Dominant vs. Oppositional

Dominant and oppositional gazes can easily be found in anything from a television commercial to a music video. A dominant gaze is usually defined as an object of beauty that is meant to be looked at, but not meant to look back. You will typically find a scantily clad woman trying to seduce the viewer. However, an oppositional gaze usually has the female in an empowering position rather than one where she is just the subject of desire. This type of gaze is less common but is definitely still found in various media. Stars are Blind by Paris Hilton and Stupid Girls by Pink are two music videos with completely different gazes.

Stars are Blind has a completely dominant gaze. It is obvious that this video was made to target a male audience because Paris Hilton spends the entire 3.5 minutes posing for a pretend photo shoot or running around a beach. Her outfits consist of extremely short and very fitted dresses or body suits, high heels and bikinis. They are trying to attract men through her clothing and posing which show her as sexy and desirable. The camera follows her every move and continuously zooms in so we get a clear view of particular body parts (usually of her face or exposed stomach). Although there is a very attractive male model also featured in the video, he is almost completely ignored. The only time we actually get a glimpse of him is when Paris is touching or kissing him because they want the viewer to solely focus on her. This video sends the message that women should be acting and dressing in certain ways to better attract men.

Stupid Girls, on the other hand, has the complete opposite message. Pink is blatantly making fun of how girls change their appearance, and sometimes even personality, to be better liked by boys. The video starts off with a little girl watching TV when suddenly an angel and a devil appear on her shoulder (both played by Pink). Then the camera zooms into the TV where we see various scenes in which Pink is acting like a ditzy blonde walking her dog or getting a tan or even getting plastic surgery. She is constantly saying “maybe if I act like that, that guy will call me back” which further shows how women try to change themselves to fit the standards of men. Then right at the end the camera zooms back out and we once again see the little girl with the two voices on her shoulder. In front of her are a pile of Barbies and a football. The little girl looks back at the angel, then at the TV and finally picks up the football and goes outside to play. This video, as well as the lyrics, has a really good message. It is telling women that they do not have to conform to what has become the “norm”, that it is okay to be yourself and to act how you want, not how you think men want you to act.

It was definitely harder for me to find a video that clearly portrayed an oppositional gaze because the use of dominant gaze is a lot more common. Unfortunately women are still being objectified in modern day America which is why we see these types of videos still being made.

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Mass Culture & the Public Sphere

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On July 20, 2012 a very tragic event occurred during a movie showing of ‘The Dark Night Rises’ in Aurora, Colorado. A gunman, James Holmes, entered the theater set off smoke bombs, and then fired repeatedly into the crowd. 10 people were pronounced dead at the scene while 4 more passed away at the hospital. With a casualty of 14, this is the largest mass shooting in U.S. history which is one of the many reasons why it was broadcasted all over the world. I learned about this event while I was in Portugal spending the summer with my family. My cousin was actually the first to discover what had happened. He read about the shooting on an online Portuguese newspaper and then immediately told me because he thought that I would want to know what was happening back home.

I do not live in Colorado nor was I even in the United States at the time of the event, yet I was still able to use three types of media to learn about it: the internet, television and pictures. Since my cousin had read it a few hours after the event took place, the article was not as detailed as we would have hoped. So the following day we made sure to watch the news on television to get the full story. The online article was published first and was updated as more information was discovered while the news report only occurred a few times and did not change as often. Pictures also helped shape my knowledge of the event. The image that always pops in my head when I think about the shooting is the picture of the gunman in his orange jumpsuit. The picture was constantly shown every time this event was reported. What makes it even more memorable is the fact that James Holmes is smiling. Usually when a person takes a mug shot they do not smile, yet James chose to which kind of makes the viewer feel like he has absolutely no remorse for the horrendous thing he did. This picture is how we know him so the viewer automatically labels him as a bad guy.

The fact that I received the information through a foreign news program definitely made my experience of this event different from the people that heard it through a U.S. station because the priority was not as high. The Portuguese stations reported the event, but because it did not actually happen on Portuguese soil they did not focus as much on it and it was forgotten after a few days. I can only imagine how the American stations reported the shooting, but knowing that this is the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States, I am assuming it got lots of coverage on every type of media possible.

Contemporary media contributes to public discussion because it makes it possible for people all around the world to learn the same information at around the same time. People tend to speak and discuss things that they have in common and knowing the same information gives them that power. They also discuss things that are relevant at the time which is what television, the radio, the internet and newspapers broadcast. And without people to discuss any of these things, there would be no media because not talking about it would mean they are not interested in it.

Semiotic Analysis

The print ad to the right was created by the mobile phone network, Claro Americas, which serves customers in both Latin and South America. This ad has such a powerful message yet it is so simple that even people who are not familiar with this particular phone company can understand its meaning. The ad is straight forward and is not clustered with too much detail so you are able to focus on exactly what the company wants.

This particular ad is directed towards anyone who owns a cellphone and drives which is a huge chunk of the world. The myth they are playing on is that everyone is so obsessed with technology, especially with their phones, that they can not seem to put them down for even a second. Unfortunately, technology has become such a huge part of our lives that this cultural myth is not that far off. However, it is still a myth and people can in fact stop using their phones long enough to drive from point A to point B which is what the ad points out. It almost feels like the ad is challenging us to prove this misconception wrong.

This ad has a few very important parts that need to be understood in order for the overall meaning to be heard. There are the words “One letter is all it takes. Don’t text and drive” which literally tell you that this was created to warn and remind people of the dangers of driving while texting. There is also a picture of a stretched out letter A that represents both the road and the one letter they refer to in the text. At the end of the road is a very small and very colorful picture of a mother pushing a stroller while another child follows along behind her. These two images are the main focus of the ad. They let us know that even though you might think you are in control of the vehicle, looking away for just one second to type whatever it is you think is so important could be fatal to you and anyone around you. Both the text and the image of the mother with her children are signifiers that help us reach the overall meaning of the ad which is to leave the texting until after you have reached your destination. All of these things together make the sign.

The only person in this ad that does not appear, even though this person basically has control over the entire situation, is the one behind the wheel. However, the driver is still present. Instead of incorporating him or her into the ad, they make it so that we as the viewer are put in his place. By putting the road directly in the middle and by making it seem like it stretches on, the viewer feels like they are the one driving the vehicle. This also gives us the sense that we are the one texting behind the wheel. Automatically we are put in the position we know is being scolded which makes the ad that much more effective. The viewer feels like he or she is doing something wrong already even if they are not actually behind the wheel which makes the ad that much more effective.