Advertising has become a major part of our lives as we are swallowed into the consumer culture and believe that what we see is really true. Advertising is a large segment of popular culture because as Jean Kilbourne noted, we are exposed to over 3,000 advertisements per day, whether or not we are consciously aware of it. The ad I have chosen to analyze is a Diet Pepsi ad in a generally recent issue of People magazine. This ad caught my eye right away because I realized there were numerous underlying messages beneath the advertisement of the famous soda pop brand. There is representation of gender in my ad with the focus lying on women. The advertisement I chose presents that being skinny means being beautiful and being sexually exposed and available is what creates value as a woman in our world today. The ad takes on certain ideologies about women in that women are objects of pleasure and to be a beautiful and “ideal” woman is to be skinny, sexy, and revealing. In this paper I will analyze my ad on the underlying messages it presents.
Today the “ideal” woman is extremely skinny with flawless skin; open with her sexuality, and comfortable in her own body. The ad I analyzed reads, “the new skinny can,” regarding the new Diet Pepsi look. Even just by reading the text of the ad, we find the underlying message that in order to be sexy, we must be thin. There is an excessive amount of pressure placed on women to be accepted in our culture and to fit within the crowd. Women and men both want to feel a sense of belonging and to be respected for who they are. Unfortunately as we see in the ad, it is difficult to achieve without following the high expectations society has set and following along with what we see everyday in popular culture. While being thin is the “new” beautiful, as depicted in the ad, we find it then leads us analyzing women and their sexuality.
Women are depicted as being ready to engage in sexual activity and this ad enhances that idea. The woman is positioned so that her bare shoulder is open showing some skin and the ad cuts off right beneath her breast. She is comfortable with her sexuality and shows it by her body language and feminine figure. This ad gives women the idea that being comfortable and open with their sexuality will in turn make them feel secure about themselves given the attitude of the photo. However, I analyze this approach to give men the insight that women are just ready to be used for sex. The Pepsi can resembles a penis and the woman has her lips around the straw implying oral sex. This presents women to be incredibly sexual as well as being an object only good for one thing and that thing being sexual pleasure. Also apparent in the ad, women are depicted as objects because we don’t see the woman’s eyes as her hat covers them. The association that the ad is trying to make is that women are not significant in our culture enough to show the woman’s face in the advertisement. This type of popular culture causes friction in society and leads to sexual objectification of women, which can then show the way to oppression.
Being skinny, having flawless skin, and wearing nice clothing all seem to be significant factors in portraying beauty in the ad. The woman looks young in her mid 20’s rendering this is the age of beauty. Therefore, being young is what is seen as hip and sexy and what men want. This representation of gender makes the association that being a sexy woman means being a young, thin woman. Society pressures aged women to look younger if they want to be what is considered beautiful in this day and time. This piece of popular culture can cause detrimental effects in society, primarily to young girls. I think this ad contributes to the gendered problems of eating disorders, sexual victimization, and cosmetic surgery. The text in the ad gives the idea to readers that if you want to be sexy and appealing, you need to be skinny. This belief influences women to accumulate eating disorders because they are insecure with their bodies. Many ads contribute to depression because people generally compare themselves to the person in the picture and beat themselves up for not “fitting” to it. As a result, many women undergo plastic surgery in hopes of changing their appearance to match our cultures’ beauty expectations.
Reflecting on the advertisement, I feel I have been fairly conscious of the ideologies that underlie popular culture because I have always read into things and tried to find and understand the hidden messages and values. I am more exposed to popular culture because I am a model and to be successful in the industry, it is important to know what is expected of you and to know what is current in popular culture. Ideologies that models/women need to be skinny to portray beauty have affected me and I notice I compare myself to what I see in advertisements, movies, commercials, etc. In society, it is normal for women to judge their bodies but it is not healthy to constantly put yourself down for not going to the gym one day or for eating that entire plate of pasta. A prime example of this in my life was a photo-shoot that I had taken by an LA photographer and I noticed that when I got the images back they used Photoshop and made me look so skinny that my body didn’t even look proportionate. Seeing an image of yourself completely changed to better fit what’s considered “in,” can have negative affects in how you view yourself. From Sturken and Cartwright’s passage about ideology, they talked about how: “Ideology is manifested in widely shared social assumptions not only about the way things are but also the way things should be.” (Images, Power, and Politics P.23) In my personal modeling story, there was the social assumption that I needed to look overly skinny counting towards the way things “are” and “should” be in popular culture, but in fact that wasn’t the way things truly were when that image was taken.
Through analyzing the Diet Pepsi advertisement, I was able to break the piece of popular culture down and notice the underlying messages it represents. There were certain associations the ad was trying to make about women, even though it wasn’t bluntly shouting out the ideologies of what makes a beautiful woman and what “meaning” or “significance” women bring to society. Reflecting upon my ideas, I realized that the ideologies underlying popular culture have affected me in one way or another, especially with my experience in the modeling industry. Analyzing the ad challenged my thinking from my personally developed experiences and how these types of popular culture affect others on their intended messages. At present, advertising remains a strong influence of popular culture and has become a part of our daily lives both consciously and unconsciously.