Sandy speaks on matters of life and mirth.
Monkeys are seldom present.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thank Goodness I'm Never Miked

So this story really bugged me.

Basically, Gordon Brown spoke to a woman briefly on camera, and then got into a car, and got frustrated about his inability to answer the woman's questions succinctly. He made a few remarks, including calling her a 'bigoted woman'. Unbeknownst to him, his microphone was still on, and the Sky news crew decided to broadcast it, and play it to the woman in question.

I'm not going to talk about my views on the Prime Minister, but I promise you that who I'm going to vote for has nothing to do with my opinion on this incident, which put briefly, is this: this was a low-down dirty trick by Sky News that was all about sensationalism and nothing about journalism. The clip should never have been broadcast.

Gordon Brown was having a private conversation about a woman he had met for all of thirty seconds, with close advisors. I work at a High School, and I have said plenty of things about the kids that I work with which, if played to their parents, would cause me to have to do a heap of explaining. Do I always mean them? No. Usually, they're said in the heat of the moment, and there is a reason the conversation is private. Sky News invaded Gordon Brown's privacy, and they should be apologising profusely themselves.

How does playing this clip serve the country's best interests? How does it do anything but cause scandal and gossip about an incident that frankly, doesn't matter. I'm sure David Cameron and Nick Clegg have said things just as bad in private, and I think they should have a right to.

To put it simply, I'm pissed off that this is the level that our newscasters have lowered themselves to. Shame on you, Sky News.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Things I Remember From Growing Up in the Nineties - The Sodastream

Get Busy With the Fizzy

This may have been the coolest thing ever when I was growing up. I tried to explain the concept of having a machine that could make fizzy drinks to the teenagers that I teach - they just didn't really get it. "But you could have all different flavours!" I argued. "And it cost significantly less than buying bottles of the stuff!" They looked at me blankly. "You could also choose how concentrated you made each drink!"

In desperation, I showed them this advert. It didn't help.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To A Volcano

Nature looked up, and saw,

That we were all taking her just a little bit for granted.
"I've put up with it for years." She said,
"And frankly I've got bored.
"You people need to understand that I placed you here.
I provided you with food.
And water.
I gave you things to build your houses with.
And animals to marvel at.
And all you care about is getting from Place A to Place B as quickly as possible.
I don't know why. I made Place B, you know - it's just as dull as A."

And Nature looked at the planes, belching their way across the sky,
Filling her eyes with smoke,
And staining her new white dress until it was
Quite, quite brown.
And Nature said. "That's enough of that."
So Nature opened her window, and threw out the contents of her chamber pot.

And all the planes were grounded.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Other Type of SMS

OK, So the other day I posted about advertising, and mentioned this article about women in advertising as being a springboard for the post. I realise now that this gave the impression that I was writing a response, or tackling the same issues as she was. In all honesty, the post was not designed as a response to Alex's - I try to leave commentary on 'women's issues' to her because she says the same things I would, only better - but more of a cataloguing of interesting things I have noticed about adverts, with a couple of trite and not particularly well thought through paragraphs about sexuality on the TV screen tacked on the end.

This one, however is a response, and does address the same issues, hopefully in a bit more depth. Well, similar issues, anyway. I know less about a narrow image of beauty in print ads, so I'm going to talk about presentation and objectification of women on television instead, because as we all know, I do watch a lot of television.

Before we begin, however, I'd like to quickly some up with a useful catch-all term that I can use instead of continually reusing phrases like 'objectifying women', 'sexist behaviour', 'characters who exhibit chauvinistic attitudes', 'promoting an unrealistic expectation of beauty' and suchlike. Let's just lump all of these (and many others) under the phrase Sexist Misogynistic Shit, or SMS for short. The categorising of what makes material SMS follows the old rule about pornography - it's hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

So, those three prologues out the way, let's talk about SMS in advertising. Why does it happen? Well, as I intimated earlier, it works. This is not really something that we can argue with, and thus in a discussion based on pure efficiency, SMS is clearly a tool that should be used as often as possible. So, that's settled why it is used - advertising is the ultimate capitalist idea - it's sole purpose is to sell things, and if SMS works, then it will be used. Those of us who oppose it therefore, must look to legislation and guidelines such as those mentioned in GT's post to curb the use of such tactics, rather than reason. If the legislation passes, fantastic, we no longer have adverts that contain SMS. Job done.

Except that it isn't. Because yes, we've treated the symptom, but we haven't even touched the cause. While it can be argued that removing these adverts from TV will avoid young women being exposed to them and thus allow them to develop a more positive self-concept, and young men not to be pushed towards objectification of women, SMS still surrounds us. So the legislation that has been mentioned is amazing, but it can only be a first step.

An example of SMS surrounding us can be seen in movies. The award-winning movies, the great movies, those tend not to be SMS, but they're only a small number. Off the top of my head I'm sure we can all think of several movie adverts that we have seen just in the last few days for movies that will make millions at the box-office that are based on SMS (The most recent example I can think of is the trailer currently running on UK TV for 'Extract'). The same ideas apply here, although in perhaps a less directly commercial way. The easiest way for a bad movie to make lots of money is for it to contain an attractive women disrobing (see 'Wild Things'). The second easiest way is to fill it with ridiculously attractive women becoming more attractive and snagging attractive men who are attracted to them because of their sheer attractiveness.

So, can we apply this guidelines and legislation further to all types of media? And if we can, should we? Is there a way that as well as discouraging SMS, we can also promote positive content? Is it possible to change a culture so that SMS is not the easiest way to higher profits and greater returns from the box office?

It seems a bit of a cop-out to end with so many questions, but unfortunately I don't have any answers. Let's hope someone does

Friday, April 16, 2010

If You Buy This Toothpaste, Your Life Will Be Better

So Alex over at Galactic Teabag recently wrote a post about presentation of women in adverts. I won't quote the whole article here, but the cut and thrust of it was that there should be more honest and positive presentation of women and girls, which is an idea that we can all get behind. However, it got me thinking about a number of other issues that I was going to leave as a gigantacomment, but I thought worked better as a blog post in its own right.

Advertising as a whole is endemic to our society. It's not going away, no matter what the recession does, and so it is something that must be coped with, rather than ignored. There are a million different forms of advertising, but for the purposes of this post, I'm going to look at TV ads.

As far as I can tell there are 3 main types of ads aimed at adults:

Tangential - These are adverts that don't necessarily talk about the product in the slightest, but make us feel good about the advert, and thus fell good about the product. They can do this either through taking our breath away (the bouncing balls Sony Bravia advert almost single-handedly kick-started this trend) or making us laugh (Compare the Meerkat, anyone?)

Blinding Us With Science - These are adverts that throw enough fancy sounding words 'nutrients', 'polypeptides' etc, mixed with bizarre three animations of things bouncing off other things to convince us that our continued survival on earth depends on these products. Toothpaste, make-up and dishwasher tablets are the most common producers of these adverts.

Lifestyle - Oh, look at that B-List movie star/former soap star/glamour model/wife of a pop star! She shops at that supermarket and she and her Equity-carded children are so happy! I want to be happy, and therefore I shall shop at that supermarket!

My point is this - there are very few ads out there that do anything other than these three techniques, and it's been this way for a long time. So why do advertisers continue to use these same techniques? As a species, I'd like to think that we're pretty smart, so why don't we see through these shallow templates that ad-makers hang their products on?

The answer is simple - because they work. The most popular ads usually fall into the tangential category, and the most successful usually fall into the latter two. Every time it comes on, I deride the Febreeze 'Have you smelt this chair' ad, and yet if I want to buy an odour remover, I buy Febreeze. How do I know it's the best? Why, because it's the most advertised.

In this environment, is it any surprise that sexualisation of women is one of the major methods of selling products? Sex sells, and in such a lazy world, why ignore that? This is not to condone this behaviour, or justify it, but merely to realise that, sadly, a woman wearing very little draped over a product tends to be the easiest way to get people's attention.

This is not to say that this cannot be subverted. A mouthwash company recently used an image of a naked woman walking through a field, tastefully panning up her ludicrously toned and tanned body until it reached her mouth, where the image of beauty was shattered by her horrific gum disease. These adverts, however, are very much the exception rather than the rule. Advertising is, by definition, interested in finding the easiest possible route to the buy centres of the brain.