Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do I Really Want to See it?

It’s no secret that sex sells. In fact, this hasn’t been a secret for many years. Sex has been a strategy for advertisers since the beginning. The textbook I have left over from when I took Media Criticism a few semesters ago called Ads, Fads and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society by Arthur Asa Berger, devotes an entire chapter to sex in advertising.

Below is an excerpt from the text explaining briefly why sex is used so frequently in advertising:

“John Berger’s Ways of Seeing explores human sexuality as one of the most potent tools of advertising. Berger points out that advertising makes greater and greater use of sexuality to sell products and services. As he explains:
‘…this sexuality is never free in itself, it is a symbol for something presumed to be larger than it: the good life in which you can buy whatever you want. To be able to buy is the same thing as being sexually desirable. (1972:114)’”

And who wouldn’t want to be sexually desirable?

Sex has been embraced by our society whether we like it or not. Often times I catch myself after seeing a commercial on TV or watching a movie saying “Wow there wasn’t a sexual innuendo…when there could have been. Why?” If I am not alone in this, I have to ask this question: If we notice when sex isn’t there, do we notice when sex is there?

Ads, Fads and Consumer Culture can elaborate a little bit on this:

“The mixture of sex and sociological and cultural matters means that there is often a great deal more to sexually exciting and erotically stimulating advertising than we might imagine” (p. 86).

From just about every perfume ad to even milk ads, sexual nods, hints and references are everywhere and attached to every product. I’ve never really had a problem with it; it’s never seemed too outrageous and I hope and expect that parents out there are watching and talking to their kids about the birds and the bees anyway.

But a recent Calvin Klein ad has got me re-thinking this outlook. I’ve only seen it online and I honestly wonder if this will ever make TV. Either way, it’s making waves for how provocative it is… which is exactly what the advertisers wanted.

When I saw this ad my jaw dropped—for obvious reasons. I can’t say I hate it. In fact, I was incredibly entertained by it. But this is definitely a commercial for older audiences and I’ve only seen the “edited” version. I keep thinking: how far is too far? When do should we say “Whoa, that’s enough?”

We can’t forget that there are other underwear ads that push the envelope too. Victoria’s Secret could be considered Calvin Klein’s counterpart for underwear. So the idea of a commercial being drenched in sex like this isn’t new. Not to mention, Calvin Klien has made a name for themselves because of their sexually explicit ads.

Still, I can’t help but be shocked. Maybe it was the language…maybe it was the fact that I haven’t seen men presented like this much… who knows? But this commercial definitely sticks with me.

What do you think? Has Calvin Klein gone too far? Or do you think that they have every right to push the envelope like this in order to get noticed in such an advisement-cluttered world?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The News in Me


As a communication studies major I am able dip my talents into various types of media, both by choice and requirement. I semi-recently wrote an article for The Rotunda, the campus newspaper, about the new Farmville Chief of Police, Chief Mooney, and what changes he would like to see happen with the department. For this article I was also able to speak with Longwood’s Chief of Police, Chief Robert Beach, where he divulged some new information of his own.

Beach informed me that he would like to start a student police academy at Longwood University. The academy would be a 12 week program where students could go to 24 to 30-some hours of training in order to get an in-depth look of how the police and criminal justice system work. Beach hopes to get this program up and running in the fall but has no intention of rushing the project in order to ensure that it is done right. The program will most likely start off being provided once a year and then, depending on interest, may increase to once a semester. There will be a fee, although it should be relatively small.

This program has been a long time in the making. For the past two years, Beach has been working with The Joint Committee for Students Rights Education, of which he is an adviser, in order to develop an appropriate program for Longwood students. The program, according to Beach, would essentially be a “little police academy” where students can see exactly how law enforcement works and even try their hand at some scripted police work or scenarios.

Beach explained the importance of providing and attending such a program. He said, “With every freedom comes a certain amount of responsibility, as a matter of fact a whole lot of responsibility. The interaction between the citizen and its local government and particularly its police department it’s very, very important to understand what your rights are and what your responsibilities are; understanding how law enforcement works, how the criminal justice system works, that’s an important piece for protecting yourself [and] your family.”

According to Beach there are a number of universities around the country that have successfully put on a program similar to the one he is attempting to develop at Longwood. Beach strongly believes that “for a place that speaks to citizen leaders, that’s an important element I think,” said Beach.

Graduates of the student police academy “become a supporting arm of the police department” and “have a relationship with the police department that is different than the average citizen,” said Beach. This is a citizen awareness type program that he believes might actually spark interest in some students in areas of law enforcement or criminal investigation.

The Chairman of The Joint Committee for Students Rights Education, Jordan Miles, said that the main thing the program will need is “support from the students, the faculty and the staff and the administration.” Without that support he does not believe the program will be as successful as it could potentially be if people actually take interest in it.

Kristen Wander, a political science major is excited about this program coming to Longwood.

“I think it’ll actually be really good to have because I know I’m not the only who will think about going into the police academy or into the military; and both I think would benefit from having the student police academy,” said Wander.
Wander also believes that the program should not only be directed to criminal justice or political science majors, but to everyone on campus.

“I think everyone should know what the laws are and what officers do and I think it’ll help for student-police relations here on campus because if you are having more students who are learning about what the officers actually have to do it’ll help the student body understand that they’re not necessarily always out to get us…and some things they have to do,” said Wander.

I am 100% on-board with this program and I hope that students actually take interest in it. As a daughter of an Arlington/DC Detective, I’ve grown up around officers. Not only am I comfortable around them, but I have also had the opportunity to learn from them and see them has actual human beings with families of their own.

Most college kids see cops as power hungry animals who are only out to get them. Although I can’t say this is never the case, I can easily say this it is very, very rarely the case. Just like in any profession, there is always going to be someone who abuses their authority and ruins it for everyone else. But my hope is that when students and police officers come together for this program, they will be able to see the other side of issues and opinions and at least come up with a mutual respect for each other.

Like beach said, it’s important to know the law in order to protect yourself. I can’t tell you how many times knowing the law and the habits of police officers has helped me get out of or avoid a pickle. Whether you like it or not, the day will come (if it hasn’t already) when you will have to interact with a police officer and wouldn’t you want to feel comfortable and confident?

But will students actually take part in this program? Or will they continue to sit back and complain about the injustices in the world? I hope that this opportunity will not go unnoticed or pass by students without triggering any interest.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hip Hip Hurray for Valentine's Day?

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’ve decided to look into the holiday’s origin and the traditions we carry on today.

There are many different versions as to how Valentine’s Day came to be; here is my version:

St. Valentine was a priest or holy man who preformed secret marriages for lovers after Claudius II decided that single soldiers preformed better on the battle field. Once his actions were discovered, he was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. While imprisoned he fell in love with his jail-gaurd’s blind daughter, who was the only one who visited him. He sent her a final letter before his execution signed, “from, your Valentine.” It is also rumored that he performed a miracle by giving the jail-guard’s daughter the ability to see. These actions earned him the title of Sainthood as well as a day dedicated solely to him. St. Valentine was martyred on February 14th which is why we celebrate Valentine’s Day when we do.

My version is a combination of three legends pertaining to three different people… clearly. Notice the contradictions: a priest who falls in love would never be inducted into Sainthood by the Catholic Church and how would a blind girl read love letters? But there are the similarities: all three legends concerned a man named Valentine, each man was recognized by the Catholic Church as being a Saint, and all three conveniently were martyred on February 14th.

But no matter which version you believe in, it is safe to say that St. Valentine didn’t exactly have a perfect love life or the best February 14th; which is why I don’t understand why people today demand perfection on V-Day. If the guy who created Valentine’s Day had a bad day, what makes you feel so entitled to have a good day?

By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. How did we get from “small tokens of affection or hand written notes” to elaborate evenings filled with 12 dozen roses, 50-piece boxes of chocolates, $75 per person dinners, and $550 diamond necklaces?

I feel like V-Day is either a competition between couples to see who can give the best gift, thus making them the most romantic; or it’s a day spent in worry, where the couple tip toes their way through every action hoping it’s the right thing to do—just because it’s February 14th.

Too many times have I heard a wining rant about how nothing went right and the other person in the relationship is to blame. Whatever happened to looking back on imperfection and laughing it off?

So here is my challenge:

Guys, don’t throw down big money to impress your date this Sunday. Be creative and make the day fun for BOTH of you. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things.

Girls: Instead of expecting your date to wait on you hand and foot maybe you should make the day about him too. Surprise him and do something nice for him because actions speak louder than an expensive gift.

But is this even possible? Will both parties be satisfied? You decide what’s more important: spending time with your loved one or having the “perfect” day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Imitation is the Biggest Form of Flattery

Let me begin with an anecdote:

When I was 7 I was the biggest Spice Girls fan on the planet. I satisfied my imagination by pretending to be Geri Halliwell a.k.a. Ginger Spice. I walked, attempted to talk, dress, and act like her. I also knew every word to every Spice Girls song… and I mean EVERY song. This included the song 2 Become 1, released in July of 1997 making me 8 years old. As one might be able to deduce from the title, the song is about sex.

I had a dance and everything for this song, which I practiced religiously.
Here’s a taste of some of my dance moves:
When Baby Spice (if I remember correctly) sang, “Come a little bit closer baby, get it on, get it on” I would beckon my finger and shake my hips; then, when she sang, “'Cause tonight is the night when 2 become 1” I would spread my arms out like a was Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic and bring one inward in a circle; the first time around holding two fingers up and the second time around with just my index finger.

*To read through the complete set of lyrics, click HERE*

Sidenote: Parents, if I—an innocent 8 year old Catholic school girl who went to church every Sunday—did this in my spare time, then you better believe that your kid did, is doing, or will do the same.

The learning pattern of children is to learn, then imitate. This pattern is called Social Learning. A child will notice someone who they consider a role model that possesses desirable attributes (in my case, it was Ginger Spice) and then imitate the role model. Although this imitation can be, at times, concerning for parents, it’s usually isn’t something to call a child psychologist over. If kids are this easily influenced by someone in the media, for example, then they are can just as easily be influenced by other individuals in their lives (parents, siblings, teachers, etc). Therefore, one of these other role models can quell a child imitating a not-so-great quality or individual by simply setting a good example.

But here’s the issue: The advantage I had over kids these days was that I didn’t have access to technology; or at least technology as advanced as today. I may have pranced around in my mother’s heals, short shorts, and a boa singing 2 Become 1 at the top of my lungs, but I never had the ability to broadcast my imitation phase of Geri Halliwell on, say for example, youtube. Not to mention, even though the subject matter of this particular song is no where near appropriate for 8 year old ears, it’s not like I had any idea what any part of this song meant.

But kids these days not only engage in their imagination like I did but they can also broadcast it for anyone to see; and naturally everyone is freaking out because they can’t believe what they are seeing.

There are so many young girls with their own youtube channel where they dance and sing to popular songs of the day, making their own music video. One of the most popular is doglover199709.

But recently, one little girl has gotten the most backlash for her youtube music video: Miley Cyrus’ 9 year old sister, Noah.
The only reason why anyone is paying more attention to her (I’m guessing) is because she is associated with someone already famous… someone a lot of people already don’t like.

If you watch this video, you can tell that her intentions are just to have fun and she clearly has no idea what “getting crunk” means seeing as she fake chugs a Red Bull (see the 1:04 mark)…although maybe this is because she couldn’t get her hands on a real beer can…
Actually my biggest concern when watching this video is the sketchy guy dancing in the background.

Needless to say, even though I think her parents should have monitored her activities a little bit better and maybe kept this particular video for home video use only, I really don’t think it’s anything to freak out about. Sadly, my only reasoning for this is just because I turned out just fine.

But what do you think? Has Noah Cyrus already been showing early signs of Lindsey Lohan Syndrome?

UPDATE: Word on the street is little Cyrus is starting a lingerie line… I think now people can panic.