genre from films like Nicholas Ray’s They Lived by Night, while anticipating New Wave inspired flicks like Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands in his plot of a married father (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who, feeling trapped in the boring actions and rhetoric of his everyday life, commits murder and goes on the lamb with his daughter’s babysitter (Anna Karina).
As with many of Godard’s films, the theme of communication between man and woman is essential, and comes to a breaking point when the film slows down to have the two lovers living on a secluded island together. With character’s talking right into the camera, American filmmaker Samuel Fuller delivering a monologue in an inspired cameo, a one act “play” representing the Vietnam War (see clip above), and a truly explosive ending, Pierrot le Fou is the original midlife crisis film, one that, like the main characters, exhibits a contagious feeling of throwing caution, and as a result ‘cinema’, into the wind. It is Godard reinventing himself, and perhaps beginning to come to terms with his own failing marriage to the film’s star and his growing political conscious. A film that set the tone for the rest of his career, but yet is able to sum him up perfectly. Or maybe not so perfectly.

Godard’s films beg for multiple viewings. I have seen some more recently than others, so I am biased toward certain Godard films depending on how often I have seen them and what not. This list is flawed, and my summaries are slight and don’t do the films justice, but I wanted to try something like this. I didn’t include Breathless or Week End, because, while I have seen both multiple times, they are the ones that always get mentioned and as a result, have become a little overrated to me in some ways. I guess the same could be said for Pierrot le Fou, but what have you. Vivre Sa Vie and Contempt are two I’ve seen just once that I would really like to see again.

Best of the rest:
Alphaville (1965)
Breathless (1960)
The Carabineers (1963)
Contempt (1963)
Hail Mary (1985)
In Praise of Love (2001)
Une Femme Mariée (1964)
Vivre Sa Vie (1962)
Week End (1967)

Godard Films I Haven’t Seen
(Aside from Sympathy for the Devil (1968), I’ve seen none of his documentaries)
Every Man for Himself (1980)
Film socialisme (2010)
Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991)
Histoire(s) du cinéma (1989-98)
King Lear (1987)
La rapport Darty (1989)
Nouvelle vague (1990)
Numéro deux (1975)
Soft and Hard (1986)

Commercial for Case Study #2

I’m sure none of us have seen this before:

Reflections on Sexual Content in the media

I thought our chapter, discussions, etc. this week on the topic of Sexual Content in the media were very interesting and insightful. When something like this is discussed in a classroom setting, there is always the chance the talk could be overwhelmed with jokes, and even though we went there a little bit, different revelations and perspectives of my fellow classmates opened the lecture to a much wider realm of thought. In particular, discussing addiction to internet pornography was eye opening, and something I hadn’t thought much about until then. Certainly, some men might joke about such an addiction, but it was during our discussion that I started wondering, “What did internet porn addicts do before the internet made everything so readily available?” Sure it existed elsewhere before, but I would be interested in reading a study or even testimonials from people addicted to internet pornography of whether or not their addiction increased because of the internet, and how did this effect their lives, etc. Basically, I wonder deep down if the availability of such a wide variety of pornography on the internet unleashed addictions in people who normally wouldn’t have come across such material.

Also, the video we watched on Wednesday was very insightful, and had me thinking quite a bit. The part that really got to me (aside from the trashy Fred Durst) were the anonymous guys talking about their desires to teach certain women “a lesson”. That bothered me so much, because I’ve heard guys talk like that before. Not all guys do by any means, but they make all men look bad and could potentially give women the wrong impression that every man they come across during the day wants to jump them. People, men and women, should be able to walk around and be confident in body and spirit without feeling like they could be harassed at any moment.

The Longest Day

I took several notes during the day and cheated a few times, but I will just recount everything in order:

9:38 am was the first time I saw on my bedside alarm clock yesterday morning. Shut my eyes, try falling back asleep. Why wake up if I can’t do anything? is my mentality. My soul had silently dreaded this day while my mind was game. I doze off for a little more before my neighbor’s lawn service crew wake me up again about twenty after ten, foreshadowing the feeling that sounds from the outside world are more prevalent when one is not distracted by media.

Since class was canceled, I didn’t have to be anywhere until 2pm for work. Most people talked about turning on the TV right when they wake up, but for me it was hard to resist going online. Yesterday it dawned on me that I begin everyday with about thirty wasted minutes surfing the web. Luckily I had already set aside some yard work for me to do, so that I would be outside and busy and not compelled to use media. But even after that was done, I found myself craving more than lunch. When I was in the kitchen afterward preparing lunch, I almost turned on the television. Do I always watch TV when I eat something? I guess so, but not today. I take it outside, and am able to hear my neighbor talking on the phone very loudly. Do we all talk this loud, and are we so oblivious?

After looking out the windows for the longest time (no cellphone to use as a watch), boredom sets in, so I take my dog for an extra long walk. I had thought about the gym, but I rely so much on my iPod when using the treadmill, that I decide against it. Is this what monks feel like? I wonder. Probably not, I’m just spoiled. Eventually it is time to get ready for work, and I leave early because I have nothing better to do. The drive to work was odd. I am so used to zoning out to my music when driving that it was surreal driving for thirty minutes in silence. With the windows down, I felt closer to the outside and could hear music pouring out of other people’s cars. Do I blast music like that? Probably. Eventually it is too hot, so the windows go up with the AC. But now I realize why I preferred music in the car: because my car is old old old, and driving in silence forced me to listen to it struggle to climb hills and what not. And I’m pretty sure I need my breaks looked at. They sound awful. All things usually missed because I have the iPod blasting.

Work is were I cheated. I had to go online to clock-in, but since my job is mostly answering the phone, there was lots of down time, so I read the chapter for this class as well as for another class. Unless I was running back and forth to the mail room. Even just reading our textbook felt new and extra interesting due to the exclusion of all other media forces that day. Driving home in rush hour in silence was hell. It made me hate traffic even more. Music makes traffic easier to cope with, hell, even NPR could I imagine. Just sitting there with only the outside noises, moving at a snail’s pace, it’s mind numbing.

Back at home after six, getting darker outside. I usually have the news on and eat dinner with it on in the background. On the sheet we filled out Monday about how much time a day we spend with each media device, I was way too limited with what I put for TV. I watch more TV than I would have cared to admit, or even realized! I depend on it at night to unwind. I had started making a list earlier of websites I needed to check out when back on the computer: email, banking, webct, etc. So I cheat again and am relieved to see that I had no new notifications on Facebook. Haha, the day I go without is the day of no activity. How fitting. Not wanting to turn the TV on, I take a sleep aid and read before falling asleep. Good morning media!