With: Dr. Strangelove

Class Notes Retrieved from July 6, 2011: 

The Fallacy of Semiotic Democracy:  The process of individuals collectively altering society by changing the meaning of cultural signs is known as “Semiotic Democracy.” The term was coined by media studies professor John Fiske in his 1987 book, Television Culture. In that book, Fiske noted that television treats its viewers as members of semiotic democracy capable of assigning their own meaning to images they see on the screen. In this interpretation, semiotic democracy is defined as engaging with, altering, and re-shaping cultural products. However, I find it quite difficult to assign my own meanings to many things shown through mass media since it is usually to the point.

  • Similar to porn, ads provide unreal perceptions of sexual life and use sex in order to sell. For example in the following Calvin Klein Jeans Ad:
  • Through mass media ads reproduce undemocratic system of social orders
  • Democracy is for all people regardless of their gender, class, civil status etc., however ads  portray and depict people who are elite and powerful sustaining the ‘good life’ while putting down those who do not hold that power. For example, an elder gentlemen who has a dozen of sexy young models around him because he drives a Corvette
  • Advertisements are a form of distorted communication, they distort our perceptions of what we consider needs in order to sell commodities
  • Ads enter consumer’s idea of what is actually needed in their daily lives
  • Ads create false ideologies which make people think they need something even if they do not in order to provide profits for corporations, companies and economy
  • Ads manage consumer demands which is very undemocratic
  • In the last century a consumer society has been created and transitioned from an Industrial society…new forms of popular entertainment, new vehicles of mass communication, and new consumer products of immense popularity was born
  • Significant shift in consumerism due to factories, technology, mass production (hydro-electricity)…therefore, electricity, mass media and mass production changed consumerism overtime
  • Ads have created a ‘social symbolic’ usage of products by telling consumers they need to use these products in order to express their identity…’theory of dematerialization’
  • Ads promote products which convey meanings
  • Culture = patterned behaviours
  • Marketplace = cultured system and also a patterned system of meanings
  • Ads tell people in society what is in fashion, for example, the What’s hot and What’s not column in the In-style Magazine
  • People depend on the system how to communicate and construct oneself in a consumerism culture/society
  • Products mediate personal relationships
  • ‘commodities’ = the stuff, portrays who we are by the meanings given to these products
  • Ads sanction ideas and ‘delegitimize’ them (that which is not represented)            

In this class, we discussed, how Karl Marx provides a critique on capitalism by arguing how our values and needs are socially constructed. Marx’ critics argue that capitalism and the market place is considered a natural nature of men and women, and people should not interfere with the law of nature. However, Marx does not believe that capitalism is a law of nature in any form.

Ads create wrongful illusions and have been created from a very distracting industry by making people think they need something when realistically they do not.  Ads’  main goal is to maximize profits and direct society to buy into materialistic things and to think of them as necessities.

  • ‘System of need creation’ never has an end and it must never satisfy us. Capitalism will not provide contentment (full satisfaction).


  • The Planet cannot sustain global consumerism with hyper-consumerism
  • Capitalism manipulates by touching on real needs and linking them together with unrealistic needs
  • Social practices and values get us in the game of consumption
  • Significance is not only in ads but through products which we receive a certain meaning and that is what we carry from them
  • Meaning from corporate systems are constantly embedded

Class Notes Retrieved from June 29, 2011:

  • Feminism’s issue = the fine line between the objectification of women and a woman’s self’ sense of liberation…although there is a power given to women by objectifying their bodies, I wonder if this is really considered liberation for women.

 First of all this power is only given to those women who are similar to the women in ads who are objectified (skinny, hairless, tall, flawless and photoshopped) which means there are many women who lack this power and just because one can accomplish getting male gaze, I don’t feel that this constitutes as liberation for women. In my opinion, the liberation of women is giving women the right to vote or giving women equal status in employment   

  • Difference between porn (vicious male lust) and erotica (sensual lust), however, there needs to be an alternative on how sex is viewed
  • Can’t use the body in an utilitarian way
  • Based on the capitalist system, being a heterosexual is considered normal and disregards homosexual community
  • Capitalism reflects unrealistic ideals
  • Capitalism uses advertisements as a form of communication speaking to the rest of society and creates a world of unrealistic standards…in the capitalist world the body is disciplined but in reality this may not be the case…especially as an adult it is very difficult to discipline the body
  • Advertisements are dreams of capitalists manifest

We had a class discussion on what a world would be like if there were no advertisements. Based on how society is today, it would be difficult to live in this world without advertisements. Ads fund the entertainment industry which includes any athletic competing event such as the Olympics, television shows, radio shows, etc. Therefore, without advertisements there would be a chance of an economic collapse. One student mentioned that if there were no such thing as ads maybe there would be more truth in the market.  


  • Ads portray versions of falsity as well as truth, for example, by taking people’s passions and desires and using hairless and flawless people to re-enact these particular passions and desires
  • Ads have a tendency of playing out a more male version of passions and desires, creating women to be a subject to ‘male gaze’ For example, in the following Fisker Karma Ad:
  • Ads create a differentiation between genders which lead to a creation of a battle of the sexes
  • Women struggle with the policing of their bodies and keeping up with ads’ portrayals of ‘feminine bodies’
  • Ads create anxiety about people’s bodies and even worse it creates anxiety on the natural things about bodies for example, body smells, hair loss, excess hair, and especially the natural process of AGING

At the end of the day the way the marketplace speaks to us influence and shapes our identity, therefore, one can really question if this is not only a capitalist system we are living in but also a very undemocratic system. We have almost no say on our individuality. The power and influence of advertisements make it difficult for individuals to create their own uniqueness. It seems as though ads have created this certain type of normalcy that even though one may not agree with it there is a constant pressure of this expected shared normalcy. Since ads touch on almost all aspects of a person’s life such as lifestyle, relationships, body image, scent, etc., it makes it difficult for people to revolt and go against these ads especially when they provide products for our daily lives, which they have made us think we need. Ads can lower people’s self-esteem and confidence in order to sell it back to them with their products. Even if one were to say, “Well you have options and you don’t have to be a sell out to ads”, there would still be a pressure from society on those who stand out of the ‘normalcy’ box.

Class Notes Retrieved from June 27, 2011:

In this class, we briefly discussed the following guidelines for our Blog:

  • Post entries can be formatted informally (jot notes are acceptable)
  • Each entry must be 500 words minimum
  • On the blog there should be the following three pages: home, about, documentary
  • On the documentary page there should be a 3 minute video outlining the purpose of the blog

We also briefly discussed the following guidelines for our Video Research Documentary:

  • Video should be ten minutes in duration and three minutes of video should be footage from class
  • Out of the eight articles which will be read in this course there should be explicit reference at least five articles
  • Cite like how news cites, for example, Dr. Strangelove suggests…
  • Paraphrase instead of quoting exact quotes
  • Go ‘deeper than the obvious’, integrate psychological, sociological, feminist theories etc. of how advertising affects society
  • Create word slides and display them in the video three times
  • Simplify complex statements when citing
  • Make the introduction of the video with credits and 30 seconds long in duration
  • Don’t only take ‘static’ shots, take close-ups, different angles from the camera

Throughout the class we viewed prior CMN2173 students’ Video Research Documentaries. We went over a lot of what not to do when creating our Video Research Documentary. For example, do not point out the obvious, make sure to edit or at least watch the video you made before submitting it in as complete, and be sure to fit all your words on the screen that you may put in your video (do not cut off any words). Dr. Strangelove showed us a quick video he had made which was quite funny. In the video, Dr. Strangelove discusses about the magazine titled, The New Woman.

 The message the magazine is trying to advocate is how the idea of a woman has changed. The new woman this magazine is referring to is a woman who is independent, hairless and only has a one track mind which is finding a man and making sure to keep him. The point that Dr. Strangelove was trying to make was that although the magazine says it promotes women’s independence, it has very irrelevant ways of showing and defining an independent woman. For example, the magazine has ads promoting hair removal and how to get guys in order to possession them which in my opinion are more unnatural ways of being a woman instead of defining an independent woman especially if she needs to know how to find a man and keep him –where is the independence there? Also, the ads portrayed unrealistic body images of females who are promoting materialistic or ridiculous ways to being this new woman. Therefore, this idea of a new woman is just another way advertisements sneakily still somewhat relate to the consumer but still has control over the social construction in society.

The required reading for this class was the following article, ‘Advertising, Gender and Sex: What’s Wrong with a Little Objectification?’ In this article, it mentions how ads have become seen as normal regardless of the high amount of sexual content that is part of these ads. It is funny how people can be aware of the strangeness of ads yet still passes by them as if there is ‘normalcy’ in them. Some ads should even be considered a disgrace to women and to the point where we should not process the idea of normalcy in these ads. For example, ads which portray women being subordinate to men or even worse portraying them as infantile. For example, the woman in the following ad for the video game, Grand Theft Auto IV.

 Women are constantly used as objects to sell products but the biggest issue is how women are not only objectively used but in a highly unrealistic sexual manner to sell products. Ads are always portraying sexual availability: women’s pants half down and women always being ready for sex. The article discusses how ads do not mirror reality but instead wrap up our dreams/fantasies, resonate with people’s already obtained knowledge in order to sell it back to people.

Class Notes Retrieved from June 22, 2011:

  • The required reading assigned for this class was the following article, ‘Empowerment/Sexism: Figuring Female Sexual Agency in Contemporary Advertising.
  • Even though advertising today no longer portrays women as the passive and objectified victim, the new form of empowerment through the sexualisation of women`s body is even worse
  • According to the author of the article,  Rosalind Gill, women today are portrayed as active, independent and sexually wanting, and not seeking their worth through the male gaze but to please themselves at the same time appearing to attract men = `pseudo empowerment`
  • This so called empowerment is actually disadvantageous because women themselves inflict such male evaluated cultural ideals on themselves through their false sense of agency
  • According to Rosalind Gill, the objectification of women has become `pleasurable  and self-chosen` as their physicality becomes a commodity by advertisements to feed the male gaze
  • The new wave of natural beauty in advertising = falsely conveyed the idea that any woman looks that good especially naturally because ads fail to reveal the invisible (behind the scenes) work that makes them look that good. For example, actor, Megan Fox, in the following ad:
  • Behind the scenes there are many unnatural things that  create this natural beauty in ads such as air brushing, touch ups and digital manipulation
  • Unfortunately, there is really no true female empowerment to be found in advertisements since the women in the ads are not truly natural regardless what they are trying to portray
  • Women still undergo the same stereotypes and face commoditization and sexualisation
  • Therefore, when comparing to the ads in the past when women were more objectified and the new wave ads of today where women represent such an `empowerment` there really isn`t much difference other than the style of advertising, the woman is still be used in an unrealistic manner to fulfill the gain of profit (woman = commodity in the corporate world)
  • False representations of women in ads as well as social construction of gender in regards to the male gaze
  • Style and technique in ads changed in order to target women consumers
  • Ads reflect what is going on in the big picture – society but spice it up with individual`s wants, desires and dreams
  • In the article, it mentions of 3 common representations of women in contemporary ads which are:
  • (1) the young heterosexual desiring midriff

  • 2) the vengeful woman set on punishing her partner or ex for transgressions and

 (3) the hot lesbian who has another hot girlfriend

These stereotypical characters which are used in contemporary ads convey wrongful meanings of women to society. No gender should be characterized since it shoud be the individual that defines themselves. These ads limit beauty and concentrate on what is considered sexy and claim that women hold power through their looks…is that the only way women can feel empowerment and is this really empowerment? If I am desired should I feel like I have power and if I do is this the power I need to hold to liberate myself as a woman? Ads   only create this power for these characters in order to interest the public into buying their products. In my opinion, the power in these ads are illusionary and fake which to me is just another strategy on the market.

Class Notes Retrieved from June 20, 2011:

When I initially signed up for this course I knew it would be an interesting communication course for me. I enjoy observing advertisements and discussing the many ways their messages affect society. Advertisements are part of our everyday life. It would be difficult to ignore them even if we tried because they are shown everywhere. They invasively intrude into our lives while we watch our favourite shows whether through ads directly in the shows or the commercials in between the shows. We hear them while driving in our car and listening to the radio. We can see them in all public places such as on buses, schools, street poles, garbage cans, public washrooms and almost anywhere one can put an ad. However, the significant issue of advertisements in our lives is not the ridiculous amount of ads that surround us in our daily lives but the unrealistic content and messages they send out. For example, the following Dolce & Gabbana advertisement:

According to this course’s syllabus, I will explore the relationship between advertising and dominant patterns of perception, belief, and consumer behaviour. This course will also focus on the role of sex in advertising and the corporate control of perception within media culture. I find this particular focus quite interesting. By analysing the role of sex in advertising and how corporations have such power as to control our own personal perceptions goes to show just how powerful advertising is and how influential that the messages they convey are to the people of a society. For example, in the following Dolce & Gabbana ad, Madonna is used in a sexual manner to represent the domesticating of women and how women should be the main cleaners of the household:

 When in reality a mess is a mess and cleaning does not require a particular gender to get the job done. Therefore, it is critical that the messages being conveyed to society should be positive and realistic since they have such a powerful influence on people’s personal perceptions which are part of defining ourselves. Unfortunately, sex sells and advertisements do not lean towards advocating positivity but instead focus on profit gain. Corporations and companies create advertisements in order to promote and sell their products and they have mastered the idea of sex sells. Many corporations and companies use sex to sell their products regardless if there are negative messages which have negative effects on the people of a society.  According to the syllabus, the objectives of this course are the following: (1) to acquire insight into how the economic system produces the consumer, (2) to gain familiarity with the scholarly analysis of advertising, and (3) to develop and communicate a critical perspective on advertising. I believe by incorporating my personal ideas and opinions from observing advertisements with the material I will learn from this course I will be able to grasp an even greater critical perspective on the power of advertising. I learned that within this course I will have to create a blog and a Video Research Documentary. Since I have never made a blog till now or a Video Research Documentary, I feel this course will teach me a more technological way of expressing my thoughts, opinions and the information I will absorb from this course.