This paper asked my students to pick any piece of media they wanted: a print ad, a scene from a TV show or movie, a music video - and then analyze it. I showed some examples in class that they could choose from, and I also gave them permission to choose something on their own that they felt was interesting or that spoke to them. Then, they were to rhetorically analyze it using the three magic rhetorical devices - logos, ethos, and pathos - and to also uncover any cultural biases or stereotypes in the media. I want them to start questioning the entertainment they're bombarded with, and stop accepting inherently sexist or racist attitudes embedded within those forms of entertainment. Basically, the media pisses me off, and I want it to piss them off, too.
However, I have been hit with an onslaught of papers deconstructing this print advertisement (which is not one I showed in class):
Click for bigger view. [source]
I'm frustrated with this advertisement, and my students getting so riled up about it, because it's a fake. I first became aware of this ad last year and was weirded out and disgusted by it, until I learned that it is not, in fact, part of Sisley's ad campaign. It was made by an agency called Zoo Advertising, and it's considered part of a "creative campaign," which means it's not official, which means it's a damn fake.
My problem with this is that no one seems to know. This ad inundated the web last year and people were furious, until Benneton released a statement saying it was made by a third-party company and had nothing to do with Sisley (which is a daughter project of Benneton's.) My students don't know that it's fake, either. I suppose this is a perfect opportunity to educate them about the validity of various types of media (like that MLK Jr. website created by white supremacists that shows up as the sixth hit on Google when searching his name). But I feel too angry about this to turn it into an effective teaching lesson. Hopefully by the time break is over, I will have calmed down.
The misspelling of the word "fashion" irritates me; I get that they're trying to be cute and clever by equating being a fashion junkie with being a heroin junkie... even though the models are made to look like they're doing cocaine. I guess it's just more glamorous, eh? Coke makes you skinny, and heroin just scars up your arms. But in this fake Sisley world, drugs are drugs, whether you're snorting them, shooting them, or wearing them. Isn't that what we're meant to believe?
Whatever, I get that clothes "look better" on someone who is 5'11 and weighs 120 pounds. I clearly don't like this, for the same reasons people always bitch about it, and so a part of me can appreciate what Zoo Advertising is trying to do here. Look how stupid you sheep are, clamoring after the same white vest, beating each other down to look the most cool and sexy at the toilet tank. But I don't appreciate that more press didn't surround the outcome of this advertisement, especially after all of the attention it received online. Because now my students - and myself - are paying for it. We're suffering from the repercussions of an invasive piece of media whose web presence is too great and whose satire is not explained clearly enough. It's one thing to make a point about the fashion industry by equating it with coked out, modelesque women hiding in a bathroom, yet it's quite another to allow an image like this to so deeply saturate the internet without adequate evidence to the fact that it wasn't originally fabricated to sell the clothing.
I feel badly that my students think this is a real advertisement, and yet a part of me glitters with happiness that they've chosen to deconstruct it for their paper because I haven't heard a single positive thing about the ad yet. So maybe something I've taught them is getting through.