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For the American citizen, advertising is an everyday thing. It occurs on every channel after or before a suspenseful part in a movie or show or after an episode, in every store (this shouldn’t be surprising), in between songs on the radio, and even on the clothes made for the consumers. Advertising is becoming as common to the daily life of a person as breathing is. The very thought of being without advertising may even seem harm the human race, as it’s become such an important part of our society. But what may surprise people is the change that advertising has gone through, especially recently and especially involving males.

The definition of a man has become a living being, rather than a stone statue. This is because of many things, including advertising. What a man is has been implied by the occupational form of providing for his family; a man was clearly definable when he had to stake out his property and farm and till the land in order to protect and support his family. Nowadays, however, a man can do whatever he wants to support his family. And the set-in-stone image that once was a man has blurred a little.
For instance, look at the picture above. It doesn’t directly include a man. But the question “you mean a woman can open it?” implies that men usually have the brawn required to open such jars and bottles. It sticks to the underlying definition of what men once were. They were the muscle, the provider, the protector of the family. They were there to open the jars when his wife couldn’t. They were there to put the meat on the table and bring home the bacon. This image implies that in the implication that a man is muscle.

Now, this isn’t entirely true. Especially in today’s society. This advertisement was used in the 50’s. Much has changed since then. In the 50’s, Harry Truman was president, and he approved the production of the hydrogen bomb. He also gave the speech that was the kick-off of the transcontinental television. Dwight D. Eisenhower also became president. Rosa Parks refused her seat in this century. The first U.S. satellite to successfully orbit Earth, the Explorer I, was launched. And Hawaii and Alaska were added to the great nation we now know as the United States. Since then, much has changed. Apple computer has become a huge, massive industry (ironically, I’m typing this from my iPad), for example. So what once was cannot be said as the same for today.

The next image I have selected shows just how blurred the lines for what a man was and what a man now is. I want to say it’s a corset that the male is wearing, but I’m not entirely sure (women created the names “top,” “shirt,” and “blouse” so they could buy all three and end up with three shirts. What the heck is the difference between them?!?). But whatever this male is wearing, it isn’t normally considered to be something masculine to wear. It has, however, become considered by some to be appropriate to wear by men. But why do some men wear them?

As Susan Bordo points out, men have only recently began to think about physical appearance as women have always done. Men have only recently considered the fact that women can actually look at a male’s body and be disgusted. As I recently posted on Facebook, a woman will never be equal to a man until she can walk down the street with a beer gut and a bald head and still think she’s sexy. This is clearly meant to be humorous, but it has some truth. Men have never been the “fashionistas” that women have been. That is, men haven’t been the fashionistas until very recently. And maybe thats why a man would wear something like this: to appear more attractive because he cares about how women look at him.

Another example of a man in a corset (?) is from the movie Dr. Suess’s The Cat in the Hat. The male character, Larry, tells the mother that he’s going to a meeting. But instead, he goes to his house and sits down an arm chair and removes his dentures. He also releases the corset and lets his true stomach hang loose.

As advertising has changed, so has the stereotype of the male body. Most women in the culture we live in today is more attracted to the physically fit, buffed up body of one male than the leaner, smaller body of another male. The Calvin Klein ad below is a prime example. The advertisement isn’t prompting the heterosexual male consumer to look at the body of the model. But to the woman, the exaggerated, defined body of the male in the background screams for attention and physical touch. He becomes the main focus, whereas the actual product the advertisement is for is located in the bottom center of the picture. The entire purpose of advertising is to sell a product. But advertising has become more than the product.

The product of this image is questionable. Is Calvin Klein selling the man, or the cologne? Notice the placement of the two. The man may be in the background, sure, but his eyes are directly challenging the observer, the authority thereof, even the very manliness that makes the observer separate from the picture. His eyes challenge the partaker of this image to figure out who is actually observing who. They distract you from the actual product being sold, which is conveniently placed in a smaller, less outstanding manner at the bottom of the picture. Imagine a scenario in which this picture is placed, in a huge window display, on a busy street in downtown New York. The people walking by wouldn’t notice the small picture of the product. The male in this picture takes up too much space to not be noticed.

So if advertising isn’t about the product anymore, what is it about? Is it about the people that use the product? If a male uses the Calvin Klein cologne in the picture, will he be more attractive to women because they associate the cologne with the picture? Or is advertising now a form in which companies tell society what to wear and how to wear it, a form of propaganda that has slyly tricked us all? Or is advertising not the true deceiver? Is our own society the master of change, a change that affects advertising? Is the advertisement just a reflection of society and our culture? Can a true answer ever be obtained?

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5 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed the first draft of your essay, the pictures you chose were good and the descriptions you had about them equally great. You mentioned a good few examples about how women doing more of the things that men did and vice versa. Just fill it out a bit more and go into a little more detail on your photos and the questions you asked at the end. Good job!

  2. You did a really good job. You described the ads you had very well. I liked how you pointed out other ways society has changed other than just advertisment, but you have a fair amount of examples for the 50’s and only one for now so maybe add more to that. You brought out some really good points that Bordo had brought up and expanded on them. The way you end doesn’t really seem like your essay is over so look at that and see if you like the way you ended it. You did a good job. You point was clear to me and I liked what you brought up.

  3. You did a good job in the essay and I liked your description of the ads. I liked your ads from back then but I would recommend using some more ads from now too. You used good examples in your essay and did well with explaining through your essay. Overall I think that you did a good job with this essay.

  4. Tyler you are a really good writer. I like your essay a lot. It follows the quota very well! Your descriptions are really good. The way you described your pictures match them really well. I also liked the way you added your pictures into your essay. GOOD JOB!!!!

  5. I really enjoyed how you started your essay. It was creative that you used an ad that seemed slightly irrelevant (a woman and a ketchup bottle) and made it relevant. It was a good way to introduce how these ads represent more then they appear to at first. I also liked how you gave the background of what is expected for men and how that has changed (to where men can do whatever they want).


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