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Popular Culture

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"An advertisement is a message printed in a newspaper or magazine, broadcast radio or television sent to individuals through the mail, or sent out in some other fashion that attempts to persuade readers or listeners to buy" (Fite). The question is, do these ads have the ability to shape and change our popular culture or are they simply a reflection of that culture? T. M. Moore suggests that, "To be human is to be a creature of culture." Of culture, not making the culture that surrounds us? I believe that is true, as we are in a time of clashing morals and values, flashes of various images burned onto our brain, snippets of music blaring at us from every venue, and different beliefs every direction we turn. One of the biggest examples supporting this is sex in advertisement.

Does sex really sell? Have Americans become so immune to these images that anything without them seems bland? Fite says, "Sexual advertising is viewed acceptable because it encourages awareness of the products and in some cases increases the desire for the product." Titanic won an Oscar without ads featuring provocative images. American Beauty, however, pictures a naked woman on a bed of red rose petals, strategically covered. Another poster for the movie features a woman's bare stomach, a red rose pressed to it. These provocative images were part of an advertising campaign that netted American Beauty five Academy Awards (Fite). Was sex the deciding factor? These images were on billboards, theater marquees, and in magazines and were not considered "over the top."

But has sex really invaded every aspect of our lives and become acceptable, indeed, the norm? To test this theory, I pulled this month's edition of "Redbook" from my mailbox and flipped through it. There were 212 pages in all, eight of ads featured were of questionable taste, and three articles featured sex: "Get Your Sexercise," "Sexier Sex," and "A Sexier Pregnancy." Of the eight questionable ads only one, in a magazine designed for women, featured a man. Across a well-muscled male chest were the words "Chunkiest" with the phrase "hunk" in a different color. The ad, however, was for Chicken of the Sea. Even our reading materials have reflected the cultural changes the media has made for us.

Alden and Associates argues that Americans are tired of sexy ads, that, indeed, 73 percent of people polled said our culture has been overwhelmed and "...there is too much sexual imagery in ads" (Userpages). Shankar Vedantam, of the Washington Post, reports that people who watch "...sexually explicit or violent ads..." are more likely to remember them. What does that say about our culture? Americans have become so immune to sexual images and violence through the media that companies are constantly "raising it up a notch" to get our attention.

These advertisements target our younger generations, those most vulnerable to suggestions---and suggestive behavior. One recent Pepsi commercial featured Britney Spears with a half-torn shirt, suspenders, a pair of low-cut jeans, and Bob Dole lustily eyeing the television. As 36, I doubt the commercial targets me. The ones I do see singing and dancing to this commercial are my eleven year old and my eight year old. This is not a role model I would choose for my daughters. The sad commentary on our society is that young girls see nothing wrong with dancing this way or, unfortunately, with older men eyeing their bodies. The media has told these children that it is okay, that Britney does it, and hey, Pepsi drinkers should do this---and they want to. When did instilling morals into my children become the responsibility of Pepsi, Britney, or the television?

A good question to ask is if advertisers even realize what group they are entrapping. I believe they do because "...advertising is...used to persuade people to buy a product because it will make them more attractive, more fun, and increase their chances of actually having sex, or at least meeting someone of the desired sex" (Userpages). This uncaring attitude has directly shaped and influenced the newer generations. Kristen Heath reports "...the average age of first intercourse for teenagers in the United States is 15.8." Two of the high school juniors she interviewed attribute "...the problem of teens having sex as the media's fault. Sex is everywhere in America." Our culture has okayed sex, our commercials feature females in sexually provocative positions



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