Alternative Images

16 May

So in all my criticism of media and society, the response to much of my ranting ends up being: then what is a “good” image? And/or “how can an image be entertaining if it doesn’t reference or mock “the way things are”?

So for a long time I’ve been really watchful for images that I think are “better” than the blatantly racist, gender reinforcing, ageist, (etc.) media we see all the time, mostly just to convince my friends that “better” images can exist (though I’m doubtful about actual “good” images…after all, they’re being used to sell something).

On the subway in New York City, during the winter, Halls put up what I thought was a brilliant, witty and less socially repugnant advertisement campaign to market it’s lozenges. The models included a South Asian man and one female model with different hair cuts as different women. There was also a white man in one. The models, were not wearing particularly “beauty”-enhancing makeup. Instead, they are all made to look sick and war-torn from their ailments.

I loved these ads because they captured in a look how I feel when I’m sick.

They also utilized a person of color in a non-stereotypical way. Nothing in the depiction of the South Asian man is on display in a way that separates him from the other models. There are none of the cultural cues that American media often utilize in depicting a South Asian man (such as a turban, a long beard, a desert background, a taxi, etc.). In fact, there are no cultural cues of any sort in any of the photos.

Also, the women in these ads are depicted, in my opinion, in far less sexualized, objectifying ways than women are normally depicted. They are not disembodied (like so many lipstick ads that just show lips), they are not “scantily clad” in “cleavage” revealing shirts or leg revealing skirts. And the illness make up strikes me as particularly rare to see on women when I’m so used to the heavy make up and photo-shopped faces of “flawless” women.

It seems that the ads are set in the 1960’s-1970’s and the captions feature “knightly” encouragements. I can see no reason to set them in another time period and the combination of this theme with the captions makes for a bizarre set of ads that are obnoxiously kitschy. And yet, I adore them.


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