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This is just a draft. Clearly, it isn’t finished yet. I plan on making a conclusive and cohesive closing, as well as tying Bordo and Berger’s essays together. Your comments are always welcome!

 

 

 

“The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe” (Berger 141). John Berger and Susan Bordo both wrote about the way people view things in the world. Despite how long apart these pieces were written, they argue very similar points. Both look at the world and go in depth about how and why people look at art in society. They both are very specifically targeting. However, when breaking these pieces down into their very basic arguments, these essays are very different creatures.

Both of these writers were deeply concerned with the shift going on in society in their time. John Berger’s biggest concern was his definition of “mystification,” from Ways of Seeing. “Mystification has little to do with the vocabulary used. Mystification is the process of explaining away what might otherwise be evident” (Berger 146). Berger states, here, that mystification has nothing to do with words. It is merely the overuse of pictures in today’s society. With the ability to reproduce a picture so easily, the meaning of the picture becomes smeared, less legible. A picture only becomes worth something if a large sum of money is placed on it. On discussion of The Virgin and the Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist by Leanardo da Vinci, Berger points out something extremely important. He says, “A few years ago, it was known only to scholars. It became famous because an American wanted to buy it for two and a half million pounds. Now it hangs in a room by itself. The room is like a chapel. The drawing is behind bulletproof perspex. It has aquired a new kind of impressiveness. Not because of what it shows — not because of the meaning of its image. It has become impressive, mysterious, because of its market value” (151-2). This passage really becomes an important aspect of society. Here, Berger unlocks the true meaning of mystification. Those with money and power have the ability to mystify a painting. But even those with powerful sums of money cannot truly mystify a painting these days.

Because of the ability to reproduce images so easily in this world, an original painting means less than what it used to. This is Berger’s concern. An original used to be just that: an original, one-of-a-kind. Now the term is nothing more of an indication that “this painting was actually painted and it isn’t a picture or replica of some other original.” That shift that Berger noticed became very apparent to Susan Bordo. Nearly twenty five years later, Bordo noted a very similar shifting in society. Her publication titled The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Private and in Public includes a chapter called “Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body.” It’s from this piece that she conducts a very similar argument, with one key difference: instead of focusing on art, she focuses on males in advertising. However, her essay is a chilling recollection of Berger’s essay written in 1999. The shift in society she describes is directly related to the shift in society that Berger saw. She opens her excerpt with an interesting line: “Putting classical art to the side for a moment, the naked and near-naked female body became an object of mainstream consumption first in Playboy and its imitators, then in movies, and only then in fashion photographs. With the male body, the trajectory has been different” (189). She states right from the gate that she has seen the shift society has been taking. She goes on to state, about being on display, that, “Women may dread being surveyed harshly — being seen as too old, too fat, too flat-chested — but men are not supposed to enjoy being surveyed period. It’s feminine to be on display” (193). These are things she’s noticed shifting in society.

Bordo goes on to discuss Calvin Klein ads and how the controversy over them has lessoned significantly. “Inspired by Jockey’s success, in 1983 Calvin Klein put a forty-by-fifty-foot Bruce Weber photograph of Olympic pole vaulter Tom Hintinauss in Times Square, Hitinauss’s large penis clearly discernible through his briefs…The line of shorts ‘flew off the shelves’ at Bloomingdale’s and when Klein papered bus shelters in Manhattan with poster versions of the ad they were all stolen overnight” (199). Where Calvin Klein had recently experienced some uneasy tension with the public, he was returned, this time, with products being sold in large quantities. “It took a survey conducted by The Advocate to jolt corporate America awake about gay consumers. The survey, done between, 1977 and 1980, showed that 70 percent of it’s readers aged twenty to forty earned incomes well above the national median” (Bordo 201). It was at this point in society that American advertising started including the gay consumer in the picture as well as the heterosexual male.

Both Bordo and Berger noted the change they saw in society. But what may seem surprising to the readers of these pieces is the real cause of these changes. How pictures were used and by whom had a serious impact on this subject.

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6 Comments

  1. i think this is a very clear essay with a strong argument. To start you have a very clear thesis that definitively states your position. And you did a good job of incorporating both bordo and berger to back up your thesis. I think you have very good ideas flowing here and is a great start for this essay.

  2. You have a great start to your essay! Its argument is strong, to the point and easy to understand. You have both Berger and Bordos points from their essays to back you up and quotes from them as well. Keep expanding on this, great job and may the Force be with you!

  3. Your essay has good direction and it’s definitely almost there. I liked the quotes you used especially when you brought in the Virgin with the child, that painting was a good example of how money (sometimes) dictates what art is.
    I look forward to reading your completed essay.

  4. This is a really good start. You incorporate both essays very well and you make some really good connections between the two. You incorporate your quote/evidence very effortlessly. I think you have a really solid start, I can’t wait to see how it turns out 🙂

  5. This is a very strong start. You seem to have down Bordo and Berger pretty well because you are very clear and precise. Also your quotes support your essay very well. Nice job this is a well written essay.

  6. Sorry I know this is late. You should have your revision in already so this won’t be any help to you for that but I wanted to read through your original before reading the final to see that changes you made. This is a really good start. I’m excited to read your final and see how you tied everything together. Good job though.


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