The Power of the Media
In Susan Douglas's essay "Narcissism as Liberation", she covers the topic of the power of media on American culture. Douglas approaches this topic in a way which grabs her audience's attention quickly. She discusses an advertisement in the first paragraph of her essay. This advertisement is a very popular one among American Society today, especially women. Through discussing such a popular advertisement so early in her essay, Douglas not only grabs her audience's attention but she is able to introduce her audience to the basis of her essay and begin her argument. Douglas argues throughout her essay how the power of media has such a strong influence on American culture today. She points out certain advertisements that display this idea to the fullest which helps her audience recognize and relate to the idea Douglas is trying to communicate to her audience. After doing this Douglas is able to go into detail with her argument and share her views with her audience. Douglas's conclusion is very simple, she leaves her audience with a question concerning the essay which is to help each individual reader create their own opinion on the power of media and it's effects on American culture today.
Douglas clearly communicates her stance on the issue of the power of media throughout her essay. She believes the media has an extremely strong effect on American culture today and she does not believe the effect is a very good one for society. The media does an excellent job of pulling society into the advertisement which results in sales. The media also does a very good job in making society believe that not using a certain product and not achieving the most recent physical "look" makes you worthless and not desirable. This is Douglas's argument summarized, but it is exactly what she tries to communicate to her audience throughout the whole essay.
The way Douglas presents her argument is extremely helpful in guiding the reader as an individual to their own opinions on the issue. Douglas points out one particular ad, (p. 118), which displays a woman showing her backside, which is completely firm and free of any marks which would make her "undesirable". The cause of this, according to the advertisement, is because she uses the product Biotherm which is supposedly the solution to cellulite. This advertisement can relate to any woman, young or old. Media has made women believe that being thin and firm is important and if you are not you will not be desired by anyone. This is a very serious issue women are dealing with today. Young women as well as old are starving themselves to achieve this look of perfection which in turn is slowly killing them. This issue of being thin is not only an issue for women but also men. Men also go to such extremes as becoming anorexic or bulimic to be thin. Products and advertisements such as this one play a key role in the lives of many people and is destroying them mentally and physically. Today people do not like you because of what you may have to say but what you look like. Advertisements are truly a key factor in the thinking style of society today.
The first advertisement I chose is directed toward women mainly. This advertisement was in a fashion-based magazine. The advertisement is for Calvin Klein clothing. Kate Moss, the model wearing the clothing, is well known for many of her appearances in Calvin Klein advertisements. Kate Moss is extremely thin and very unusual looking. In this particular advertisement she is fully clothed in a black outfit. The outfit is very plain. She is wearing all black and her face is very pale; she almost looks ghostly. A silver belt is wrapped around her little waist to accent the outfit. There are only a few things that will promote the sale of Calvin Klein clothing from this advertisement. The fact that Kate Moss was chosen to display the clothing is one plus for the company. She is very thin and is considered beautiful among many people today. Calvin Klein is well known for his clothing, he has been around for many years and his "CK" symbol is very popular. This ad is not directed toward the quality and durability of the clothing it is directed toward women. The issues of being beautiful, thin and wearing tight clothing to be noticed and desired is what this advertisement is saying. Calvin Klein in all his years of working in the fashion industry would never have an over-weight woman in his advertisements. The reason for this is because that's not what people want to see or be. Society wants to see beautiful faces and bodies in magazines that are close to impossible to have if you have a day-job. Kate Moss in this advertisement is an example for women in today's society. Women today, should be thin as humanly possible and free of anything that would make them undesirable. Many woman strive for this look and go through so much strain mentally and physically to achieve this look that media has created for women.
The next advertisement I chose is geared toward men. This advertisement is for Armani Jeans. Armani is also very well known for his designer jeans. Armani is more expensive than Calvin Klein and is not worn by many people. Armani is directed toward the upper class and is known by his label for his prices. This ad shows a man standing outside presumably in the snow. He is not such a popular model but he still has an impact for the advertisement. He is featured wearing a black jean-jacket and a baseball cap with "AJ" and the symbol of the Armani bird. The clothing this model is wearing is also very plain. The model has a very serious expression on his face. The whole picture is very bold and expressive. He looks very powerful and determined. His face has been shaven and his hair is apparently short. This is the look many male models have. His face seems very symmetrical and well defined. This advertisement is also achieving the same thing the Calvin Klein advertisement achieves. This achievement is creating an image for men in today's society by displaying an attractive man dressed in expensive clothing which makes him desirable. This look is what men are trying to achieve today. Men feel by achieving this look they will be desired and if they do not look or dress this way they will be worthless. To attain this look is as hard for men as it is for women. The cost of the clothing is very expensive and to have the clothing one must have the money for it.
The last advertisement I chose is for Sony products. This advertisement is focused mostly toward the American family today. The picture displays a family consisting of a mother, father, and two young children. They are all driving in the car and everyone is using an electronic device by Sony. The product which is advertised is Sony's mobile multimedia system. This system can be used to play video games, watch movies and television. It is equipped with headphones also. This advertisement shows that technology is progressing and will soon be essential for daily life. The one child is smiling at the camera, she looks very happy to be playing a video game with her brother. The mother and father are busy concentrating on their destination. This advertisement is very convincing. The car ride is made much easier for everyone in the family and everyone looks happy. Whoever supports this family whether it is the father alone or the mother and father together it is very expensive to have such an arrangement as this one. Since this family has this arrangement it shows that the parents care about their family's comfort and pleasing their children with such entertainment. Not having this system in their car would mean that the parents did not care about the comfort of their family and therefore everyone would suffer a boring ride to wherever they were going. The message this advertisement suggests is that if you care for your family install this product in your car. Without this product your family would not be moving with the changes and advancements of today. This advertisement is harsh on the supporter or supporters of families. It makes the provider feel that if they do not have this product they are depriving their family of something important.
There are many different images media can portray to society. Every image has the same purpose, which is to sell the merchandise. Pulling people into these images creates sales. Another perspective on narcissism is expressed by a woman named Rebecca Piirto. She wrote an article titled, "The Romantic Sell." In this article she also points out an image media portrays which effects women mainly. Romance is a number one factor in the sales of many products made for women. Most of us would associate perfume, flowers, and chocolates as products women would enjoy. Piirto points out that a large percentage of women today are indulging themselves with products such as these. This has a lot to do with women working for themselves in today's society. Romance is very appealing to women and today women have the opportunity to indulge themselves in products which portray the image of romance. This image is becoming more attainable today. A woman does not have to wait for the man to indulge her in such items, today she can do it herself. Romance is just another portrayal of media today. Piirto's article describes this well. Although it is not exactly the same idea Douglas discusses it is very closely related. Being surrounded by romantic things for women is very enjoyable. Love for yourself should include being surrounded by beautiful things according to media today. Both Douglas and Piirto explain this idea clearly.
In conclusion it is evident that media is very powerful. This is discussed clearly in Douglas's essay. She is able to give her audience many examples of how media controls society. Many people are not aware of the control media has on them. Media portrays so many different images it almost disguises the fact that media is controlling society. There are too many different images portrayed that people naturally overlook the meaning behind the advertisement. If people recognized it they would agree that it does control our thoughts. All one needs to recognize the power of media is to be informed. Being informed on what media is doing will change many minds in today's society. People like Douglas are important contributors in informing people of the danger of media but it is a slower process compared to the quick process of media itself. Media is everywhere, literally. Everywhere we go whether it is the grocery store or shopping mall, images are portrayed by media and are automatically sending out messages to us. The power of media is growing and the only way to stop it is for individuals to realize what it does and not fall into it's trap. American culture should overcome their insecurities about their physical appearance and enhance their intellectual side and personalities. People today have forgotten this important fact which is what makes a real person. Personalities are what should be appealing to others not bodies and material objects. Media has controlled society to the point where many people could care less about their personality and worry more about their hair, in general. Society today has lost many values that make a person desirable. The media has created a "desirable" human being and it does not include anything about personality. This should tell society something and hopefully if enough people recognize this American culture can change for the better.
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