Media foster consumerism Beauty, Health and the Celebrity
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Arguments have long raged about whether the media actively fosters consumerism. From most of the studies and researched on the subject, it is apparent that the majority view is that this is the case. The purpose of this study is to develop this argument further by evaluating whether the media, especially in the field of publications directed at the females gender, uses celebrities’ both to attract and influence the consumers. By looking at a cross sample of women’s magazines we find that in magazines of a general nature this is the case and that, the subliminal message is being fostered still further by the introduction of publications specifically geared to promoting the virtues of copying celebrities.
Media fosters consumerism
Beauty, Health and the Celebrity
Does the media foster consumerism and is it increasingly using status the status and regard that celebrities are held in by the consumer to further those aims? A number of researches have studied the question in respect of whether the consumer is led to a particular product or style as a result of media influence whether it is overt, or subliminal as suggested by Lawrence Grossberg et al (2005). ). As Pratkanis et al, (1991, p64) observes. “If subliminal messages don’t change behaviour, why do people continue to buy self-help tapes?” In dealing with the medias use of celebrities to foster consumerism I have considered the subject from two aspects. On the one hand I have looked at the active promotion of the value of the product or service and, on the other, the suggestive methods that are used to convey the same messages.
In the past the medias activities in relation to consumerism tended to rely upon a product or service supplier placing advertisements in their papers, magazines or by TV and radio commercials. However over the last few decades the emphasis has moved to a subtler means of promotion where the consumer is led to a particular choice by appealing to their need to improve themselves, or possess something that they perceive others have. Nowhere has this transformation become more transparent than in the area of beauty and health, particularly with the female gender.
The last few decades have seen a marked increase in the health and beauty contents within general women’s magazines, which by use of cover headlines, have been aimed to attract the readership to benefits of health and beauty treatments or methods as a means of changing their own image. As a result of the perceived growing popularity of these messages, a number of titles have entered the market place dedicated solely to these topics. As a way of increasing the impact of these messages, such periodicals have increasingly been turning to the celebrity world to reinforce them. They achieve these ends by either a suggestion of a particular celebrity’s actions, or by the use of the celebrity themselves as part of the promotional tool. One only has to look at the headlines for confirmation of both of theses methods, both in a positive and negative way. In the course of our research we found examples of both.
Indirect use of celebrities.
“Renée Zellweger gained 20 pounds to play the lead role in the film Bridget Jones’s Diary. Here’s how she posed to camouflage them.” (Beauty Editor, 2006)
In my opinion, there are two messages being transmitted by this article. Firstly there is the suggestion that if one is ashamed of ones figure, particularly in terms of excess weight, it offers a celebrity action as a way of helping you to disguise the problem. However the more covert message, reinforced by describing the specific reasons for the celebrity’s present condition, tends to suggest that overweight is not an acceptable position. This subliminal message automatically turns the readers gaze towards the adverts surrounding the article promoting diets and other weight reducing programs.
Another magazine promoted celebrity hairstyles by using the editorial headline (2006) “Getting Jennifer Simpsons’ Hairstyle at three in the morning.” This headline came directly from a magazine called “Celebrity Hairstyles.” From my research into such magazines, I have deduced that the core message they are trying to get across to the consumer is that, unless one styles oneself on the latest celebrity fashion, one is out of sync with the modern world and does not fit in with current trends and fashions.
Direct input from celebrities.
In Amy Wallaces’ article (2006) she revealed that, “Jamie Lee Curtis wants you to know the difference between celebrity illusion and all-too-real life.”
When first reading of this headline the message appears to be one of sympathetic understanding and empathy from the celebrity with the problems being experienced by the reader. However, once having created that bond of understanding, the article moves on to its main theme and purpose. Jamie Lee Curtis then goes on at some length about the fitness and diet routine that she has to adhere to in order to deal with the problem she faces with her thighs. This has the effect of laying out a challenge to the reader. In effect the message is that Jamie Lee Curtis has found a way to solve her problems and the reader should also be looking to resolve theirs by a similar method.
“I was living my dream. I could wine and dine in Paris, my new home, and toast fame and fortune.” (Krauss Laura 2006).
Thus proclaimed the famous model, writing for a women’s magazine whose core message was to promote the christian religion. Upon closer examination, it can be seen that there is a deeper message here, one that is promoting more of an anti-consumerism message. Although the author of this message is famous and, as a result of this fame, has become well positioned in society, the message here is that this is not important and is not the root of happiness in her life. She attributes the peace and happiness she feels, not to material worth or possessions, but rather from the faith that she holds, namely her commitment to the Christian religion. The challenge to the consumer is to follow her example and thereby resist the materialistic messages that other media are promoting. In fact, despite the fact that there would appear to be no cost attributed to this message, the magazine is working in exactly the same as the other examples outlined previous, namely the utilisation of a celebrity’s fame to promote, either overtly or covertly, virtues of their own brand of product or service in preference to others.
With all of the above examples, the media are implanting the suggestion that a) the celebrity in question is the pinnacle of good taste or perfection in the particular area that they are promoting and further, that the product or service they are discussing is the reason for their looks, success or lifestyle.
The use of celebrities has extended to all aspects of the media in terms of promoting consumerism. Manufacturers themselves have recognised the impact that celebrities have in the consumer’s decision-making process, to the extent that such people are now being widely used to promote every conceivable type of product throughout the whole spectre of media. Some manufacturers have taken the process still further by promoting ranges ostensibly the unique creation of a particular celebrity. An example of this was given in the magazine Female First (2006) when it announced that the, “Beyonce range has been extended,” referring to the singers fashion range. It can be seen from this that the world of beauty and health has acted as a spearheaded for these developments.
Furthermore, such promotion has spanned every possible age range, from children, though teenage, middle age and to senior citizens. Mothers are bombarded through their daughters and the media, to dress their children in the latest designer clothing. Female teenagers are encouraged to purchases by the media, in conjunction with music producers, subtle creation of the latest girl power icon. Ladies in their forties and fifties are being shown how to disguise the aging process by the chemical and skin care product manufacturers use of celebrities to promote the latest product that will help them retain the looks of youth. Even the medical profession has caught on to the power of the media in promoting their products, using retired actresses to promote health products.
As a result of the research that I have undertaken in the course of preparing this report, it is my conclusion that the media is used to foster consumerism. However in many ways the media is equally as culpable as those who use them. The media, like product manufacturers, are in business to make money. Ciran McCullagh while they do not automatically control the ways in which issues are defined in society, they have considerable influence on the process. The underlying message in advertising, which permeates our media culture, is the importance of the values of consumerism. Women’s Magazines as Advertisements. Croteau et al, (2002). The “women’s magazine” is one medium that is particularly advertising oriented and consistently promotes the ideology of consumerism.
That the sellers of products and services, and the media, achieve success in this area, results from the subliminal message being transmitted to the consumer. This message being that, if they do not take advantage of the product or service offered, they could find themselves isolated from their peers, who will almost certainly be taking advantage. In addition there is an alternative suggestion, this being that the consumer can only aspire to the looks, health and wealth of the celebrities they idolise by giving in to the manufacturers or service providers’ temptation.
Two aspects of our research led us to consider further questions, which could best be answered by further research. The first is in respect of the male gender. During the course of our studies we became aware of the fact that there were an increasing number of articles in the women’s publications relating to how they should expect men to look and behave and, in particular the products that the female should encourage their male counterparts to purchase. The second aspect is of a more psychological nature and is an area highlighted by Aldous Huxley (1962) where in his novel “Island” he suggested that consumerism is leading people to loss their own individuality, identity and personality in favour of a image predefined by outside manipulators and that, eventually individuality will be considered to be an abnormality in the human race.
Beauty Editor (2006). You’ll look better in photos (and 10 pounds thinner!) with these simple strategies. Woman’s Day
Corner, J and Pels, D. eds. (2003) Media and the Restyling of Politics: Consumerism, Celebrity, Cynism. Sage Publications. London.
Croteau, David. And Hoynes. William. (2002) Media/Society: Industries, Images and Audiences. Sage Publications Inc. USA.
Editorial (2006) Getting Jennifer Simpsons’ Hairstyle at three in the morning. Market Wire.
Grossberg, L. and Wartella, E. and Witney, D.C. (2005). Mediamaking: Mass Media in a popular Culture. Sage Publications Ltd. UK
Huxley, Aldous (1962). Island. Harper Collins. New York
Krauss, Laura. (2006). Beauty that lasts. Women Today
McCullagh, Ciran. (2002) Media Power: A Sociological Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.
Potter, W, James. (2005) Media Literacy. Sage Publications. California.
Pratkanis, A.R. and Aronson, E. (1991) Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion. W.H. Freeman & Co Ltd
Wallace, Amy (2006). Jamie Lee Curtis: True Thighs, Ladies Home Journal