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Fuck Politeness

This is a revolution, not a public relations movement

Tag Archives: advertising

So fuckthepostpolitical has again taken the axe to the Gruen Transfer…it’s a great post and well worth reading.

One further point for me though: where dredgirl says that it comes off as simply a chance for bigshot ad execs to tell us what works and what doesn’t, I wholeheartedly agree…except that they don’t even engage in this properly. Their answers as to why a particular ad works/doesn’t work are glib, smug, devoid of much in the way of content and far too short and self congratulatory: “because it does” is delivered with a smug-cocky-aren’t-I-so-very-very-urbane-in-my-lime-green-shirt look (so urbane that I don’t need to answer the question). Well fucking duh dipshit! We know it does work…any punter could have told us that…and if it didn’t we wouldn’t need the show in the first place. But your JOB on the panel is to delve into how or why…

I mean even leaving aside the expectation that it might actually ‘take a scalpel to the advertising industry’, even accepting the limitation that they will not engage in the social implications of their ads and the images they use, the fears, prejudices and desires they play into…just talk to us about responses to colours, surveys that show what people respond to that make you pick particular things ton include in an ad to make sure it works. Even in their evading of any critical engagement with the effects of their craft they come off as condesceding twats too important to discuss anything in any detail.

To discuss semiotics in advertising need not mean dirtying their hands with political discussion or context…they could, if they so chose, discuss but it only got a two second mention! In one single ad in one single episode…

So…if they’re going to *avoid* acknowledging political implications by simply discussing what is at work in advertising…well do that, and do it properly.

It actually feels like what is going on is an attempt to present this panel as ‘objective neutral experts’ with all the heft such a stance grants in this society: I’m the rich white expert, mostly male, token female just to prove to you if you’ve got a problem, it’s all yours and nothing to do with me: “I’m just stating facts honey pie, get in the kitchen and cook me a pie – in your undies in front of my mates…and don’t eat any tub-o-lard” .

Are they ‘experts’ in advertising? Sure. Are they sharing this expertise? Nope. Are they enlightening us? Nope. Are they discussing the tricks of the trade in any meaningful way? Nope.

And by presenting themselves and their opinions as neutral and objective (when in actual fact their viewpoints are vested, political and context specific in the extreme) by noting and glossing over the sexism in ads, and then cracking funnies about it…it’s reinforcing that this shit is funny, is not to be taken seriously, has no ‘real’ political implications, is not to be engaged with and critiqued, it’s entertainment, it’s fodder for money making, and now it’s apparently smart and anyone who takes offence is a whiney snivelling little pussy who needs to harden the fuck up. If you’re offended, that’s your personal psychological affliction, cos we are not here to discuss that pansy left wing crap…this is the real world…of advertising, cocaine and designer clothing. Fuck off with that crap.

On the one hand they’re not going into the social implications of what they make a packet doing…cos OHNOES that would be a political act/boring/not funny…but they are erasing the politics of making ads that sell us images of what femininity is, what sexuality should be, who is allowed to have it and how, ads with no racial diversity, ads which sell certain attitudes and make disrespect ‘funny’…erasing the politics of the act of them making sexist, homophobic, racist jokes and expecting that we’ll sit here and take it since our opinion doesn’t fucking count anyway. Gaarghh!

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Look, I should say up front I am a little grouchy of late over feeling like as a woman I am being ‘locked out’ of certain cultural experiences. Since it’s acceptable to slip in slaps in the face to the idea that a woman might be more than a live blow up doll, might aspire to be more than the focus of mastabatory desire into songs, ads, movies, television, office banter etc etc ad infinitum, I am feeling a little like I am getting a giant “up yours” from the writers/speakers of such media/forums.

So…perhaps I am being mildy uncharitable but I really think not.

The Gruen Transfer [triumphant horn music heralding the arrival of an ALL NEW type of television show…intelligent debate, insight, critical thinking and ‘clever’ humour].

Now, don’t get me wrong…there’s space for all this, and a show about advertising, a show which ‘bites back’, talks back, debates, unpacks, pokes fun at, subverts is more than bloody welcome, it’s a necessity. Except that this show stops short almost every single time. The best one liner? From a woman. In response to the question “What’s wrong with this ad?” the prompt delivery “There’s no brown people”. Which is great. Except The Gruen Transfer is there for the quick hit one liner, not to actually engage with these issues.

Episode One I think (which of course featured scantily clad young hotties): One panelist observes in horror that only one percent of Australian women think they are beautiful!!! Does anyone take up the invitation to intelligently discuss the role of advertising in this mindset? Oh no, Wil (as ever) goes for the cheap gag, quipping that that one percent are “up ’emselves!”.

I thought, Hmm, the guy who made this point might make another…no. In response to an ad in which a disembodied tongue goes off on a frolic of its own, he expounds on how great this would be…you’d never have to ‘attend’ to foreplay again. You could watch tele, and say “Give me a call when she’s ready”. GET. FUCKED!

You know, it isn’t that I can’t see the humour in the one liners, it isn’t that I haven’t laughed. It can be fun and entertaining…it’s just that…well Wil in show two shows an ad featuring Kylie Minogue writhing and bucking on a mechanical bull in sexy underwear. She then defies the men in the audience to stand up. The discussion is about sexualisation in ads…Wil’s response “I know I can’t”. Yep, good mate, we got it. Hot chick=boner. I’m seeing who your audience is and it is not me. It isn’t that I can’t relate to the ‘hotness’ of Kylie – she’s gorgeous, the absolute pinnacle in that ad of heteronormative feminine sexiness…but ok…you tell me you’re gonna be critiquing, you display the perfect mastabatory fantasy scenario (go amuse yourselves for a while women who object/feel uncomfortable/are annoyed at the objectification and glorification of the Impossible Attainment of the Clean and Proper Body – cos it’s BOYZ TIME!!!) you crack a funny about cracking wood, and I’m supposed to applaud your intelligent subversive humour? Yet again. GET FUCKED.

Look, it’s slick, it’s amusing, I laugh at some of the remarks, I enjoy some of the challenges, it facilitates a surface level discussion (but it always STAYS surface level, the bottom line is a succesful ad is a good ad needs no critiquing or further discussion) and is better than lots of other stuff on tele. BUT. It’s SOOOOOooooo goddamned heteronormative, so white privilege, so misogynist…so the invitation for the average man who fancies himself a cut above the rest intellectually to ogle objectified, perfected, sanitised women’s bodies…and call it an intellectual exercise.

I call total bullshit.

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The Bill Henson debacle – Part 1:

Art and pornography.

I have no qualifications here, and yet it would appear to me that there are some quite fundamental differences to the goals and effects of art and porn. Art uses nudity, and the naked subject to pose questions, to unsettle, to provoke thought, to evoke memory – we search the naked subject’s face and body language – how is s/he feeling? What is happening? What do they want? Art taps into nudity and sexuality to query or capture the effects of sexuality, of constructions of gender, of standards of beauty – perhaps we find a particular nude captivating, enthralling in its power, but the sexuality on display is complicated, rich, human, bodily…far more complicated and nuanced than the sexuality on offer in porn.

Porn it would seem to me uses nudity for the sole goal of getting us to reach into our pants. That’s why we look it up, that’s why it sells. We’re after the Macdonalds of sexual gratification, and there are certain archetypal  representations of bodies, sex and sexuality which cut through all the conscious choices we make about sexuality and present us with some rather cliched images of sexuality designed for the specific purpose of getting you there quickly. Women playing either the virgin or the whore…girls writhing around with certain sexualised props, it’s all cliched poses and facial expressions, all “Golly gee Mister, I’d like some of what you’ve got there in your pants”, all “I’ve been a good girl all my life, but OH BABY you make me wanna be bad”, and “You can put it ANYWHERE”. In contrast to art, porn is not asking us to quietly, slowly ask ourselves questions about what we find erotic, it is not asking us to weigh and measure the standards of beauty or the consequences of sexualising bodies so young, to ask us to empathise with the conflicting feelings of a teenager who has had sex for the first time…on the contrary, the language advertising porn tells us this shit is HOT HOT HOT, the more “wrong” the more “hot”, don’t think, just wank, feel guilty later. I’m not in fact against pornography as such…I am against advertising and imagery so common on the net such as “Young teen slut takes it up the arse for the first time and cries”, and I am frustrated by the idiocy of the images based on sex=conquering=degradation of women=the younger the better.

I am against the teenage female body being held up as the ideal of femininity and sexuality – which it is in mainstream society in some fairly obvious ways. I’m thinking here of the revolting display of adult men salivating after Anna Kournacova when she was 15. I’m thinking of preteen runway models, sexed up to the hilt and modelling clothes designed for *WOMEN*, I’m thinking of the masses of ads for porn featuring teens, of modelling competition shows whereby teenagers are encouraged to sex it up or be percieved as cold…This idealisation means that a teenagers body is sexualised in a proprietary way (again I refer to being quite graphically sexually harrassed from the age of 13) by adults who should know better, that there are massive pressures on real teenagers to “sex it up” from an early age and that the standard of beauty is unattainable almost as soon as you reach adulthood (is “Enjoy it while you’re kids, before you’re too old to be sexy” really the message we want to send about sex to children?)

I cannot see the images which have been banned, so I can’t comment on whether I feel they have any pornographic qualities…however the images I have seen of Hensons teenage subjects have been immensly moving. It would appear that what Henson is doing in his work is examining the effects of our society on actual teenagers, investigating the pressures of youthful beauty, of the pressure of sexualisation on teenagers. The images I’ve seen have never been “Yeah, dig it, I just had anal for the first time, it hurt, and MAN that’s hot, here’s the Youtube video of him coming on my face after” – how can society thrive on an economy of worship of the teenage body, use teenage models, tell teens to sex it up, then condemn a man who tries to point out the confusion, chaos and ambiguity all this can set up for real people?

When I was growing up so many kids were having sex at thirteen or fourteen…I remember listening as one friend asked another how it had felt…the smile slipped and she said in a distubed way “It felt like a stick was in there”. I remember being really thrown. She seemed kinda proud to have graduated to this new grown up activity, but it seemed it had not been enjoyable for her in the least. It had been a service performed in the duty of her boyfriend. I also remember the beach parties I was never allowed to go to (I never argued that much to be allowed) – two twin girls had moved to the area from the city, one got horrendously drunk and the boys “took turns” on her. She was, by all accounts barely conscious. At school on Monday she was actively villified for being a ‘slut’, while the guys were business as usual. I say all this not to set up a seperate debate on the specific impact on girls (which is well worth having)…but to point out that adolescents do have real experiences with sex, often unsatisfying in the extreme, often barely or not consensual, often causing conflicting emotions…I have seen many images of Henson’s which explore this aspect of adolescence, and in asking us to remember what it was like, to remember the chaos, and angst and confusion, to identify with confused teenagers, to ponder growing up, to identify with raw emotions.

There are artists who would explore pornography in art, who would utilise any overlaps, who would use pornographic images in order to make us ask question about ourselves and about pornography. I do not believe that Hensons work falls into even this category. Every image I’ve seen has been to ask us to engage with ambiguity, emotion, motion, places, time, real people. None of the images have been posed in the porn style, they are moody, evocative, haunting, disturbing, ethereal…again. I cannot answer for these pieces as they’ve been removed and I have not seen them. But you know what? That’s enough for me to feel that these people have condemned themselves. If these artworks really are indecent, then show us so we know you’re right. To refuse to do so seems to imply that there’s a hidden/repressed paedophile in all of us, just waiting to be triggered by the mighty ‘temptation’ of the naked adolescent body…for one thing that’s a disturbingly bleak and pessimistic view of humanity, and for another it’s an awful thing to do to teenagers…”Your body is the site of temptation to sin”. Dangerous dangerous logic. I will write about that next post.

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