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Thread: Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful: A Commercial In Context

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    Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful: A Commercial In Context

    Here are some quotes from a pretty interesting read I read about what goes on in the TV…

    Commercials repeatedly imply that products can connect us with almost any conceivable value. Watching them, you might conclude that virtually any desirable state of being can be attained, if only you purchase the right products. The seemingly innocent M&M commercial, for example, is structured to imply that M&Ms bring families together. The commercial implies that the ideal--family togetherness--comes to us by means of the power of the product.

    Commercials of this kind employ a common rhetorical method: Present an ideal; convince your audience they need it but do not have it; convince them that you have the secret for moving from where they are to the desired state; tell them what to do next. This structure has frequently been used in sermons, especially at the revival meetings of my youth, where it appeared in this form: There is a God and heaven. Due to Adam's fall and your own failings, you are separate, a sinner. Christ is the only link between you and God. Embrace Christ and you will enter the desired state of being saved. Refuse Christ and you will not only remain a sinner in this life, after death you will live forever in damnation. Now, since you clearly don't want to burn in Hell forever, come down to the prayer rail and be saved. (See Table 1.)

    In both cases, the method of presentation is designed to emphasize the importance of the mediator and the powerlessness of the listener. In both sermon and commercial, viewers are led to feel that they lack something, they are cut off from an ideal state of being which they can attain only through a mediator. Jhally (1987, 171) uses the term "fetishism" to describe consumer products in the same series of relationships: a desired state, a separation, a magical object that connects you, and a ritual for evoking that magic. In advertising, the product serves as mediator between us and the image of beauty--or other desired states of being. The product symbolically becomes the savior, the mediator, the fetish, the efficacy that promises to save us from the ordinary and elevate us to the company of those perfect beings whose images grace so many advertisements.



    The supernormal images of perfection presented on the media (such as a photograph of Cheryl Tiegs) are worth some thought, because any kind of guiding image has a double nature. One the one hand, idealized images can uplift and give direction. In the pursuit of the unattainable, people attain great things. The uplifting ideal may be to love like Jesus, to manifest the compassion of the Buddha, to show the wisdom of a beloved Rabbi, to be the fastest runner in history, to raise a happy family, to look like Jane Fonda at 45, to live a balanced life, to bring about world peace, to end hunger, and so on. Even if you try but fail to attain such ideals, you can remain pointed in the right direction and ennobled by the effort. We belong to a culture guided by unattainable ideals: liberty, equality, happiness. Noble failure while pursuing great ideals is central to our striving, romantic spirit. For Americans, the hyperreal has often been merely a way of pointing us toward a future that has exceeded science fiction's wildest dreams.

    But idealized images are uplifting only when there is some way to move from where you are in the direction of the values implicit in the image. If there is nothing to connect you with the image, so that the ideal seems unattainable, you can feel cut off from it. If the ideal is important and the gap formidable, an unbridgeable gap may seem to loom before you. Instead of inspiring you to cross that gap, the separate, unattainable ideal begins to mock you and becomes a torment. In the worse case, you can become obsessed by an ideal, yet feel you have absolutely no means of moving from where you are to it, or even toward it. You can become stuck, powerless to move toward what you most desire.

    By using idealized images that have no connection with the product, commercials may be promoting, not the joining of the viewer and the ideal, but just such a separation. Through certain strategies in commercials, we are led to desire various states of mind, yet we are misled in the means for achieving them. By depicting highly-valued states of being, yet offering no avenue to those states except consumer products, commercials make us the cognitive equivalent of sinners: cut off from the ideals we aspire to and mocked by the mediators that promise to take us to that heaven implied by television images. In showing us what to aspire to, but providing us means that will surely fail, advertising has given us a formula for despair.



    From a variety perspectives, different writers have concluded that advertising is the consumer culture's version of mythology. Such is the theme of Leymore's book, Hidden Myth:

    "No society exists without some form of myth. Once this is realized, it is not very surprising that a society which is based on the economy of mass production and mass consumption will evolve its own myth in the form of the commercial. Like myth it touches upon every facet of life, and as a myth it makes use of the fabulous in its application to the mundane." (156)

    The sociologist Peter Berger, not quick to embrace the structuralist approach of Leymore, defines myth as "a conception of reality that posits the ongoing penetration of the world of everyday experience by sacred forces" (1967, 110). A few hours' worth of television will show you "sacred forces" at work transforming people and products, working magic, causing cats to sing, rescuing victims from halitosis, body odor, and other fates worth than death--all on commercials which are strong candidates to meet Berger's definition of myth.

    In order to understand why the makers of a commercial would want to evoke hate and envy, we must recall a central function of myths. In his book comparing Piaget and Levi-Strauss, Howard Gardner wrote:

    "Myths are designed to deal with problems of human existence which seem insoluble; they embody and express such dilemmas in a coherently structured form, and so serve to render them intelligible. Through their structural similarity to given 'real world' situations, myths establish a point of repose or equilibrium at which men can come to grips with the crucial components of the problem, and become aware of the 'fix' they are in. Thus, a myth is both intellectually satisfying and socially solidifying." (148)

    A sharp summary of this view comes from Jonathan Price, at the end of his anecdotal study, The Best Thing on TV: Commercials:

    "Myths [and commercials] also help us express and control in a safe way, impulses that could potentially tear our society apart.... They arouse our deepest impulses toward sex, violence, and faith, and they express these instincts while at the same time keeping that expression aesthetic, rather than physical, thus saving our society from the potential chaos of orgies and massacre." (158, 162)



    Conrad (1982, 117), Jhally (1987, 197, 203), Williamson (1978, 12) and others have plainly labelled advertising a form of religion. Jhally cites a marvelous passage from drama critic Martin Esslin:

    "The TV commercial, exactly as the oldest known types of theater, is essentially a religious form of drama which shows us human beings as living in a world controlled by a multitude of powerful forces that shape our lives.... The moral universe...is dominated by a sheer numberless pantheon of numberless forces, which literally reside in every article of use or consumption, in every institution of daily life. If the winds and waters, the trees and brooks of ancient Greece were inhabited by a vast host of nymphs, dryads, satyrs, and other local and specific deities, so is the universe of the TV commercial. The polytheism that confronts us here is thus a fairly primitive one, closely akin to animistic and fetishistic beliefs...We may not be conscious of it, but this is the religion by which most of us actually live, whatever our more consciously and explicitly held beliefs and religious persuasions may be. This is the actual religion that is being absorbed by our children almost from the day of their birth." (Esslin, 1976, 271)


    Could we be producing a generation that distrusts ideals altogether, because the most powerful, forceful, convincing presentations of those ideals occur on TV commercials--where the ideals are prostituted in the service of sales? Are we creating a disillusioned generation? A generation that will have difficulty not hating beauty of the kind used to manipulate and disappoint them in advertising? And will they also hate being delicately overpowered by real beauty when they encounter it in the world? After being nibbled to death by little broken promises, will people continue to be able to hope, have faith, set goals, and believe in something beyond themselves?

    http://www.longleaf.net/ggrow/Hate/H...ml#anchor65476
    Later,
    -Lyfing

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    I agree TV & commercials can be quite disturbing & most definitely cause some individuals a warped sense. :

    I personally don't think I have ever took any of it to seriously, but my husband does sometimes...

    He will complain about something I am watching,...eyes: stating ..."Joo" & such, or it will go like...."she is a Joo, he is a Joo, :p yea he gets annoyed.
    So, thats one perspective. While mine is more laid back, I will always tell him..." I know she's a Joo & I know he is a Negro, but I am just watching it!" :p
    For me its just entertainment, it doesn't get under my skin much because I take it lightly & definitely don't fall into letting it brain wash me ...eyes: (like they want it to).

    Commercials are usually to lame for me, every now & then I will see a cute one!
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    I think what they were talking about in the read is something along the lines of commercials offering a product that (is supposed to )delivers an ideal. Like the "slim fast" commercial I just heard..they have some slim chick running around smiling ( I suppose I'm just making it up ) sucking down some non-fat chocolate milk with vitamins in it as if it's gonna get one skinny..and to top that off as if being skinny is gonna make you smile.. and solve all your problems..when it ain't and really is gonna just cause despair and as whoever wrote it said..

    After being nibbled to death by little broken promises, will people continue to be able to hope, have faith, set goals, and believe in something beyond themselves?


    Later,
    -Lyfing

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    If what the author says is true, about commercials taking the place of other myths, then it would seem that this is an element of human nature that is going to be present in some form or another no matter what happens-just that no church or ideology holds the monopoly they once held. Perhaps this explains why religious and ideological fanatics hate capitalism, as they wish to maintain their monopoly on the popular mythology.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwordOfTheVistula View Post
    -just that no church or ideology holds the monopoly they once held. Perhaps this explains why religious and ideological fanatics hate capitalism, as they wish to maintain their monopoly on the popular mythology.
    Reminds me of Jesus flipping over the tables of money in the temple..

    ..didn't he say something like "render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's and unto God what is God's"

    ..and "when in Rome do as the Romans do"

    .."give away all that you own and follow me"

    Maybe you are correct..it was definitely a topic of that fellow..

    Quote Originally Posted by SwordOfTheVistula View Post
    If what the author says is true, about commercials taking the place of other myths, then it would seem that this is an element of human nature that is going to be present in some form or another no matter what happens-
    Yeah, we will always respond to myths. I hate to think commercials which offer unattainable idealic states through obtainable products is how pathetic it has gotten. What happened to "the journey is all that matters"..??

    Even if you try but fail to attain such ideals, you can remain pointed in the right direction and ennobled by the effort.
    Later,
    -Lyfing

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwordOfTheVistula View Post
    If what the author says is true, about commercials taking the place of other myths, then it would seem that this is an element of human nature that is going to be present in some form or another no matter what happens-just that no church or ideology holds the monopoly they once held. Perhaps this explains why religious and ideological fanatics hate capitalism, as they wish to maintain their monopoly on the popular mythology.
    I don't blame television. It's just technology of a kind. But with television, I think it's safe to say that people in general have become less inclined to tell each other stories, talk tentatively and meet people face to face. Because we now have the means of taking a variety of programmes with ready-to-hear fairy tales right in our living room, people become lazy - cognitively lazy.

    It doesn't matter that many of the stories are void of any deeper meaning, because the path of least resistance is so seductive. Only great minds have the power to resist that path.
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