Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flawed or Flawless?

If there's one thing I learned from Sturken & Cartwright this week it's thatimages generate meanings. However, “the meanings of a media image do not always lie in the hands of the people producing them, but rather how they are interpreted, or encoded, by the audience critiquing, or decoding them.” (Sturken & Cartwright). Social standards and context play a huge role on how the viewers interpret the image, which is why we have to pay careful attention to where and what exactly is placed in an ad.

Ideally, the goals of an advertising company wants its viewers to look at their image and understand the message they initially wanted to portray, however that’s not always the case. Take this Dove ad for example, this ad was pulled straight from an issue of Seventeen magazine, and it was placed there as a part of Dove’s new campaign for “real beauty.”

In this case, this ad is leaving the interpretation up to the audience. It specifically asks, “is beautiful skin only ever spotless?” Clearly, the ‘ideal woman’ according to social standards of society is a tall, white, tan, usually blonde, thin woman with perfectly clear skin. This woman, however, exhibits very opposite qualities. Most specifically, she has freckles covering her entire body. This is not the typical woman we see on the center of a beauty ad, however, Dove is doing this to make you think. Obviously, the intended message Dove’s ad is trying to get across is that women who are tall, thin, and blonde etc are not the only kind of women who are beautiful, and it wants to encourage all the other women who see this ad to think that way. However, I feel that the fact that is gives readers a CHOICE to agree that she looks “flawless,” instead of possibly “flawed” puts the idea into their head that she could look flawed, because she does not look like society’s typical beautiful woman. I feel like the ad would be more convincing if it only stated “Flawless.” with a period after the word and did not make it a question. This woman is confident, she is clearly comfortable in front of the camera because she is looking at it with pride in her eyes, her body is up straight with her shoulder’s back, and she is somewhat smiling/smirking, all connoting that she believes in what she stands for, and that is looking beautiful although she looks different. I think that the idea that she could possibly look “flawed” is a flaw in the meaning intended for this ad. Although, I do think it’s a great campaign and that Dove has every right to try to chance society’s beliefs that there is more to beauty than the ideal American woman.

All in all, “viewers have their own particular set of cultural associations with them, which will affect their individual interpretation of an image,” In this case, it's a great idea to change these cultural images society seems to be obsessed with. However, I think Dove should erase any feelings of "flaw" before introducing someone who they want to portray as "flawless." Given the choice, I hope society embraces this woman and jumps on the bandwagon to agree that she, too, is beautiful.


  1. I think this is an excellent example. Dove uses an image to break a norm by making us question what we are seeing vs what we are used to/expect to. In my opinion, I think it helps that there were choice boxes and it included "flawed" and "flawless." If it just said "flawless," Dove would be telling us that it was a fact and we should learn to accept it. Done.

    By adding "flawed?", the ad makes us reconsider, almost making us feel guilty for thinking it is "flawed" because that's what we would probably already think if it didn't say either word, like we're supposed to fix having freckles by using Dove. It asks you "flawless?" like "are you sure you're going to think this is flawless?" (Hmm, sorry if this doesn't make sense!)

  2. OOPS, hehe.. I meant for my last line to read:
    It asks you "flawed?" like "are you sure you're going to think this is flawed?"

    The word "flaw" looks weird after writing/reading it for a while!

  3. OH yeah, I think this is kind of like the 38DDreamgirl ad, when advertisers take a picture or someone who isn't conventionally beautiful and tries to make society feel like it is okay to look that way, but the way that it comes across is like they don't really believe it themsleves. I agree that they should put flawless, it shouldn't be put up to debate if they are trying to promote the fact that beauty is apparent in everyone.

  4. Totally agree withthe above comments...

    But at the same time, we need to realize one thing here: we say things like "conventionally beautiful"...
    I feel like it all comes to the personal opinions that truly matter, and we should forget how brainwashed by the media we really are.

  5. I am a freckled chick and she is a beauty but people do have a right to decide on their own. Society shouldn't make most feel so inferior.