Culture jam

Culture Jam: Stereotypes Promoted in Fragrance Advertising

The vintage 1987 to 1989 Animale fragrance advertisement features Kersti Bowser,  a young supermodel of the 1980s.  She was discovered while riding a  bus at the age of 16 (CIA, 2018).  Eventually she signed with Elite Model Management owned by John Casablanca who openly admitted to devoting his life to the “conquest, seduction and marketing of beautiful women” in an interview published in New York Magazine (Prince, 1988). The print advertisement used by Bloomingdales department store for the fragrance Animale covered two full pages.  Since the image’s resolution is poor it did not have a crisp appearance once enlarged.  Therefore I chose to use a better quality image that only features the upper body of the model for the culture jam assignment.

Original Image

In the original image a young black woman is featured naked, resting on her elbows while lying on her stomach.  This posture accentuates the arched curvature of her back while visually enhancing the fullness and roundness of her bottom. The appearance of her face and body have been altered with the application of makeup suggestive of  a tiger’s head and body.  The makeup and altered eye colour, suggestive of a tiger’s eyes, serve to intensify  her gaze.    The painted features on her face transition into her blown back hair  enhancing  the illusion the she is an animal.  Just as the perfume suggests. The bright green backdrop of the image enhances her eye colour, highlights the makeup on her face and body and draws the attention of the viewer to the outline of her body.  This makes her curves even more profound.  When I first saw this image I thought it was very artistic and creative.  Her beauty is striking.  I was drawn in by the exotic nature of the image.  But once I started to deconstruct the advertisement in the context of intersectional feminism I began to see several problem.like like

Analysis of The Problem 

The print ad has the name of the fragrance,  it’s creator and where it can be purchased. There is no explanation to provide the viewer with any explanation or meaning.  This allows the audience to interpret and ascribe meaning to the image they are confronted with.  The portrayal of the black model as a tiger, an African animal, is dehumanizing and racist.  It is too reminiscent of the Black stereotype that they are more like animals than humans, that they are less intelligent, more aggressive and even dangerous.  The other issue I have with this portrayal is the separation of the person or model from her body reducing her to an object or instrument for the purpose of promoting sexual fantasies.  This sexual and gender objectification is further encouraged through the use of  her sexually suggestive posture.

Additionally,  I interpret her posture and intense gaze to suggest that she is a feline hunting as she slinks around in search of her prey.  But this has more of a sexual connotation for me.  I view her nakedness as gender objectification,as it  suggests to me that it is her sexual appetite that needs to be satisfied promoting the stereotype of the hypersexual nature of black people.    I am reminded of the offensive and outdated expression “once you turn black, you never go back,” and how it serves to perpetuate the stereotypical notion of hyper sexuality.  This expression suggests that black people provide their intimate partners with the ultimate sexual experience and once you indulge, you will not want to turn away from it.  This is so disrespectful of the person.  For me, this is such a strong message of racism and sexism.

The visual effects of the green background contrasting against her darker skin tone serves to highlight the outline of her body and accentuates her curves drawing the viewer in so that they notice her nudity.  Her nudity in combination with her lying on the ground and her tiger likeness making her appearance to be exotic, all contribute to the perpetuation of sexual objectification, racism and sexism.

Finally, I wonder. Was the intended purpose of this add to promote a fragrance or was it to get men to believe that if their partner wore this fragrance, would they become a wild exotic animal?  For me, this ad encourages the wrong assumptions about beauty.  The assumption that beauty is perfectly smooth skin, a slender body and a youthful appearance without blemishes or wrinkles. The use of perfect looking models that are young, slim, and beautiful supports the establishment of unachievable norms.  Since these attributes are idealized, it carries the potential to  encourage ageism.  I believe these unachievable standards can lead to young and old women developing anxiety over their appearance, the development of eating disorders as they strive to achieve the impossible, and depression because they can never achieve this unrealistic standard established and promoted by the media.

Jammed Image

 Jammed Explanation

In the top caption, I chose to address the subliminal messages I see in this ad.   I believe this ad serves to reinforce the sexual, gender and racial stereotypes that exist in society. I wanted to clearly state what I believe to be happening on an implicit level.   To make sure the message is clear, I included the words exotic, objectified and sexualized to dispel any confusion since this particular ad uses the  concept of “sex sells” which leads to the degradation and stereotyping of women as objects of desire and sex symbols.

Finally, I find the original image to be implicitly suggestive of  ageism, sexism and racism.  So, I chose to put a warning label on the ad similar to the warnings seen on cigarette packages and alcohol to warn the viewer.  I chose to use a warning since the nature of such advertising is damaging to our mental, emotional and physical health.  Placing young women in ads promotes unattainable ideals of beauty in youthfulness.   Displaying women in sexually suggestive postures promotes sexism and creating the exotic by featuring a black woman with animal makeup  encourages the persistence of racism.

References

Prince, D.  Girl Crazy (1988) The New York Magazine. (p. 32-41).  Available from: https://books.google.ca/books id=VeUCAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Link to original advertisement: Here

CIA. Culinary Institute of America. (2018). Available from:  https://www.ciachef.edu/kersti-bowser/

Bonanos, Christopher. A Hard Look at the Original Modelizer. (2018) thecut.com. Available from: https://www.thecut.com/2018/02/a-hard-look-at-the-original-modelizer-john-casablancas.html