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Gender Construction In Advertising And Media

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Gender and Society

Advertisements are not the only medium that should be blamed for how the media effects people today. Books, movies, TV commercials, and television shows all show how much we as a people have changed our views of sexuality and beauty since the modest times of before. Sex has become more openly accepted as more half naked men and women appear on media devices all around us. People made a huge scene when Elvis was seen “shaking his hips” on public television and he had to be censored, and now, forty years later, 50 cent can be seen grinding provocatively with scantily dressed women in his music videos. The naked Gucci man discussed in Susan Bordo’s “Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body” is another example of how times have changed. The main focus of this paper is on how men and women are portrayed in the movies, more specifically, horror movies. From the time when Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds was released in 1963 to the 2002 release of Cabin Fever, the portrayal of men and women had changed dramatically. The way the women and men dressed and behaved in the movie had changed from modest and protective to more sexual and independent. Over a period of forty years, the way in which society viewed both sexes had significantly changed.

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds came out in 1963 (“The Birds”) and was one of the biggest thrillers of that time. The story follows a playgirl from California who goes to visit her potential boyfriend but all things go awry when the birds go crazy and start to attack everyone. Tippi Hedren portrays the wealthy playgirl and Rod Taylor is the man she is dating. Taylor’s character has a small sister with whom he is very close to. He is also quite close with his mother. They display a very loving family dynamic as they work together to save each other from the vicious birds (The Birds). On the contrary, Cabin Fever, released in 2002, is a completely different story. The story is centered around five sexually active teenagers who go to a cabin in the woods for vacation. A diseased man that they had encountered dies and falls into the water supply and as a result, infects one of the teenagers. They all struggle to survive and stay away from this flesh eating disease. The first girl to contract the disease is the love interest of one the male characters and after finding that she has been infected, they throw her into a small shed with a bed to keep her from infecting the others. Most of the kids end up getting the disease and in the end, one boy lives on to tell the story of their tragedy. (Cabin Fever(1))

One of the most noticeable differences between horror movies today and forty years ago is the way in which the actors dress, specifically women. In The Birds, the Tippi Hedren portrays a playgirl from California, but she dresses more like a business woman. She has on a nice, tailored suit and a neckline that shows nothing but neck. Her skirt is below her knees and even her arms are covered. On the picture to the right of it, there are the three “Girls Next Door” that are shown on E! TV and allow people a view into the world of a playmate. The amount of skin shown has drastically changed, and if you were not aware of whom the woman on the left was, I am sure your first guess would not be playgirl. Tippi Hedren is a beautiful woman, but she is completely covered and is not dressed sexually at all. Most of the male population today would rather see videos and TV shows that featuregirls with more skin and less clothes, compared to the modest dress of the 1960’s. In Justin L. Matthew’s Hidden Sexism: Facial Prominence and Its Connections to Gender and Occupational Status in Popular Print Media, he creates a mathematical procedure to determine the amount of skin shown and where in men and women. His methods are mainly for advertising, but if someone took a picture from a movie, the same concept could be applied. He did a lot of research on all types of magazines from different time periods to show the “hidden sexism” that is apparent in advertisements today. He uses face to body ratios to analyze the images and the different ratios between genders, what percent of their face is shown compared to their body. Some of his theories are that men are valued to their cerebral qualities and women for their physical and emotional qualities. From the pictures above, you can see that the ratios are completely different than they were when The Birds was filmed, the amount of skin shown has greatly increased. He also states that “the way in which men and women are depicted… has changed. However, this change was not facilitated by the removal of the bias detected… rather just a change in the way the ratios are manifested.” (523 Matthews) This picture is a shot from Cabin Fever, where the two characters are lying on a pier, barely dressed and sitting very closely to each other. The “raw” sexual attraction today is much more open than the clandestine flirtation of year ago. They are looking at each other as if they want to ravish each other, not as if they are in love. This next picture is from The Birds and the couple is in the same situation and the ones from above, yet they are staring lovingly into each others eyes and look as if they genuinely care about each other. Sex is not apparent in this scene, but in the scene above, sex is on both of their minds. The difference is clear, but the reason is not, why has society’s view on sex and love changed so much in only forty years? The innocent love of years ago has now morphed into the sexual lust of today, and it is apparent all over the movie screen.

In the 1960’s, there was always the idea that the man had to “bring home the bread”. A woman was there to cook, clean, and raise children while it was the man’s job to make the money and protect the family. Many men still feel the need to be the patriarch, the protector of the family while many feminists are trying to challenge these ideas. From the movie The Birds, this shot was taken of the actor shielding the actress from a swarm of rabid birds. It seems natural that the man is there to protect her, since this idea has become so common in the world today. Since then, women taking their own and standing up for themselves, without a man, has become pretty normal. A good example is from Cabin Fever, where one of the girls finds a gun and uses it to protect herself after her boyfriend gutlessly runs away. In this movie there is another example of how men are no longer the all mighty protectors. When the first girl gets sick with the flesh eating disease, her boyfriend freaks



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