Exercise 4.1

In this exercise, we are asked to pick one of Dawn Woolley’s blog posts from her series Looking at Advertisements and to comment on it. I have chose No 16,  which is about this advert by L’Oréal. In her review of the advert, Woolley does not include a link to the original work, but paints a picture of the ideas and messages it portrays, and questions how the “selfie” has become such a fundamental part of our culture.

In the advert, which is short at 20 seconds, a young woman who is dressed to go out partying is initially shown in a football goal, failing to stop any of the many balls that are thrown at her at once. The caption “I may not be infallible…. but I am always selfie-ready” overlays it. The action then moves on to show how wearing this make-up makes the wearer selfie-ready for “up to 24 hours”, and we see her surrounded by selfie sticks, ready at a moment’s notice to take her own photo.

So where does one begin to unpack all this? Firstly, the colour scheme of an eye-hurtingly loud yellow appears to have no relevance to the advert, except perhaps to make one remember the colour. Then the footballs. Why the footballs and goal net? It is utterly ireelevant to the storyline. I could think of a hundred ways of portraying the idea of fallibility that are better than a woman in a party dress and stilletos.  It makes no sense at all. The action then moves on towards a fairly unremarkable explanation of how to apply the makeup, followed by the short, but admittedly quite funny, selfie-ready scene. The whole thing is accompanied by muzack, the intention of which seems to be to indicate that the woman is constantly in a hurry, and a man’s voice doing the voice-over.

There are two particular points of interest to me in the advert. The first is how much the selfie has become a part of our culture that it is considered to be a good vehicle for explaining the product. Everyone knows about selfies – they are ubiquitous and people do it all the time. I have posted previously about the selfie here and how it is a form of self brand promotion – how people want other people to see them. I’ve also asked my two step-daughters why they take selfies, and was told that they are a way of making them look their best to people who they are friends with. That may well be the case, but there is also something in there about wanting other people to see you, and about projecting a persona that might have little to do with who you really are. As an example, people who use dating sites usually moan about how nobody looks like their photos in real life. The posted photo is a combination of them at their best (even if it was 10 years ago) and what they think other people will find attractive. The truth is an inevitable disappointment.

Then there is the intrusion of the male viewpoint into the advert. The footballing reference and the voice-over. These produce a subtle message that looking beautiful is for them, not the woman concerned, and also that men expect women to be a) fully party ready at all times and b) ditsily taking selfies everywhere. There is no sense whatsoever about a woman being a strong individual who doesn’t need outside praise – the advert is all about looking for external approbation and a striving for perfection to please other people. I find the whole thing disgusting. Surely L’Oreal can do better than that!

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4 thoughts on “Exercise 4.1

  1. Kate

    Very interesting post, thank you! My tutor pointed me towards quite a few selfie references when I did the photobooth portraits for EYV A2 and I remain somewhat engaged. Did you ever see the internet meme complaining about women pouting on selfies? It was in the form of a “letter” along the lines of “Dear women, please don’t do the duckface pout, it doesn’t make you look good, yours sincerely, the men”. The thing is, there are many things wrong with selfies, not least the attitudes embodied in that ad which you discuss so well, but on the flip side women and girls have the opportunity to control how they portray themselves and the images that we put out there. I’m not sure that we always make the “best” choices, but it’s a thought that has stayed with me. Not least when I watched two “matching” teens taking dozens of selfies poolside last week, whilst my 9 year old and her new friend were gleefully throwing pool toys in the pool (a taste of things to come. Anyway, can I quote from my blog post, largely for the links:
    “Anne Burns The Carceral Net blog – selfie hating memes. https://thecarceralnet.wordpress.com/  I keep getting lost in this blog and forgetting to write about it. It’s a fascinating view on selfies and how they are viewed that keeps making me think. Anne Burns also has a thesis online https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6jKibz6KmhGZ1pxQi1IbEtacU0/view 
    “SELFIE CONTROL
    Online Discussion of Women’s Photographic Practices as
    a Gendered Form of Social Discipline”. Her writing has really made me reconsider selfies, especially as I read further into Angela McRobbie. It’s interesting that self-portraits as a genre seem to be more widely respected than self-portraits that are #tagged #selfie I was also intrigued by the emergence of the #girlfie hashtag on Instagram – these images, viewed as a whole, have a different feel to them to the equivalent #selfie images.”

    On the football side, I have been very taken by the poster on the side of our local Lidl. Not least because of the unusual reference to “girls and boys” rather than “boys and girls”. I’ll message it over as I can’t link a photo here.

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    1. Holly Woodward Post author

      PS I am off to do an art nude workshop this weekend with a male model. I am interested to know what it is like to view the other sex in the way that men routinely photograph women.

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