Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ethics is Reality Television

This week I decided to try a different approach with the topic of ethics. Instead of evaluating and analyzing the ethics of a print advertisment, I decided to take on the topic of ethics in reality television as a whole.

A reality television show thrives on drama. There would be no reason to watch if drama wasn’t created through fighting, feuding, breakdowns or bad decisions. As a viewer, reality television can serve as a guilty pleasure. There is a split between the idea of voyeurism and the joy of watching drama being creating and unfolding right before our eyes.
Due to the increasing success and popularity of reality television, producers are beginning to see exactly what the recipe is for a successful television show and they are going all out in order to bring that to the viewer. There are hundreds of different types of reality TV shows on hundreds of different networks.
Castmate "Snooki" getting arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct

Jersey Shore, (perhaps the most influential reality TV show as of recently) premiered on December 3, 2009 and is still going strong. The series follows eight housemates who began by spending their summer at the Jersey Shore (they have since traveled to Miami and Italy) and chronicles their drunken escapades, fights inside and outside of the house, sexual encounters and even arrests. The show has no filter. It has aired everything from dirty pranks to one female roommate (the infamous “Snooki”) being punched in the face by a grown man. While the show’s ratings have soared and the cast members are now receiving millions of dollars each season there is no question that the show is successful. However, due to the lack of ethics and values the show is also extremely toxic.

Jersey Shore castmates drinking before a night out
On the Jersey Shore, it has been reported that the cast mates are not allowed to drive after a drink (taxi cabs are provided for them) and they are allowed to return home at any point if the series begins to become too overwhelming (“Sammi Sweetheart” returned home for a short period of time after a break-up with her boyfriend, cast mate Ronnie Margo and her roommate “Vinny Guadagnino” returned home to be treated for anxiety). While these ethical demands are met, other reality TV shows take a different approach.
Drug use shown on Intervention
On the hit A&E reality television show “Intervention,” producers act more like witnesses and when participants on the show break the law, and they bear no responsibility to intervene. Drug deals and drug use play out as a form of unknown entertainment for those of us who aren’t familiar with that type of world. Also, drug users and alcoholics under influence will get in the car and drive with the producer sitting next to them with the camera rolling in the front seat. There is no legal obligation, although producers should take a step back and question their moral ethics.
Drug use shown on Intervention

Shortly after the suicide of Russell Armstrong (who appeared as a participant on the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”), NPR blogger Linda Holmes proposed a code of ethics for reality TV show participants. Some of these standards included:
Russell Armstrong and his estranged wife of
 RHOBH who committed suicide last summer
  •  Free medical care for participants injured in the course of production
  •  No filming of participants who are inebriated from alcohol supplied by the show’s producers (self-supplied alcohol is another matter)
  •  An impartial body to handle complaints from participants who feel that the show has damaged their reputation
  •  A guarantee of six hours uninterrupted sleep per night while filming
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Cast

Though there has been no set code of ethical standards for reality TV shows to meet, it is only a matter of time before something horrible happens and we are forced to question whether reality television is becoming too real.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ideological Look at Women Posing as Children

The main piece I am focusing on is a 1999 magazine print ad featuring the widely famous pop-star Britney Spears at the ripe age of seventeen years old. Spears is positioned lying on a purple couch, talking on a telephone with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk next to her. She is wearing a pink button down shirt that is unbuttoned enough so we can see her midriff, and hip hugging capri pants.
The surface meaning of the piece appears to be that milk is a necessity, and should be a part of your daily diet. If we look closer at the ad, there is text stating “Baby, one more time isn’t enough. 9 out of 10 girls don’t get enough calcium. It takes about 4 glasses of milk every day. So when I finish this glass, fill it up, baby. Three more times.” The text is a play-on-words, referring to the singer’s popular, smash-hit single “Baby One More Time.” From looking at this piece, the ad’s creator wants to instill the idea in us that if we drink milk, we too will be fit, happy and beautiful just like this young image of Britney Spears. The creator of this piece assumes that we know the singer, and we know that milk is good for you because it tells us how much of it we must drink in order to maintain a healthy diet. The posture of the singer is somewhat unnatural, which brings up the issue that the female in this ad is posing in a child-like position, but we are suppose to accept it as cute, sexy and fun. However, if you were to reverse roles and place a man in this position; or an elderly woman; the message and purpose of this ad would change drastically. Or what if it was ten year old child instead, placed on the couch the same way wearing the same skin tight capris and baring her midriff?  That would be considered child porn, and would NOT sit well with consumers as well as the ad industry.
As I stated earlier, the ad portrays Spears in an unnatural, dramatic pose that we do not see every day—or do we? In conducting my research I found that there are thousands of print ads out there where the woman in the ad is posing in a child-like position or manner. Some are made to appear shy, timid, playful or reserved just like young children. This contradicts the fact that these women are suppose to appear sexy—because how can a child be sexy? If you wanted to take it there, one might consider these ads somewhat pedophiliac. Women are directed to pose in these positions and we as consumers have come to accept these poses without even questioning their existence because we see them so much in today’s media.
I think that this ad is trying to speak to young girls, and uses Britney Spears as the model because they know she is worldly recognized and idolized by so many children, teens and even adults. They wanted to make her look young and innocent and figured by placing her in this pose, they would do just that. However, by having the bottom of her shirt unbuttoned at such a young age, the ad is also very suggestive in a quiet, underlying tone. I appreciate the positive message, being that the ad urges you to drink milk in order to be healthy—but I feel that if they are trying to speak to young girls, there is no need to be so suggestive. Like I stated earlier, the purpose of this ad should be to speak to young kids but instead, with the baring midriff and skin-tight clothing, the ad also yells to boys and older men, thus attracting a different kind of attention. However, because it is a young teen with a smile on her face, we are forced to except it as an image depicting youth and playfulness and not the fact that she is taking the position of a three-eight year old child talking to a friend on the telephone. Though it is a forced and unnatural position, we as a society have come to accept it due to the world we live in with women being depicted as mere objects—especially in advertisements. This ad may have gotten their intended message across to some, but to others like me it just proves itself as a contradiction.

"Got Milk" ad feauturing singer Taylor Swift

"Got Milk" ad featuring model Gisele Bundchen
"Got Milk" ad featuring ER actress Sherry Stringfield

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Skyy Ad Campaign Sells More Than Just Vodka

I think we can all agree with the statement that bad press is better than no press. The controversial advertising campaign behind Skyy Vodka is a perfect example of that. Skyy has a not-so-subtle, in your face approach with their print advertising campaign. They are constantly pushing the envelope, and I believe that they know exactly what they are doing due to the fact that they are constantly releasing similar ads with the same message each time.
The print ads behind this world famous vodka are in-your-face, provocative, and exude sexuality. Chances are you have seen one of Skyy Vodka’s print advertisements before, but if you have not, here are a few examples;

In doing some research, I found out that Skyy Spirits is a wholly owned subsidiary of Gruppo Campari. They are a major player in the global beverage industry, holding a portfolio of over 40 premium brands distributed in more than 190 countries worldwide.
Chad Farmer, Executive Creative Director of Skyy’s advertising agency, says of the advertising campaign; “We have always evolved the SKYY campaign but continue to maintain the core equity of sexy cocktail style. Through the years we have moved from a very stylized, glamorous version of reality to a more sleek and modern aesthetic. This change happened organically, yet methodically, to capitalize on current trends while being true to the SKYY brand essence.”
While Chad may think it is a “sexy cocktail style” approach, thousands of women, men, and feminist groups everywhere are in uproar regarding the campaign and how it symbolizes the dehumanization of women. There have been several campaigns to stop the ads from being printed, none of which have been successful.
Through personally evaluating and analyzing the Skyy vodka ad campaign, I found a pattern that proved to be true in many of the ads:
·         In each ad, the woman is portrayed as a mere sexual object, rather than a respectable human being
·         The woman’s body is often fragmented so that you only see a certain body part (most prominent example would be legs)
·         If there is a male in the ad, he plays a dominant role as a sexual aggressor over the female
·         The ads portray a materialistic, high-class, lavish lifestyle (for example—lush settings can always be seen in the background of these advertisements
·         The ads suggest that if you drink Skyy vodka you are desirable, and drinking this vodka will lead to sexual situations
·         Each ad uses bright, provocative colors and brand placement. The bright blue Skyy Vodka bottle is an important fixture in each ad.
At the end of the day, the message I got from this campaign was that sex sells. Skyy vodka has this infamous ad campaign that may be well-known for all of the wrong reasons but at the end of the day, their brand name is out there and they have accomplished world renowned recognition.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Media Consumption Inventory

In today’s society, we as consumers of media receive way more media then we might think we do. Media is everywhere and it is important to be aware of that. Too often we don’t stop and think about the content of the media we are consuming.
Through our introductory classes in media criticism this semester, our duty was to look at ourselves and the content of media that we as consumers receive. We learned that encoding media can be done in three ways;
1. Dominantly (Taking it in the way it was intended).
2. Negotiated (Taking it in, but there is room for critique).
3. Resistive (You truly understand but you apply your own understanding and see different meanings).
We learned in our first class that there are different stages of media literacy. In reviewing the stages, I would say I fall into the category of “Mid level of media literacy.” In this stage there is active processing of messages and constructing own interpretations as well as a narrow range of information and previous knowledge structure that prevents the understanding of messages from various perspectives. Also, there are limited choices of interpretation and understanding the messages due to a narrow range of previous information. I think that I am able to fall into the higher stages of media literacy once in awhile, but I would have to admit that I do not often question what I am reading or seeing on TV, especially when I am only reading or watching for entertainment purposes.
After our first class, we completed a media consumption inventory survey to help us see how much media we take in and where it comes from. The survey was completed starting Thursday, January 19 and ended on Saturday, January 21. I was working for the most part during these three days, so I’m sure that affected the survey in some ways. In reviewing my weekend, I realized that I use electronic media about three times more than I use print media. I used the internet and my cell phone (which has internet on it) for the most part. I used the two mainly for entertainment purposes such as checking social media websites like twitter and face book, and also to get information regarding the weather or using search engines like Google. I would say television came in third and print media was on the lower end of the scale. In total that weekend, I consumed seven hours of print media and twenty hours of electronic media: a whopping twenty-seven hours in all.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the course thus far was the weekend when we were to block out all social media and go without for a whole 24 hours. It was extremely difficult; I found myself subconsciously reaching for my phone several times a minute. Media was somewhat inescapable due to the fact that I was at work for the most part of that Sunday—I work at a bar and grille on Shrewsbury Street where they show sports on TV and play music throughout my shift. At the end of the day, I was happy to regain connection seeing as though I felt somewhat shut off from the world—as silly as that seems. This highlighted the fact that media is absolutely everywhere in this day and age, and I think it is safe to say that we as consumers often take it for granted.