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Chapter 7-8

MDSB03H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7-8: Margaux Hemingway, Pathetic Fallacy, Totem

Media Studies
Course Code
Stacy Jameson

of 4
Judith Williamson- Signs Address Somebody
- A sign replaces something for someone.
- An object replaces image/feeling. The product replaces original object & uses the image/feeling
- It is receiver’s responsibility to complete signified products as signifiers & to create the meaning.
- Ideology is based on false assumptions
- Ads create an “alreadyness” of “facts” about ourselves as individuals: we’re consumers with
values who will buy things based on those values
- “Illusion of choice”
- Ideology of freedom: choose between products.
- How much money is worth is known when a transaction is made.
- $ determines value yet its value is determined by what is exchanged with it.
- Currency: system of values
- Signs are also given value as currency by us when we recognize what they stand for & replace.
- Values exist not in things but in their transference.
- Relationship between “ideology” and “subject” is simultaneous interdependence.
- Subjects can also be signified & given the status of object
- Product is meant to give meaning to us.
- Product are signifiers of difference. (Using Chanel makes consumer different than Babe users)
(Pepsi drinkers aren’t Coke drinkers)
- We differentiate ourselves from other people by what we buy.
- Totemism- use of differences between natural objects to differentiate between human groups
- 2 sets of false differences between products, people, ad’s meaning, & cost
- We are made to create differences between products which differentiate us
- Ads avoid society’s real issues & create systems of social differentiation
- What reflects us will create us
- You don’t buy product to become part of the group it represents. You should feel that you already
belong to that group and you will buy it because of that.
- Ad creates your self-image since you feel that you’re the type of person to use that product brand.
- Ads appeal to our specialness & create their own consumers
- The ‘you’ in ads are always plurals but are received as singular.
- People must be connected 1 by 1 to product through ad before becoming a mass of consumers
- Babe product just for ‘you’, but Margaux Hemingway is Babe in the picture she is alter-ego
- You are created by the ad & become its currency when using it. You are signified because you
give it significance
- Ad brings together different parts of you to make it seem like they are appealing only to you.
(Appeals to how you are at home, school, work, with friends, & family)
- Maxi car ad: “Both the car you want… & the car you both need”. 1st part is about the man
impressing is boss as he steps into the car. 2nd part is about the man & his wife. Ad brings
together 2 opposites. The car that makes the man successful in business & ego will also help her
with chores & shopping.
- Signification- system of differences
- Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory: Consciousness & subject is created, not born
- Ads offer image of ourselves that we aspire but never achieve.
- In some skin ads, skin is shows as separate from you… & the woman is at eye level looking back
at you. So the skin is the object & you are in the ad as an ideal self with perfect skin.
- Face becomes not a part of consumer, but part of product sold back to us to recreate ourselves.
- These parts of you claimed as separate objects in ads must be bought back to recreate yourself.
- Buying products creates us, our personality, qualities, past & future.
- We are both product & consumer. We consume, buy the product, yet we’re the product.
- Our lives become our own creations through buying different images of ourselves created by
different products.
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James B. Twitchell- Reflections & Reviews: An English teacher looks at Branding
- Brand: a story attached to a manufactured object
- Stories carry emotions as their meaning, making us learn how to think & feel by hearing stories.
- Holophrasm: Ability of a story to be expressed in single kernel. (Reduces sentences into a word)
- Good art & brands are holophrastic.
- Brand stories are fluid & occur visually (their logos & tunes).
- Their kernels are also colored (Pepsi is blue & Coke is red).
- Their kernels are also their icons. (Kellogg's Tony the Tiger & McDonald's Ronald)
- Genre: The phenomenon of stories fitting into emotion-delivering formats
- We developed the same kind of story variation but do not understand brand genres because it
happened quickly.
- Clutter: An occurrence of an exploding in storytelling.
- 2 things in 19th century caused stories to get attached to manufactured (branded) things: 1)
common acceptance of pathetic fallacy 2) rise of impressionism as a narrative & pictorial device.
- They also allowed the audience to participate in fiction & material goods consumption & made
branding possible & inevitable.
- Romantic poets showed that inanimate things & nonhuman life share feeling.
- "Lines Written in Early Spring" by William Wordsworth was written as the end of the 18th c, which
was the <3 of commercial branding.
- It says that flowers feel joy, twigs sense pleasure, & birds think.
- "Ode on the Grecian Urn" by Keat gives the urn the ability to tell stories. It is given human
characteristics & it says things.
- All of these factors are found between Keats & modern ads: 1) the storytelling necessity of
separating products, 2) humanizing the material world like how the Impressionists humanized the
natural world, & 3) the willingness to move back & forth between one's self & an
artistic/commercial creation, suspending judgment, in hopes of building a relationship.
- Colin Campbell- something happened to the Western imagination in the early 19th c to make
application of stories to inanimate objects possible. We stopped rationalizing & started dreaming.
- Industrial Revolution was the result of our materialism, not the cause of it. It didn't just make
things, it made meaning for things.
- We don't know what we want. We try to make meaning to what we buy, so stories are included in
brands to create that meaning.
- Romanticism was the enemy of material consumption, but it paved way for marketing by
foregrounding the life of sensation, privileging daydreaming processes, & encouraging spiritual
yearning to the nonreligious.
- We exchanged knowledge of history & science (books) with knowledge of products (brands).
- Older narratives surrounded nationalism, ancestry, history, art, & afterlife, while modern
narratives are about cigarettes, sugar water, beer, car tires, etc.
- Some last generations while others change.
- Sagas give & take between audiences & storytellers in which the audience clearly participates in
the choice of subplots.
- Before, we were classed based on bloodline ancestry, religion, marriage partner, jobs, accent,
etc. Now we're classed by car, suit, handbag, vacation spot, & what we consume.
- Brands are the new emotional triggers & social markers.
- We spiritualize commercial brands, especially luxury ones, creating a religious sense to them.
- Brands & consuming is becoming a rite of passage, to help a person cross stages of life.
Robert Goldman & Steven Papson- Introduction: Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning
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- Commodity signs= McDonald’s arches, the Nike “swoosh”, & other logos.
- We take ads for granted now & we’ve seen them 1000+ times.
- Walter Benjamin’s “state of distraction”= We decipher ads routinely, automatically, &
- Ads boost commodity brand names’ values by attaching them to images that possess social &
cultural value.
- Brand-name commodity + meaning of image = commodity sign.
- Ads are always commodity narratives that tell stories about success, desire, happiness, social
fulfillment, etc.
- Ads hail us; they name & invite us to take up a position in relation to the ads.
- Ads greet us as individuals with what seems to be our own (already) ideological assumptions &
- Judith Williamson: Metastructure- Where meaning is not just “decoded” within one structure, but
transferred to create another.
- Commodity signs are formed between the brand’s name & the meaning system which can be
summarized in an image.
- We recognize sign values at an early age.
- Products require signs that add value to them in today’s market
- Advertisers struggle to differentiate their images from others in competitive advertising industry.
- 1970 polling data- Consumers complained that they were being manipulated & insulted by ads.
- Late 1980s- Advertisers responded with more ‘realist looks’ in ads.
What they once tried to conceal in ads, they boldly tried to expose in competition
with others.
It became confusing for consumers to figure out what the point of the ad was
- Corporate competition to sell consumer commodities centered on the image, look, & sign.
- The sign value of the commodity gives a brand name its meaning
- The necessity of differentiating products motivates sign competition
- TV commercials are fast, with 100s of images crammed into 30 second.
- 1990- Nike created commodity whose sign value overpowered use value. New line of shirts had
images from their successful TV ads starring Michael Jordan, Spike Lee, & Bo Jackson.
- It targeted teen & preteen boys.
- Every 6 weeks, they released new shirt with another image from their ad campaign
(planned obsolescence in sign industry since product had to keep getting replaced by new one)
- Celebrities are sought as referent systems because they have high potential sign value.
- Referent systems that include lifestyles & subcultures are usually the most successful.
- Generation X- Members of the post-baby-boom generation.
- Inventing a signifier without any basis of daily life (Example: The Pepsi “summer chillout” gesture)
causes sign failure.
- Nike’s swoosh sign had no significance until it merged with Michael Jordan who had good
performances = high value.
- The most current example of a signifying style appropriate for its sign value is rap/hip hip music.
- Generation X has recently become the hot topic for ad & marketing industries.
- It’s dangerous to hail youth because if it’s not done right, advertiser is estranged & antagonized.
- They need to be spoken to in their language & on their terms.
- The cultural emphasis on consuming, owning, & wearing signs as an indicator of personal identity
was well under way by the 1920s.
- Consumers use signs to construct their identities & distinguish between themselves & others.
- Grunge- mixing things that don’t go together.
- Image banks- institutionally rationalized approach to managing a marketplace of images for the
construction of commodity signs in a stage of advanced sign competition
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