And ad for Dakota Fanning’s Oh Lola! perfume has been banned in the U.K. by the Advertising Standards Authority because they say it sexualizes a child. The ASA stated that the following helped form their ruling, “We considered that the length of her dress, her leg and position of the perfume bottle drew attention to her sexuality.” While I would not sport her ultra-girly dress at my age, feminine lace dresses on younger women are a stylish trend created by several designers for the 2011 Fall and Winter collections. I see them in every fashion magazine I pick up, typically on young stars like Selena Gomez. In one article I read about the Oh Lola! ad’s ban the author states that Dakota Fanning is wearing a “provocative stare”, which makes me question the author’s vision, as well as my own. Am I so desensitized to sexy stares that I do not recognize one, or do I not equate sexiness with innocence? Perhaps a bit of both, but what is deemed sexual is unique to an individual. That is why people masturbate to images of feet, hands, pudding, or any other seemingly benign photo.
Although Dakota Fanning is 17 years old, they say she looks under the age of 16, which piqued my interest in British teenage style. On the BBC’s teen fashion site Slink (a provocative title, don’t you think?) it seems on the other side of the pond sequined mini skirts are all the rage on the teen scene . I would not have allowed my teenage daughter to wear what I term a hooker skirt, even with a grunge t-shirt, but perhaps the hookers in the U.K. wear little lace dresses and go around staring provocatively to lure in their clients.
Also deemed provocative by the ASA is the placement of the perfume bottle, which I chalk up to a natural male tendency to see phallic symbols everywhere. A woman is more likely to note the blossoming flower atop the bottle. While I strongly believe in protecting young women from exploitation, the written opinions of the ASA and media exploit Dakota Fanning more than Marc Jacobs with over-the-top sexual descriptions such as the Daily Mail’s “she tilts back lasciviously”. What they have accomplished is to direct pedophiles to this ad by tying enticingly illicit and child-like descriptions together. The below photos of Emma Watson are from a complimentary article in the Daily Mail about her modelling career and a Burberry ad with her little brother in which I easily recognize provocative stares.
I think what’s important is the intent of the photographer/ fashion house (or whoever is responsible for the image or ad campaign).
Finding images like the one above innocent or natural looking is perfectly reasonable and ‘correct’. The picture is obviously not that outrageous or ambiguous. However for any fashion/ advertising image of this sort your interpretation is still your interpretation. I am sorry to say it might not always match the intent of those running the advertising/ fashion industry.
I have spent some spare time studying and pondering what the advertising/ fashion/ entertainments industries are really all about. I have no idea what the intent behind that particular image is (so I’m not making any accusations here). However I can say that generally speaking there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that these industries are infected by certain groups with some rather sick agendas and practices. And that through gradual desensitisation (and a process known as the ‘Hegelian Dialectic’) they are gradually steering society towards the acceptance of (and participation in) their sick world view and practices.
It’s not just about the (so called) ‘sexualisation of the children’, although that’s clearly going on. It’s about dehumanising and objectifying everybody. It’s also about plain old ‘dumbing down’. It’s about plenty of other things as well. None of these things are just ‘happening’. They are not ‘consumer driven’ as we are led to believe.
The media is absolutely useless at discussing this issue (many interrelated issues actually). This is no doubt because (a) most journalists are useless idiots (b) the mass media is as guilty as the rest for promoting this stuff.
All we get now are occasional articles about the ‘sexualization of children’ or titles like ‘are pop videos too sexy, today?’
Of course, when you think about it (and you seem to be aware of this), the danger here is that this discussion unconsciously starts to redefine what ‘sexy’ is. The assumption is that children can be sexy (alluring, provocative, enticing….). Is the media really kicking up a fuss, or is it actually helping to change society’s attitudes about what is or isn’t ‘sexy’ at a subconscious level?
The whole issue is as horrifying as it is maddeningly complex!
In the same way the media keeps asking the question, “are music videos too sexy today?” This implies that tacky leather bikinis and gimp masks and body disfigurement, electroshock, human sacrifice, dehumanisation, murder (and so on….) are ‘sexy’ (or more sexy than having a normal intimate, loving relationship with someone who’s face you can actually see!). All of these things are routinely depicted in videos by Rihanna, GaGa, Aguilera, Spears etc.
What they should be saying is, “are pop videos too sexually demeaning, inauthentic and failing miserably to depict normal human emotions and sensibilities to young people, today?”
I am NOT (in case you were wondering) all for introducing a culture of strict censorship and narrowing the range of what is acceptable artistic expression ……. I am in fact saying the exact opposite! I believe our culture is already in the tight grip of a form of censorship that is too vast and in-your-face for most of us to grasp.
I’m suggesting that to a very great extent the music, fashion, movie and media industries are controlled (certainly at the top). And unless something is over sexualised, demeaning, debased, dehumanised, made shallow, made idiotic, made violent, made uninspiring and demoralising (and unless it promotes certain other specific agendas) it’s generally not considered acceptable for the mainstream. And IMHO that is a form of censorship. It just happens to masquerade as this western culture of ‘free expression’ with this idea that ‘free expression’ inevitably leads to the most lowest common denominator / dumbed down culture. That assumption is a lie….. and deep down I think we all know it.
Anyway, if you want to shatter your illusions about modern consumer culture being a natural and ‘consumer driven’ phenomenon – but then ultimately restore your faith in humanity! – have a gander at some of THESE pics from a fantastic site called vigilantcitizen. At the bottom of that page there are more links to ‘symbolic pics of the week’ series. (A lot of the symbolism is highly specific and may seem a bit ‘wacky’ until the meanings are understood). There are also many great articles on that site too which give a great (but very disturbing – be warned!) insight into why these ‘culture creation’ industries are the way they are.
I’ve also stolen many of images from that site for my own gallery which is arranged by theme, plus I’ve attempted to add my own perspective with a few of my own rambling blog musings 🙂
It’s a vast subject and it can be a little shocking and unbelievable at first. But after a while you start to wonder why you never saw it all before.
Rather than embrace hysteria and ‘confused outrage’ about ‘provocative’ images and so on (as the media seems to enjoy doing) I feel we just need to understand what’s going on. We need to understand human psychology, human nature and who really controls these images we are bombarded by every day (we glance at 3000 adverts a day on average, apparently!). If we get street wise then consumer power will naturally start to steer things back towards sanity 🙂
You make some excellent points and have put a lot of thought into this topic. Especially interesting to me is the human psychological component. I agree that censorship is not the answer, but a public aware of advertising manipulation may view the thousands of images we see everyday differently. It still comes down to an individual’s interpretation and we have the freedom to turn a channel, close a browser, and not buy a magazine that offends us. The only way to change what is selling is to stop buying it.
I agree I think this is ridiculous! Jen xoxo http://mystylisticlife.wordpress.com