Jacob McKay created this digital story in the Drake University J-term class SCS 153: Documentary Video Challenge: Digital Storytelling for Social Justice.
This short (3 min.) digital video story explores my location of self as an ethnographic researcher, an adoptee, and as a human. I draw on research I conducted in Seoul, Korea and in the U.S. about transnational adoption.
Students in Patton-Imani’s Introduction to Women’s Studies were sent on an intellectual scavenger hunt in which they had to explore, analyze, synthesize, and apply connections between knowledge, power, media images and narratives, and individual lives. Drawing on class discussions about Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, each group was asked to critically consider what we can learn about contemporary society from this narrative, focusing on one of the following: romantic love, beauty, masculinity, femininity. The blog posts below share some of their work. Please leave comments!
Masculinity is very prominent in TV commercials. Two examples of this are the Dr. Pepper Ten commercial and the Old Spice commercial. In the Dr. Pepper Ten commercial, in order to get men to buy their diet soda, they make it seem like it’s a really masculine thing to buy, or that the drink isn’t for women somehow. They even made a page for the drink on Facebook where they blocked any women from joining the group. Normally women are the ones who buy diet soda, but by doing this kind of advertisement, it gets men to buy into the “10 manly calories” and purchase the drink that they might not have otherwise. The Old Spice commercial shows the “ideal man” and that by buying the deodorant you can at least smell like the “ideal man”. The other aspect of the commercial is that when he talks, he’s directing it at the women even though the advertisement is trying to get men to buy it. He says things like “Look at your man, now back at me. Don’t you wish your man cou
ld smell like me? Etc” In a way this gets men to think that women desire this type of man, and in order to be like him, you first need to smell like him. These are the type of commercials that control the way men think, and get them to buy products that they may otherwise not buy, because they want to be seen as manly in order to attract the women.
When you hear the jingle, you hear the music in your head, but do you realize what you are actually watching? Every couple that Kay advertises is a same-race couple but it’s never an interracial couple. If you dig a little deeper, you can see that they play certain races’ commercials in certain areas more than others according to advertisingdirected.com. Also, does it ever strike you that they play out this “romantic love” concept by the simplicity of a kiss between a two people? It is so played out that if you end up with a couple of the same race as you and you buy them this ring, then it will automatically work out! I personally feel that there are a lot more trials you must face in order to be a happy couple that they so easily display in their commercials. I also believe that the couples that they choose are very stereotypical, in that they are always dressed the part of a middle-to-upper-middle class lifestyle; and then when you look at it from a socioeconomic standpoint the advertisers take out more than half of the American population. I think that what Kay Jewelers and so many other advertising campaigns do well is show the cookie cutter couple. When you have the cookie cutter couple, you take out interracial couples, poor couples, same sex couples and so much more. Although it is so easy to remember their little jingle, you have to ask yourself what end goal do they have in mind?
The Kay Jeweler’s advertisements our group found remind me of the White Privilege article by Peggy McIntosh. Towards the end of the article, she writes about heterosexual privilege. From all of the advertisements that our group found, none of them featured a homosexual couple. They all featured the stereotypical heterosexual couple. This creates a very biased view about romantic love and what it’s supposed to be. Advertisements are seen by millions of people, so only showing heterosexual couples establishes that as the norm. Everything else will be seen as abnormal. These advertisements can be particularly damaging to children who are still developing their own view of society. If we are trying to build toward a more accepting and diverse society, only showing heterosexual couples on these advertisements is doing everyone a disservice. Ending heterosexual privilege isn’t going to be an easy process, but by diversifying the types of couples featured in advertisements will help. If children begin seeing advertisements featuring homosexual couples, hopefully they will no longer see that as abnormal.
The images we see, the images built up and perpetuated by the media, help shape our perception of the world. These images can often work to disempower the lowest of the social strata, and can often have unintended consequences. Pauline, in The Bluest Eye, lapped up the fancy and happy world portrayed in movies. However, it worked to worsen her perception of her own life. Because she could not be “pretty” like Jean Harlow, who she imitated, and her family and marriage could not be the happy, relatively carefree life she admired, she gave up. She found it impossible to identify the beauty and positives in her life. Similarly, those who find themselves excluded in the media, or portrayed negatively, find it hard to accept themselves and their lives. Because mixed race or same sex couples are absent or often stigmatized, it promotes a lack of acceptance in society. Life becomes increasingly difficult for those breaking from “the norm.” More diverse and accepting images could help eliminate the narrow image of the “proper” and “normal” to better reflect reality. This would likely help broaden acceptance and alleviate some of the problems of self-hate plaguing society in this day and age.
I think it’s important that we look at this ad in a different way. When thinking specifically about wedding rings and the Kay commercials it is easy to forget that there are many forms of proposal across cultures and some cultures suggest that it’s a better idea to wait to kiss until after they’ve said their “I do’s” at the altar, or jump over the broom, or whatever other cultural norm they partake in at their wedding. In the piece “It’s Not an Oxymoron: The Search for an Arab Feminism” by Susan Muaddi Darraj, she makes a point of talking about the Arab rituals her and her husband went through in order to pay homage to the traditions her family practiced culturally. I think it’s important to remember that not all families, cultures, religions, sexualities will want to have a traditional Christian wedding that we’ve come to be so accustomed to in America. Even though I think it’s easy for Kay Jewelers to get their point across I think it’s important that as a jewelry company that they pay attention to the range in their demographic and how they will connect to their commercials. What kind of messages are they sending across cultures? Maybe not a good one.
Chelsea, Codie, Darshan, and Alex, Intro to Women’s Studies