Media culture studies: looking at the affects of advertising aimed at men and masculinity – identity products

The product uses the media to carry a message. The message catches the eye and sells to the ambitious reader, subsequently making money. Society compels man to concentrate not on what they are, but on how much they consume and what they wear.

The adverts for Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana are both ultimately appealing to a male audience. The images do not invite sex but intend people to buy the product and get to be the man. Both the males are looking directly at the camera, thus feel very proud about their appearance. They are confident, have immaculate skin, good body tone and relaxed posture.

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Men follow the social construct of masculinity, behaviors and beliefs. When the social values at the time changes, men are forced to follow and acclimatise their identities to the social trend.

The Chanel Allure Ad has very little association with what the perfume smells like and fails to attempt to explain – instead it shows you the mystic beauty that will successfully prevail.

Vestergaard T said: “One of the assumptions underlying their strategic work is that advertisements should work on each reader’s need for an identity, on the individual’s need to expose himself/herself to lifestyles and values which confirm the validity of his/her own lifestyle and values, thereby making sense of the world and his/her place in it. What we are faced with here is a signification process whereby a certain commodity is made the expression of a certain content (the lifestyle and values).” (1985, 73).

Man has found himself trapped in the glorified position he has placed himself in, having the need to follow the life style built by a system of values developed by advertising. This is a man made from which he consumes, not which he is naturally but superficially. A lot of pressure is caused by the consumer ideals on both men and women. Consumer culture has placed the products in a dominant position, leaving a race for power between males and objects of what they should be. Thus, men who have to define themselves with a material world. The capitalist market for selling material goods such as perfumes fail to take into consideration the emotional value of humans, therefore reduces the male responding to the advert to the simple value of the consumer product. But through adverts such as these, it is the only clear way to get from point A: who you are, to point B: the desirable.

The theory of Laura Mulvey and the ‘less than’ neutral gender narratives in films and Ads is not far different to the objectification of the men placed in these pictures for cologne. Just as women are placed in the objectification role, men are also placed there purely for a pleasure to be looked at role, firstly in a heterosexual way but also as a man in a power position. As she states that the whole narrative is about sexual orientation and self identity, thus if a man is looking at a women for being attractive, he is also looking at the man who gets the girl in envy, consequently wanting to be man by objectifying themselves in that way.

It is possible to disagree with Mulveys theory as men are also seen in provocative stances but do agree that most of the audiences are treated as male. The expectations of beauty built by the camera create the overall expectation of man societally. This time the male is in a sexual pose, ready to reveal him self by taking down the Calvin Klein underwear. The strong and well toned figure is outside the normal and not truly representing the everyday guy, an example of how ideology is trying to legitimize a current order of thinking that is not natural: the world does not work like that without an institution creating the new found concepts of masculinity.

The representation of the message is very persuasive; the media bring together the product with the audience in a provocative way. This forces anyone who ‘gazes’ at the image to feel the need to replace themselves with the handsome model and the aesthetic outcome. They are conditioned to place more thought into the ‘cut of their shirt’ than their personal characteristics.

Modern times have developed many ideals. The cultural society of the individual male has transformed through influence to a degree that they now have an inability to think for themselves: instead they look to the latest trends and fashions for inspiration, which consequently will then govern their appearance with the constant search for the new look.

Exterior look of the men in the adverts are the prototype of masculinity.

In a post modern society, the ideology of advertising is a dominant force as that’s how consumer culture tells men what to be. A distortion of misrepresented ideas that is projected from the other group or ruling class in this capitalist society, allows the images in advertising to be seen by the male as the way things are – resulting in the constant revolving door of conformism in the hegemonic dominant class structure set out by Antonio Gramsci.

The conformist comes from a relaxed acceptance, so we lose the true meaning by allowing the path of less thinking, more enjoying. By this they can fit into society more and find some happiness from this third rate escapism. This is highly due to the false consciousness and naivety that is created by feeling more accomplished by them selves because they have met the status quo set out by the culture of mainstream life.

Walton D, spoke about hegemony in Gramscis theory, he said: ”The bourgeoisie establish industrial capitalism as the basis of there social, economical and political power which necessitates the subordination of the working class (the proletariat) whose economic inferiority and belief in the system is vital to the maintenance of the high profits necessary to maintain the capitalists way of life.” (2008, p.91)

Therefore it could be said that; the agenda which sets the beliefs of the ‘inferior thinker’ is from the mouth of the elite (almost as propaganda), who is willing to sell this myth of pure beauty available in the male models. This ‘system’ is built from a variety of sources according to Louis Althusser in his view of Marx work, such as educational forms and cultural forms in the economic base like music and adverts through Ideological state apparatus of media.

Men need these fragrances: Karl Marx relevantly explained that organising ones life through commodities which the adverts are selling was called fetishism, the act of trading with forms of use-value and exchange-value. He details that something’s worth is [online]: ‘socially destroyed by the abstraction of commodities’. (Unknown 2006) The only contact that is human form is in exchange of property that is without communal interest – only self interest. The fetish of powers comes in the form of antisocial relations in a market place. Thus money for material goods after working (commodity also), are traded in this instance (but not solely) by males for the objects they determine of a higher value factor (the fragrances in the Ads). This is part of the smaller picture that builds an economy and eventually democracy.

Although this is an advert for women and bingo, this image depicts the new man. With a shift in nature and nurture, the new man has now partially filled the stereotypical role of a woman. The hard working farther figure has now become obsolete and through the shift in culture there is an acceptance for males to take the role that once was only portrayed by the female. Due to the absence of the respective stereotype the observed male has taken the role and broken the mold. The culture of a man trying to find his own identity through others is an arduous task and he will constantly seek self awareness, meanwhile finding temporary fulfillment. Having broken these boundaries, it is difficult for the male who has been associated with being strong and aggressive to have any opposing tendencies yet keep his identity in life without hearing his masculinity is at risk.

This image conflicts with the man trying to escape the confines of the box that is masculinity and ideals set by society … ”During the advert, Mr T, who played B.A. Baracus in the 1980s series The A-Team, pulls up in a large truck next to a speed walker and shouts: “Speed walking. I pity you fool. You are a disgrace to the man race. It’s time to run like a real man.” [online](Clout 2008)

A new man is someone who has changed from his society and environment with relaxed ideals. Speed walking (seen by hard man Mr T) is a feminine activity and adverts like this force men to revert back to the old ways of thinking and regain the classic you’re a man and should do what men do stereotype. This restrains the point of view in a very single minded way with activities for men needing to be hierarchically higher than women, bringing into contrast the changing face of the new woman in the 21st century.

Men can look at the advert in confidence knowing that if they are that man (not covered in Snickers but ‘manly’) then they have no need to be vulnerable or feeling projected as what a dominant society has defined as – less of a man.

So with the restraints that cultural ideology place on men (whether it is positive or negative) and the constant media cultivation of texts purveying in a persons life, it is no wonder that influence is a huge pressure on people today. Although as all people are different, in argument they can chose what level of cultivation they wish to be exposed to.

If only this image served as the archetype and we could copy this act – the regular man who sprays a gallon of deodorant and summons a thousand women. The man is not particularly masculine as this Ad wouldn’t work if he was. What is happening is; when the male sprays the Lynx deodorant he takes on all the attributes of the desirable, attractive, strong, self reliant etc. The new man can change back to the attractive masculine figure in an instant.

Yet some use common sense and stay out of it by avoiding hegemonic masculinity all together; being the most socially acceptable is slowly becoming less prevalent.

One believes that a more respectful approach to the audience of promotional materials about the aesthetic affect of a product should be more appropriate, without having outlandish fantasies attached to them. We can prove the theories of Althussers wrong by resisting the Ad and not positioning ourselves as an identity similar to the message.