Culture Jam

The Before 


The American Apparel Ad that I’ve chosen to analyze features a woman stretching on a couch. Her pose prominently features her butt, chest, and face. Her legs are parted slightly and her arms up behind her head. Right away, her body language says “I’m ready for sex; I’m ready to receive. I’m submissive to you, the viewer.” The flash lighting from the camera makes the image feel candid. Her facial expression looks unposed. There is a certain feeling of voyeurism- her whole body is turned away from us. She looks like she’s briefly looking over her shoulder, when she happens to see us, the viewer, looking at her. Her facial expression is ambiguous. She could have been stretching and looking over casually, or she could be intentionally trying to seduce the viewer.

These aspects of sexual availability, objectification, and voyeurism simultaneously give the viewer control, and make them feel inadequate. On the one hand, she is almost completely exposed, in an unnatural position. She’s vulnerable. On the other hand, though, she is the object of our desire. She is what the viewer is made to desire, and that desirability seems to come so effortlessly on her part. Her gaze could be interpreted as aware of our gaze. She’s aware that she’s attractive, that the viewer wants her, and thus that she is powerful. This contradictory dichotomy is the central component of women’s bodies being objectified to sell products. The sexuality they possess is powerful, but who are they ultimately performing for?

The answer is: straight men. Because of this ad, straight men will be lured into the shop by the insinuation that, if they do, women like her will be interested in them. Or else, straight women will be threatened by her, easily picturing their partners (or potential partners) being more attracted to this woman than them. Women who identify as lesbians will probably be affected similarly to straight men, yet they would also encounter the potential to feel inadequacy that straight women also feel.


The After


In my reworked Culture Jammed ad, I wanted to accentuate the anxieties that the original ad plays off of. I wrote one paragraph centered around the doubt and self consciousness that is aimed at women viewing the ad. In another paragraph, I prodded at the insecurities of the straight men/ anyone attracted to women. The ad has insisted this in the models pose, so I put in a dialogue that I felt occurred between the ad and each viewer.

In both paragraphs, I noted how cool and fun she looked. She’s not just pure looks, she’s something even more threatening: looks and an interesting personality. She’s wearing a headband and velour underwear. She isn’t a Victoria’s Secret model that’s blonde and stereotypically beautiful. This model is different- special- compounded on top of her beauty. That’s a further level of intimidation that she has in her power.

I added candles and a champagne bottle in the top left corner. I chose those objects because they are ambiguous, just like the models’ pose. She could have just been enjoying champagne with some friends and lit some candles. Or, she’s actively trying to seduce the viewer/ the viewer’s partner. The anxiety that comes from not knowing her true intentions is an aspect of this ad that creates considerable tension. I wanted to exaggerate the ad with even more suggestive imagery, but I also wanted to retain the “worryingly” ambiguous aspect of the original ad. Who can know her true intentions, but one thing is for certain: she is pretty-a special kind of pretty- and we, the viewer, are to bow down to her in the hopes that she will bow down to us.