Monday, 11 November 2013

Study Task 4: 'The Look' Rosalind Coward

The man is clearly staring at the woman in this image, the woman is not staring back at him or at us and so she is not contesting the gaze of us or him, the slight smirk on her face suggest that she is perhaps enjoying the attention of the male; ‘ Surely, it is the meshing with visual appearance of questions of desirability and promises about security and comfort that accounts for women’s deep fascination with the visual images? This would surely account for what has previously been recorded as women’s narcissism… In so-called love normal development, another libido arises, existing beside this self-love. The other libido is that directed outwards towards another person or object.’ (Coward, J. 2000. The Look' in Thomas, J. Reading Images p36). And so this is describing the fact that women supposedly enjoy and actually seek the gaze of others, especially men to gain a level of self-love and acceptance of themselves, and acceptance of that by society. If they are being looked at they are beautiful. And as she is being looked at by the man intensely in the advert the audience gets a certain feeling of if they where like her in her looks they too would earn the gaze, and be loved as described by Coward when she says ‘ because desirability has been elevated to being the crucial reason for sexual relations, it sometimes appears to women that the whole possibility of being loved and comforted hangs on how their appearance will be received.’ (Coward, J. 2000. The Look p36) As well as this another thing that supports the statement in the advert is that the mans stare is so intense it is like he is fixated upon her face and form, there is no suggestion of a person or personality, just solely appearance, it is almost as if he will never look away he is devoted to her and her only, which is what the statement is saying, this what women believe, that their look has to be perfect and this is the only way they will receive love.

Again focusing on the man, he is looking at the woman, he is right next to her, yet he is not touching her at all, you can see that the hand is placed on his knee and the other is beneath him. It is almost as if his body language is withdrawn, yet he still gazes at her. ‘Perhaps this sex-at-a-distance is the only complete secure relation in which men can have with women. Perhaps other forms on contact are too unsettling.’ (Coward, J. 2000. The Look p34) It is like she is untouchable, goddess like, the quote implies a mans fear of rejection and the fear of not being good enough, it suggests an almost fantasy state, and that the woman in this image is a fantasy, and reality is not the same. In reality it would not really be acceptable for the man to be right next to the woman, staring at her endlessly. As well as this the fact that he is fully clothed and she is wrapped in a sheet could suggest a dream like state of the man, that he is in fact not actually there and that she is a dream, a fantasy. The fact that he is fully dressed again suggests a certain level of comfort and security for the man; he is in power and complete control.

You could also say that this is also a level of voyeurism ‘ a decided preference for a ‘distanced’ view of the female body.’ (Coward, J. 2000. The Look p34), the woman is obviously separate to the man in this image, yet he is still very close. He is also able to look at her without her, seemingly, being aware, and due to the fact that she is obviously not wearing anything implies a level of sexual desire, and the suggestion that she is available for sex, whenever he decides, again the element of control is implemented here. The man remains in control it is all in his power.

‘Advertising in this society builds precisely on the creation of an anxiety to the effect that… we are set to work on an ever increasing number of areas of the body, laboring to perfect and eroticize an ever-increasing number of erotogenic zones.’ (Coward, J. 2000. The Look p38) Adding to the analyses of the advert already, it is clear that there is an underlying theme of sex and sexual desire present. The advert is actually selling make-up, this can be seen by the images of the products on the bottom left. The main focal point of the advert is the woman’s face, this is evident through the placement and lighting that has been used, it is central and the lightest thing on the page. As this is the focus the advert is almost suggesting that use of these products will make you sexy like the woman in the advert.

But not only that it is suggesting that all aspects of the face need to be perfect in order to be sexy, and so the eyes, lips and skin also have been eroticized to meet the scrutiny of men and society. ‘This is not only the strict grip of the cultural ideal; it is also the multiplication of areas of the body accessible to marketing.’ (Coward, J. 2000. The Look p38) and so all of this can be palmed under the phrase ‘sex sells’, the initial reason that ‘the look’ was created in the first place, to please men’s sexual fantasies, and a byproduct of ‘the look’ selling products through sex and all its connotations.

D&G 2007
I also found this image, from the same company, a much more exaggerated version of the gaze. It is extreme, and it could be an indication of the way/ progression of the concept. , it almost depicts and suggest the act of a gang rape, and in that way it is almost completely sexualising the woman, and suggesting she is willing to be with all of the men in the picture, and also that she has no choice. Yet she does not seem to be fighting back and this is an even deeper, more sinister message, that she is his sexually available. And the fact that this could be promoting this act/ these roles is even more shocking, because it is in the public eye may make young males think that this is acceptable and young women think that this is normal.

When NOW (National Organization of Women), saw this ad they quoted it to be, “beyond offensive, with a scene evoking a gang rape and reeking of violence against women.”
Even though the company saw nothing wrong with the ad, calling it artistic, they pulled the ad after pressure from several governments, associations, and of course the public.

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