Victoria’s Secret not-so-secret Messages in Advertisements

As they take a walk through any mall in America, it is almost guaranteed shoppers will see one store in particular which exudes the color pink and is filled with mannequins dressed in women’s undergarments. They look up to see this store name they know all too well: Victoria’s Secret. Even if they avoid the store altogether, chances are customers will see posted advertisements along walls within the shopping center they are in. Those who aren’t even shopping, but instead are sitting down somewhere in the mall, flip through a magazine and come across an advertisement for that same company. The family member who even decided to stay home that day turns on the television only to see a Victoria’s Secret commercial appear. Clearly, the brand wants their audience’s attention, and with the advertisements they provide of seemingly perfect and flawlessly gorgeous women in minimal clothing, who wouldn’t be attracted to what they must be selling? However, most customers do not think twice about the images they view from Victoria’s Secret advertisements and the amount of damage which comes from the messages those ads are sending out to women, particularly young women, everywhere. Through use of queer theory and ideological criticism, the aspects which Victoria’s Secret promotions hide and push away from the public eye can be brought into view.

Queer criticism, or queer theory rather, looks directly at the established identity of a certain artifact and aims to focus on what that identity pushes out of view and why. More specifically, queer criticism examines the disidentification of the objects deliberately hidden in the background. With the use of queer criticism, advertisements by Victoria’s Secret can be analyzed to determine what objects or messages are slid to the side and out of the spotlight. Going along with queer criticism, ideological criticism identifies the ideograph being used in this spotlight. This criticism takes further look at what the ideograph represents and the consequences which arise from its use. Furthermore, it is necessary to look at the motive for the ideograph being used. Within Victoria’s Secret ads, one particular ideograph stands out the most to viewers everywhere.

This ideograph can be seen by looking first at one campaign made by the brand back in 2014, where a Victoria’s Secret advertisement displays models dressed in different versions of the company’s newly designed undergarments for women with the slogan “The Perfect ‘Body’” in all capital letters across the front of it. Although the initial intention of the ad may be to promote the new line of various types of bras which would be offered, deeper observation of this ideograph reveals a harsher message. The advertisement can be seen below.

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Taking one glance at this ad might be harmless, but with a simple connection the reader can easily infer that ‘the perfect body’ which Victoria’s Secret is talking about is the body shared by all eight of their models in this promotion. This idea of ‘the perfect body’ is the ideograph presented in many of their company ads throughout the years. That body includes a cinched in waist and toned stomach along with a very lean and slim figure. The image in this campaign makes the message evident that this body type is the one Victoria’s Secret believes to be the ideal, leaving little room for anything else in the picture. Through a queer criticism outlook, the ad also disidentifies the average female figure. Yet what is the motive behind this ideograph of ‘the perfect body’? Why implement it in this format at all? One large motive of this slogan is that in western cultures, sex sells. In other, more specific, words, the sexualized female body sells. No one wants to have sex with an imperfect female body, right? Well if that were truly the case, the human race would have been long gone by now. However, the sexualized, perfect female body is attractive to most prospective audiences, gaining the ad more views and more views equates to more customers, thus sales increase. With Victoria’s Secret and other multi-billion dollar companies, their promotions are simply meant to bring in more money. This explains the motive behind the ideograph ‘the perfect body’ which Victoria’s Secret implores; it’s just good business. On the other hand though, the brand did not anticipate the large negative feedback they would receive from audiences everywhere due to the ads underlying, inconsiderate theme.

By using the slogan ‘the perfect body’, the message pushes out any concept of a different body type which might exist as the norm. This has a massive impact on target audiences, such as young women, who view the ad. These young women see the image before them as something they need to strive to become and if they don’t achieve it, they’ll never truly be part of the exclusive Victoria’s Secret club. They’ll never see themselves as having ‘the perfect body’. As a result, the campaign received large amounts of backlash as audiences took huge offense to the hidden meaning in the ad. Viewers argued the promotion was sending out the wrong message and that all female bodies of different shapes and sizes should be considered acceptable. They all highly agreed Victoria’s Secret should not be allowed to define what the perfect version of the female body is. The company quickly changed the slogan to “A Body for Every Body”, but other brands were already responding to the campaign with ads of their own. One promotion from Dove in response portrays multiple women of all shapes and sizes with the words “The Perfect Real Body” across the front. Dove’s advertisement can be seen below.

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In addition to Dove, the brand known as Aerie also indirectly responded to the Victoria’s Secret ad with their new campaign #AerieREAL where real women are used as models along with their photos which have not been altered through retouching. A more recent ad placed by this campaign can be seen below with the slogan “The real you is sexy” posted in all capital letters, similar to the ad placed by Victoria’s Secret in 2014.

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Through the advertisements placed both by Dove and Aerie, they specifically aim to bring to light those body types which Victoria’s Secret directly avoids. Using a type of queer rhetoric, their promotions disrupt the normal ads of ‘perfect’ female bodies seen by Victoria’s Secret and other lingerie companies with their use of real, average female bodies. By doing so, Dove and Aerie create their own ideograph of ‘the real body is perfect’. Looking at this separate ideograph presented by both ads through a queer criticism lens, it’s easy to see this new ideograph pushes away the thought that any body could be imperfect. The only body disidentified with this new ideograph is perhaps one which has been photo shopped, such as those ever so ‘perfect’ photo shopped and retouched bodies of models Victoria’s Secret has in their ads.

Diving deeper into this message portrayed by Aerie’s slogan, “The real you is sexy”, an investigation into the Aerie website shows just how committed the company is to keeping it real when it comes to their models. Two screenshots are seen below, the left of Victoria’s Secret website, and the right being the Aerie website, with both selling push-up bras.

First examining the Victoria’s Secret web page, there is an immediate theme of the same ideograph ‘the perfect body’ which can be seen. All four of the models have very similar body types, seemingly flawless skin, and, interesting enough, perfect breasts. Moving over to the Aerie web page, all four models displayed have different body types, imperfect skin with freckles and scars, and actual, realistic breasts. Without the photo shop and retouching, Aerie gives their customers models they can relate to. They give them a more real representation of the female body as opposed to Victoria’s Secret models who, no offense, have make up a minority of female body types. Further analysis of images of models from the Victoria’s Secret website seen below convey, again, that same ‘perfect’ body type.

Another aspect of almost all Victoria’s Secret models seen in each figure so far is the fact that they all have long hair. Whether their hair is straight or curly, it seems as though it has to be long. One other feature the Victoria’s Secret models have in common are their ages. Unlike Victoria’s Secret, Aerie’s models for their #AerieREAL campaign, or movement rather, have a much larger age range along with varying lengths of hair. Two models from Aerie can be seen below.

The model on the right illustrates an older woman as the model who does not have the luscious, flowing locks like the Victoria’s Secret models do, but instead has incredibly short hair. The photo on the left shows a model for Aerie who has type I diabetes as clearly indicated by her insulin pump attached to her bra. Both of these pictures of models from Aerie demonstrate the inclusiveness the company is striving towards. In addition to these models, there are many more with disabilities, stretch marks, tattoos, and even down syndrome. All of these images reinforce the ideograph Aerie and other businesses are trying to catch fire with that ‘the real body is perfect’.

As shoppers scroll through the online Victoria’s Secret web page selling push-up bras, one aspect of the models they may not even notice is that a large majority of them are not smiling. Researching this web page, out of the forty four images of models shown, only two of them are smiling. These two images can be seen below.

Comparing this to the Aerie web page, twenty nine photos out of the first forty four seen are smiling. This is more than ten times the amount of models smiling within the Victoria’s Secret web page for selling push-up bras. In addition, both of the only two Victoria’s Secret models shown to be smiling are not looking at the camera. While Aerie’s models are also displayed not looking at the camera in certain images, the majority of their pictures have women smiling directly at the camera, comfortable in their own skin. With queer theory in mind, it’s important to consider what Victoria’s Secret pushes out of view as they only display the majority of their models on this web page not smiling. Perhaps hiding the smile allows for the face to stay conformed to that ‘perfect’ body type. When people smile, they create wrinkles and display their teeth which might not be up to that ‘perfect’ standard of being straight and having a pearly white glow to them. Going off of these thoughts, the message inferred from a lack of smiles in Victoria’s Secret model photos is simply that smiles are not sexy. This connects back to the sexualized female body from earlier which the company often tries to sell. Without a sexy aspect of a perfect smile, the brand may believe their products won’t do so well. An even stronger hidden message from this is that the company does not want their models to be themselves and smile, which tells audiences that maybe they shouldn’t be themselves either. This deconstruction of the ideograph of ‘the perfect body’ takes a larger look at harsh messages being slowly ingrained into the customers minds as they see these advertisements online.

Adding onto this point that the queer criticism looks at where the real version of the woman is pushed away from view, the Victoria’s Secret commercial advertisements on television severely sexualize the female body. Looking first at the Dream Angels Commercial of 2018, many frames portray the models as objects of desire and sexualize their bodies. In addition, almost all of the music being used in the background contains sexual themes such as the songs Rihanna’s “Wild Thoughts”, Ariana Grande’s “Into You”, and Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home” where lyrics state “when I’m with you, all I get is wild thoughts”, “a little less conversation and a little more touch my body”, and “I don’t need no explanation ‘cause baby, you’re the boss at home” respectively. Clearly, the female body is being sexualized within this commercial. The full commercial can be seen below.

Through the advertisement, the women do not speak once and towards the end of the commercial continually look at the camera with blank stares and sexualized bodies as the audience understands it is their body which is being sold, not the garments worn on it. Reviewing the commercial further, it can obviously be seen that all of the women within it have that same body type once again, disidentifying any other type which the viewer might think of. In complete contrast to this commercial, the 2018 Aerie commercial for their #AerieREAL campaign highlights the phrase, “Don’t change you. Change your bra!” The full commercial can be seen below.

Throughout the entirety of the advertisement, the audience hears the women taking part in it express their own thoughts and opinions. There are no frames with the female body being sexualized and the music throughout the commercial contains the lyric “I’m me”. Viewers get to see the real models and who they are as a person, not just their bodies. The message is clear that women should be happy to be who they are and female bodies should not need to be sexualized in order to sell a product.

Circling back to the criticisms at hand, the ideological side of the criticism identifies the ideograph to be ‘the perfect body’ where a one size body fits all in the Victoria’s Secret mindset. Looking at this through queer theory, the company is hiding away other body types from view, disidentifying them  In contrast, the ideograph from Aerie’s point of view, along with Dove, is ‘the real perfect body’ where inclusivity of all body types is the theme. Again now using queer theory, this other ideograph pushes out any bodies which are not real. Aerie disrupts the normativity of women’s undergarment advertising as shown by Victoria’s Secret through its use of real female models who’s bodies are not sexualized in photos or commercials. Aerie ultimately seeks to change the Victoria’s Secret message of “change your body to suit the bra” to “change the bra to suit your body”, promoting more body positivity among women and giving the female population a more realistic representation within lingerie advertising.

Proposal for Final Criticism Project

Subject of Criticism: what rhetorical discourse, event, institution, artifact, media…will you be exploring?

I will be exploring controversial television commercials.

 

Exigence: why? What drives you to do this?

I have always been fascinated by advertisements on television, especially those which are meant to capture their audience with thoughts that continue after the 30 to 60 second commercial. I find it intriguing to analyze the controversial ads created by companies and see how viewers react to them.

 

Purpose: what do you wish to achieve as a critic-activist?

As a critic-activist, I hope to bring certain controversial commercials into the spotlight for conversation. These might be advertisements containing racism, sexism, or other topics which most people would not normally affiliate with certain companies.

 

Theoretical frame and methodology: what critical methodologies will you use?

I am not entirely sure what critical methodology I will use yet as it depends on which commercials I decide to analyze. However, I will most likely be using forms of either Feminist Criticism or Ideological Criticism for this project.

A Queer Transition of the Normal Carl’s Jr. Commercial

Throughout the years, Carl’s Jr. has put out quite the mouthful of sexist commercials. As seen in the commercial below from 2005, Carl’s Jr. created an advertisement with Paris Hilton as the main character, or object rather, persuading the audience to buy their spicy barbecue six dollar burger. This commercial was certainly not the first by Carl’s Jr. to use the objectification of women to sell their ‘juicy’ food products. For over ten years, the fast food company has made short ads that might almost be considered a sex tape between a barely clothed woman and her Carl’s Jr. burger. During many of these promotions, the most common female actor chosen is a blonde with a small waist, flat stomach, and flawless legs, wearing little clothing, as can be observed in this commercial below with Paris Hilton.

Hilton is the main object of desire by the audience. Whether that audience be the heterosexual male, homosexual female, or another group, is unclear. The viewers may infer it applies mainly to the heterosexual male, but the commercial itself may relate to anyone who desires to see a sexualized female body. Since many of Carl’s Jr. advertisements follow a similar pattern such as this one, only one type of message has been inferred from the demonstration. This message is that sexualized women equate to a great burger.

 

In a much more recent development, Carl’s Jr.’s newest display of persuasion involves famous Instagram actress Celeste Barber. Barber is unlike the majority of Carl’s Jr. actresses with her darker brown hair, fuller figure, and overall more realistic appearance of a woman who would actually eat a Carl’s Jr. burger as opposed to a bikini model. Barber is certainly more clothed and covered than Hilton and brings humor with a parody of Hilton’s ad. The recent commercial with Celeste Barber can be seen below.

One take on this new Carl’s Jr. commercial is that it is an odd illustration of queer rhetoric. In this parody-like ad, Carl’s Jr. disrupts their normally female sexualized commercial. Instead of a bikini model and luxury vehicle, they use an average woman with a family station wagon. By doing so, the promotion takes the focus off of the female actress as the object of desire and throws all of it onto the burger and viewer. This becomes clearly evident in the ending statement of the commercial, “The delicious, charbroiled Famous Star from Carl’s Jr. where the food is the star and so are you”. Through this disidentification process, the commercial opens up a door for representing ‘normal’ women in its ads rather than the fantasized, sexualized version of a woman in the majority of Carl’s Jr. commercials. With this shift of focus, the fast food company also applies to a larger audience, that of the heterosexual woman who, before this recent ad, would usually find Carl’s Jr. commercials to be sexist addresses to those attracted to scandalously clad women.

 

Looking at the new promotion from the queer perspective, as it tears down its many previous sexualized ads, Carl’s Jr. now provides a new image with an alternative view. This new commercial offers a different perspective of women in advertising, making progress to more realistic female representation. The ad also presents a new type of message which the audience receives. This new message is that a normal person, especially a normal woman, can equate to a great burger and no one needs to be sexualized in order to enjoy a Carl’s Jr. burger. Although the commercial is still a parody, this does not take away from the fact that it challenges its normal sexualized version of women.

Happy Endings, the Disney Ideology

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Unlike other criticisms, ideological criticism does not just look at cause and effect, it looks at hidden motive and underlying motive. Through tracing ideographs, we can review the contexts of meanings within artifacts to determine the consequences the artifact has, as well as its hidden motive. One ideograph which comes to mind for this method is the idea of happy endings found in the vast majority of Disney movies. Thinking back on the childhoods of every single person I know, including myself, there is not one incidence I can remember where any of them has not watched at least one Disney movie in their lifetime. Whether it was animated or involved real actors, each film from the Disney franchise had something in common: a happy ending. However, with such a message as, “and they lived happily ever after”, consequences need to be addressed from this theme. These include the affect it has had on the socialization of children who have grown up in a world full of Disney as well as the hidden motive for why Disney continues to implement this core element in its films.

Everyone enjoys a happy movie in general and this includes those made by Disney. While it may seem that the difference is other non-Disney films involve sad scenes, Disney is actually no exception to this rule. In the Disney film Cinderella, the story begins when the main character, Cinderella, is orphaned at a young age and destined to live with an evil step-mother and step-sisters. More recently in the Disney movie Up, the main character, Carl Fredricksen, loses his beloved wife Ellie within the first twenty minutes of the film when she passes away, leaving many viewers in tears after watching their love story begin and end in such a short time frame. However, despite films such as Cinderella and Up containing sorrowful back stories, they still continue to illustrate the well-known Disney happy ending. Carl Fredricksen, now an elderly man at the conclusion of the film, ends up dedicating the remainder of his days to looking after a young boy named Russell who, throughout the movie, audiences come to understand has been neglected by his parents. Cinderella also gains her happy ending when she leaves her evil step-mother and step-sisters to marry a prince and live, we presume, a long and happy life. Yet what happens after Cinderella says “I Do”? What happens when Carl Fredricksen passes away, leaving Russell alone again? These are the questions Disney fails to answer.

Looking further into these happy endings, it is necessary to address the affect they have on the children watching them. With the film Cinderella, young girls are taught to believe that all their problems vanish once they get married, avoiding the fact that marriages are not perfect as well as placing pressure on men to solve women’s problems. In the movie Up, while children become acquainted with the idea of death by Ellie’s passing in the beginning, they are unable to see the growth of Russell through young adulthood and how he, the character children can relate to most, deals with the eventual passing of Carl Fredricksen. This may lead those young audience members to think that death is not something that will affect them at a young age and it is not something they need to worry about until they are older. Both endings also push away large ideas of sad emotions, causing children to become unfamiliar with gloomy days and stripping them of resources to look to when they realize that happy endings do not always equate to reality. These happy endings constructed in Disney films may have good intentions at first, but there needs to be a reason why they all follow the same formula if they are impacting important socialization of children.

With the phrase “and they lived happily ever after”, there needs to be an examination of the hidden motive lying within these Disney films. While we would like to think Disney movies are focused at uplifting audiences, profit plays a huge factor into why the same ending is incorporated into many of their films. Disney is a company after all and in order to keep one running, especially one that is the size of Disney, there needs to be something paying for it all. To simply state it, happy endings make others feel happy too, happiness brings in more consumers of Disney products, thus bringing in more money for the franchise. If the method of a happy ending combined with a dark curtain keeping all other factors out works to collect more profit, it is a method which Disney will continue to use.

Although Disney films are portrayed as ‘the happiest films on earth’, careful deconstruction of their context of meaning reveal the consequences they have on children as well as their hidden motive. With a strong sense of happy endings for all, Disney films socialize children into a false reality and fail to incorporate the other factors of life. These movie endings also have the underlying meaning that it is all to make a big corporation more money. This profit then adds to the billions of dollars Disney already possesses instead of focusing on more realistic endings to help children see the world as it is, rather than what people hope it should be. Even though Disney may truly want to bring a smile to audiences, with the many happily ended movies they have already, it may be time to put the money-making aside and produce new material which can help assimilate children into a world that feels more realistic instead.

Reviewing a Critique

Throughout the article, “The Irony of YouTube: Politicking Cool”, Jessie Blackburn critiques the YouTube video “5 Friends” of celebrities attempting to cause the younger generation to vote as well as spread the word about voting to their friends. The video “5 Friends” was published online right before the 2008 election would be taking place in November of that year. The reasoning behind why Blackburn is critiquing this video is because he wants to show how widespread this video actually was between those in the younger generation of voters at the time. His argument from his critique is that platforms like YouTube should be used to talk about politics with the youth. The community’s opinion is that the younger generation of voters are not involved with politics but Blackburn tries to demonstrate perhaps they have just not been spoken to in the right way to be more involved. Blackburn argues that the so called disengagement of youth voters has resulted from a lack of directing political conversation towards their generation in a way they can level with and understand.

Blackburn first establishes his connection to the subject he’ll be critiquing by addressing himself as part of the “YouTube generation”, another term used for describing the group youth, around ages 18 to 29, who keep up with politics through comedic television shows or online platforms that employ irony as a tactic to engage this younger audience. Blackburn uses Burke’s Pendatic Criticism method as the theoretical framework throughout his article to illustrate how the video works as a rhetorical artifact. While he does not necessarily establish that the method he is using is Burke’s Pentad, Blackburn does go through each point of the pentad to display the video’s influence over its targeted audience.

In short, Burke’s Pentad examines five aspects of a rhetorical artifact: act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose. Blackburn performs this Pendatic Criticism by diving into each of these five aspects. As described earlier, he inspects the scene, when and where the artifact was done, by detailing the environment around which the video was made, in this case being during the 2008 election year. He looks at the act, or what was being done, as that of the act of the video addressing registering to vote and actually voting with the use of irony. He delves into talking about the sarcasm used in the video through pointing out particular dialogue such as, “who cares about global warming or the fact that…our polar ice caps are melting. I hear polar bears can swim! I forbid you to vote. Stay right where you are. Don’t vote!” The way Blackburn takes apart the dialogue in the video intrigued me as I felt he detailed the critical point of the common satiric language used to connect with the audience. With irony at its center, Blackburn displays the amount of influence this type of rhetorical artifact has on the youth voters as the target viewers.

The agents in this video are the celebrities which were used to make it. Blackburn states, “Relying implicitly on the high-profile, elite, celebrity status of the stars, the video speaks to the target audience through its use of familiar pop idols dressed like everyday, average citizens”. He addresses this agent aspect of the criticism particularly well with this statement as he explains how the use of a celebrity as the agent connects well with its intended audience. In order to look at agency, or how the video was done, he picks apart the video through discussing its visuals with the statement, “The video runs in and out of focus, suggesting something of a personal, home-video quality instead of its actual professional, production-studio quality”. Again, Blackburn establishes here the connection between the agents and audience of how the video was done. He explains that the video was made by a method which youth voters could identify with as well as make voting look ‘cool’ to them. Blackburn also describes the purpose of the video, or why it was done, to be that it is mainly to get people, most notably the younger generation, to register to vote, then actually vote, and convince others around them that voting is important. He illustrates that calling the audience out to perform an action can truly help influence them to follow through with said action.

This criticism works well as a form of rhetorical action as it connects and engages with the audience while at the same time critiquing the rhetorical artifact. Blackburn connects with his audience as he shows how well the artifact influences its target viewers on the topic of voting and uses this to argue to his viewers that more online platforms, such as YouTube, should be used to discuss politics with younger voters in a way which makes sense to them. I personally read this criticism with ease and found it extremely interesting to follow. Since I myself am part of the group of youth voters, I agreed with Blackburn that we, as a younger generation of voters, do not particularly care for the news television stations and would much rather engage with a program involving satire and irony or one that is witty and quick to the point. After reading Blackburn’s criticism, I found myself looking at the recent advances in the scattering of political information during the ten years following the release of the video “5 Friends”. It’s intriguing to see how today, the media uses many online platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and others to connect with youth voters on subjects involving politics. Blackburn’s method of Burke’s Pendatic Criticism works well in his critique to demonstrate the influence of certain platforms on a targeted audience of viewers.

From Blackburn’s rhetorical criticism, I learned that it is important to examine all parts of a rhetorical artifact when making an argument based off of it. I enjoyed the way Blackburn detailed quotes and visual aspects of the video to show how it all played a role in accomplishing its purpose of engaging youth voters to actually use their power to vote. I also think Blackburn’s argument of the reason for a lack in youth voters is because of a lack in communication with them was justified and perhaps his criticism of this video helped influence online platforms to resolve that lack in the distribution of political information as we now see it on many sites today. While the rhetorical artifact itself was targeted towards the younger generation of viewers, Blackburn’s criticism itself was aimed at an audience of all ages. I am sure of this because his artifact he examines would draw in a younger viewer while his arguments for methods needed to engage these viewers is aimed at those in the older generations because they, those in higher positions of power, are able to change the way politics is talked about with the youth voters. Those in the older voting pool needed to see that there was more than one way to distribute political information, which could clearly be demonstrated by the widespread views of the video “5 Friends” by the public. I would follow Blackburn’s critique fairly similarly, using Burke’s Pentad as my main outline for writing a criticism on an artifact such as the one described in Blackburn’s article. However, one thing I would do differently in a criticism like this would be to better establish the argument he is trying to make in his article. Although he addresses it, I feel that Blackburn could have gone into more detail of his argument for the need of more online platforms and television programs which use irony to connect with the youth voters. Overall, Blackburn’s article performs the method of Pendatic Criticism well and works to influence the audience at taking a second look at how the spread of discussion on politics with the youth voters should be approached.

The Riveting Vision

Imagine a place without men around to do many of the harsh duties required to keep a country running. Although the world views men and women as equals today, in the 1940s, they were quite separated in their lines of work. Men were the center of the workforce while most women were homemakers. When the world suddenly had the priority of war to deal with, America lost a large chunk of its male workers. Since the labor force was short-staffed, it was clear that a good option would be to employ the other half of the population: women. However, since women were accustomed to the idea that they were meant to stay at home doing household chores, a concept needed to be implemented into their minds to persuade them to join the labor force. Thus, Rosie the Riveter was born.

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The cultural icon that was ‘Rosie the Riveter’ was an artifact strategically aimed at influencing women to join the workforce while many men were away at war. The reason this icon developed in the first place was due to the lack of male workers who instead were off fighting for America in World War II. The artifact of Rosie the Riveter centers in the concept that men are not the only ones who can get a job done. Women can be just as strong, and just as capable, as a man can be. Rosie the Riveter was an icon which all women could relate to because Rosie herself was a woman. Many depictions of Rosie the Riveter, like the image shown above, had her dressed in workers clothes similar to that which the men would wear as opposed to clothing with feminine characteristics such as dresses or skirts. Different pictures of Rosie the Riveter were distributed through the post and the icon even had a song about her which made her more recognizable to the public when they would see an image of her. Through this rhetorical vision that women could do any job a man could do, it made women everywhere feel more empowered.

 

While Rosie the Riveter did influence women all over the country to join the work force, it was an idea that could be, at the time, described as a fantasy. Although it achieved its motive of pulling in women everywhere to take on the usual male-dominated jobs, the artifact failed to address that at the end of the war, extreme amounts of men would come flooding back into the work force to take back their jobs, causing the women to revert back to being the simple housewife again. The vision of women performing labor-intensive jobs also hid the fact that women are most often less physically capable than men due to biological differences. Even though the artifact hid these aspects, most women knew this and understood the concept that the men would eventually return from battle to reclaim their jobs. Even with that knowledge, this did not stop the influence of Rosie the Riveter on women to join the labor force.

 

Rosie the Riveter was an idea that worked because it gave women a feeling of power and helped them see there was more to their identity than simply staying at home. At the time in which the idea of Rosie the Riveter was all happening, women had also still not achieved the goal of equal rights. Rosie the Riveter was not just an icon that influenced these women to join the labor force but one that helped pave the way for helping women gain equal rights. As more women learned that they were as capable as a man and viewed themselves with a sense of empowerment, they gained the strength to rise up and fight for their rights as well. The vision of Rosie the Riveter not only worked to place women in the workforce, it also helped give momentum to a revolution. While the artifact may have started out as a fantasy that women could perform the jobs which men were able to, it became a reality as time went on when women not only developed new skill sets, but a path towards equality.

How a Rock Song keeps its True Message Alive

After switching through a few radio stations, you might find yourself stopping on a rock station. A new song is about to start and then the drums kick it off with a beat you can’t help but dance to. While many rock songs have a rhythm which makes you want to move, only a select few have lyrics which give a deeper, more resonating meaning which will stay with you longer than the average music heard on the radio.

 

On Sunday, January 30th, 1972, British soldiers opened fire on a group of peaceful protestors in Derry, Ireland, killing fourteen people. While many news stories covered this frightful event, no narrative kept the memory of it alive quite like the song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2. Unlike other popular songs, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” contains a deeper meaning and is about something alarmingly real that actually happened. The song does not sugar coat the problem at hand and the lyrics strike those listening with an image they won’t soon forget. A video of the song and lyrics can be seen below.

 

 

As the title and lyrics illustrate, the historical event was one of absolute terror for those experiencing it as well as horrifying for those watching it and hearing about it. The band U2 does not hide the issue of war but instead blatantly states it with the lyrics, “How long must we sing this song?” In this case, the rhetorical question refers to how long must the killing of innocent people go on until everyone realizes war is not the answer? The lyrics are a call for peace because peace, not war, is the solution to the problem. When lyrics such as these portray events realistically and ask their listeners to do something about it, that message stays with them.

 

The lyrical narrative itself also completely applies to the audience’s sense of emotions. As the lyrics are understood, listeners digest the ‘call to action’ as one for peace. The message of this is clearly seen in the lyrics, “The battle’s just begun. There’s many lost, but tell me who has won?” which mean that the battle for peace, not war, is starting, and those listening can infer that all sides of the war should unite in peace instead of acting out in violence or revenge. The purpose of the work is to bring about change towards a better, more united society. There is no better way to reach this goal of establishing the song’s purpose than emotionally moving its audience.

 

Looking at the song, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, the narrative overall achieves its goal of demonstrating the reality of violence yet also affirming the need for peace in the world. The narrative succeeds in resonating its message with the audience even after the song is over. Although it might be enjoyable for people to listen to the average song about love or breaking up, those songs come and go every year. True music stands the test of time through the lyrics within it when they talk about something real and cause the audience to think.

The Gap between Commercial Advertising and Reality

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When people turn on their television, they are bombarded with commercials, most of which provide nothing but annoyance to viewers who just want to go back to watching their regularly scheduled weekly program or sports game. However, when an advertisement contains not just a story, but an important, controversial topic relating to the ones on every news station, it draws attention from audiences everywhere. One 2017 commercial by Pepsi certainly fits into this category as it successfully draws viewers into the narrative it illustrates that relates to many protests which were taking place at the time. The problem lying within the promotion for the popular soft drink though is that it fails to recognize the seriousness of the topic it address, leading to much backlash by a large portion of those who watched the commercial.

At the time when this commercial was published, many protests, especially those regarding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, were taking place. One specific issue the BLM movement aims to target is the racial bias and violence against the black community by police officers. Placing the commercial by Pepsi into this context of the time period is crucial in order to understand the depth of the topic. Although the initial purpose of the commercial was to empower people to vocalize their opinions and find a common ground between the opposing sides of the argument, it makes light of a heavy situation, causing more negative reactions rather than the positive influence it intended. The full advertisement can be seen below:

The commercial opens with a musician, a harmless group of marching protestors from mixed backgrounds, a photographer wearing a type of hijab, and a celebrity. The musician joins in on the protest after being distracted by it and he later on influences the celebrity to join in on the march. The photographer, also distracted by the protest, grabs her camera and takes photos of the event as the protestors continue down the street to a wall of police officers. Throughout the commercial, the protestors can be seen joyfully smiling together, as if it were any other day and they were hanging out with close friends. At the end of the ad, the celebrity grabs a Pepsi and hands it to one officer, who gladly accepts.

Although the main groups in the realistic protests are represented in the commercial, there is a huge gap between fiction and reality. The setting displays the protest as peaceful, while many at the time were not. The advertisement also illustrates a smaller group of officers than what would normally be expected wearing a limited amount of gear to look more approachable. In reality, most officers would be more on guard and protestors would be more outspoken and firm in their stances, rather than looking like they have come together to simply ‘hang out’.

The function of the commercial is to help bring opposing sides together on a common ground. However, since that common ground was a soft drink and the topic was a protest revolving around social injustice, there is a clear disparity between the two. Here lies the problem with the advertisement as a whole as it hides the significance in actual protests occurring in the world. Many audience members viewed the commercial as if it were saying, “if you hand the officer a Pepsi, all the problems will be solved”. Making light of serious situations does not work in this context and a simple soft drink will certainly not resolve controversy and conflict. Due to the ignorance seen on Pepsi’s part, the commercial was taken down just a few days later.

While the advertisement was meant to be influential among viewers and help them see they can make a change in the world, it is not an effective piece of rhetoric because it fails to address the reality of the protests occurring at that time. The question of Pepsi’s motive to sell a product also comes into play. The company may try to understand the public in order to capitalize their product, but their understanding, unfortunately, does not have the depth which it should to relate to reality around them, diminishing their credibility.