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The media uses the imagery system which forms the core of modern media to influence consumer’s emotions and behavior. The contemporary world operates in the realms of popular mainstream media where products and services representation is pervasive, manipulative and meant to influence the emotions and feelings of the end consumer. In doing so, the mainstream media disregarded all ethical and moral constructs of the society. The advertisement I chose is French Vogue, this advertisement highlights the ways in which mainstream media play on their targeted audiences insecurities in this case young girls and exploits young girls, fetishizing and romanticizing the link between sexuality and youth.
In this essay I will argue that, the media has undisputed power to construct, normalize and commodify identities of young girls through imagery representation, one prominent commodification of identity (sex and gender) is the adultifaction and sexualization of young girls in the media. By reflecting on my thesis, I will shed some light on the works of scholars such as Sut Jhally, Jessica Valenti, and Valerie- Barnes Lipscomb. Young girl’s innocence and youngness are sexualized to sell ads and by invoking an emotional response from a tech-savvy generation easily swayed by popular culture representations. The modern media uses imagery and commodification of identities including sex and gender to create persuasive and manipulative ads preying on vulnerable consumer emotions and feelings.
The media has gone rogue and betrayed the traditional ethical and moral foundations of a responsible information source. Contemporary media is guided by a sole mission to make profit by altering all social structures and institutions. Jhally (2003) states “the marketplace (and its major ideological tool, advertising)” is the major structuring institution of the contemporary consumer society. In this case, a young female body has been sexualized, and standards of consent pushed to those of an adult. French Vogue has a clear purpose and target for the manipulative ad. Young people form the largest population in most economies. Therefore, they are the largest consumer group of various services and products including fashion products. Second, children and young people are citizens of the ‘digital generation’ with unprecedented exposure and access to all types of information including advertisements. The contemporary media and advertisers have found ways to use this information to engage the vulnerable generation visually. However, in the marketing scheme young girls who are minors from a legal perspective are treated as adults. Legally, a minor must be protected from any form of manipulation until she attains the legal age to give valid consent. In this case, the minor’s informed consent are waved as seen in the adultification of a young girl’s body by the French vogue and other advertisers. The media is selling a ‘dream’ or an illusion to the target market using a minor woman gender and body. In the image above, her gender (female) and attractive physical build being a young woman are treated as an ‘object’ or a tool to target the audience.
Sexualization of the woman’s body and in this case minor young girls is an issue prevalent in society consumer that has allowed the media to influence institutions, values, norms and accepted standards. Jhally (2003) points out that representation involving a sexual figure are prominent. He further states that “the visuals are chosen for their ability.” To illustrate ‘Sex sells’ and the media will not spare any ethical concerns to actualize products and services even if it means treating a woman’s body as an object. Here the young girl’s body is treated as a sex object to sell a product or service to eager consumers who overlook the representation bias or cannot decode the manipulative psychology in the ad. The statement is true based on the image above of a young girl in expensive designer outfits with a golden color. The imagery is sexual including the shoes, dress, golden chains, pose and exposed body parts. Her make-up is also artificial giving her an impression the average young woman cannot naturally acquire. The sexualized image attracts the needed attention and invokes targeted emotions and feelings positive to the advertisers and brands. The ethics of such ads, in this case, is a secondary and unimportant matter despite sexualization and objectification of a woman’s body being demeaning to women.
In Jessica Valenti essay “The Cult of Virginity”, she discusses in depth about societies’ definition of virginity. She claims that female body is continuously being exploited and virginity has become a commodity. She says that society is not only idolizes the virginity as morality model, but is also converting this admiration into the buying, selling and ownership thereof. I think this statement of her is in support with my argument that this innocence and purity of young girl has been exploited and has a price tag now, a business in mainstream media through advertisement. What the media doesn’t realize is that it is making young girls more insecure in their own skin, making them feel like they must abide by these societal standards in order to be accepted. Due to this more and more girls are becoming less confident in their true selves, and instigating health issues such as anxiety and depression. As the model in this French Vogue advertisement is not only selling the product but also selling her physical and moral innocence as a product due to the societal prospects, an illusionary image being reinforced and interpreted to the intended audience. In an interview titled “We need a Theoretical Base” Valerie Lipscomb discusses that once people are older, and doesn’t have their youthful looks anymore that’s when they realize the privilege of youth reflecting as a societal ideal paralleling to success. She also discourses the idea that as age manifest it produces an internalized physical disgust similar to the hatred many relegated identities have also experienced. It postulates that this disgust is forced onto marginalized people so that the others will naturally be physically disgusted by them. Lipscomb postulates that the revulsion for marginalized people is parallel to the revulsion of physical body (Lipscomb). In my opinion this discussion by Lipscomb sheds immense light on my media analysis, in the sense that the intended audience for the advertisement discussed in this analysis is young girls and not older women. Hence, older women feel insecure, and they feel that they have aged due to which the sexuality that is found in young girls is no longer in them. These feelings of insecurity arise from stereotypes. However, they do not realize the fact that these young girls in media are being depicted as adults to give the illusion of maturity.
In conclusion, the media is involved in the construction, normalization, and commodification of identities to generate the needed emotional and behavior reactions from the targeted markets and audiences. Sex and gender are the primary identities in advertising deception. The media has realized the power of provoking imagery to invoke emotions and alter behavior. Young people or the target audience form a consumer society biased towards popular culture. To gain their attention advertisers have normalized use of a woman’s body (as a female) and sex as a ‘bait’ to target a particular market segment. Ads are intelligently designed to capture a consumer dream and create an illusion of satisfaction to be gained using powerful sexualized imagery. Sex and gender are just ‘baits’ in a bigger picture of deception with profits being the end game. Young girls physical attractiveness and sex are objectified and used to market products to vulnerable and ignorant consumers who overlook the deception and overall impact on women.
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