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From Naturalisation to Sacralisation: Changing Paradigms for Analysing Visual Advertising
Unformatted Document Text:  8 8 the human body’s wholeness fits into the Louis Vi-uitton frame and yet how this frame also defines her. 3G. Relationship to social myths and ideology Within the Williamson system of analysis, the ultimate meaning of the advertised text is always brought back to the notion of the ideological meaning, how the advertisement makes arbitrary cultural differences appear to be natural. In the ad at hand this is done through the social myth of woman as a primordial temptress, that of Eve. This ad certainly refers to the myth with such elements as the fruit that she is licking, suggesting the forbidden fruit. Her seductive pose naturalises both the notion of woman as a born temptress and the act of consuming the bag as well. Buying the bag is like eating fruit. The ad reifies the act of consumption. The desire to be desired can be satisfied by having the designer bag which makes one tempting, seductive, desirable. Thus within the logic of Williamson, the advertisement is principally an agent of phallocentric ideology, of reinforcing an image of women as available for the consumption of men. 4. Active Audience Theory Williamson’s thought saw advertisements as examples of interpolation; of the formation of subjects within an ideology, as the equivalent of what Altusser called an ideological state apparatus. “ Ads position us as consumers and as people who have a need or desire for certain products and the social meaning s which these products have. There is a subjective identity which ads require us to take on. Positioning the individual subject in such a way as to naturalise a dominant ideology of consumerism. ”(Williamson: 60) In this determinist argument, the text not only situates the viewer but also organises his desire and consequently his ideology and then tells him that it is natural. It suits the analysis that we have done above. The next generation of scholars after Williamson would move to positions influenced by reception theory and emphasise the different responses of different audiences or readers. Williamson (167) concludes that in fact, advertising has little content, it empties the meaning out of signs and creates powerful new associations., stating, “Advertisements (ideologies) can incorporate anything, even re-absorb criticism of themselves, because they refer to it, devoid of content” She identifies the principal characteristic of advertising as being the creation of associations between elements that are empty of their content, American theorists, Arheim(1988) and Messaris (1997)would agree completely. Messaris (1997: 58) quotes Arnheim’s disciple Molly Bang “the word associate is the key to the whole process of how picture structure affects our emotions “. 3 3 quoted in Messaris 199è:

Authors: Doyle, Waddick.
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background image
8
8
the human body’s wholeness fits into the Louis Vi-uitton frame and yet how this frame also
defines her.
3G. Relationship to social myths and ideology
Within the Williamson system of analysis, the ultimate meaning of the advertised text is
always brought back to the notion of the ideological meaning, how the advertisement makes
arbitrary cultural differences appear to be natural. In the ad at hand this is done through the
social myth of woman as a primordial temptress, that of Eve. This ad certainly refers to the
myth with such elements as the fruit that she is licking, suggesting the forbidden fruit. Her
seductive pose naturalises both the notion of woman as a born temptress and the act of
consuming the bag as well. Buying the bag is like eating fruit. The ad reifies the act of
consumption. The desire to be desired can be satisfied by having the designer bag which
makes one tempting, seductive, desirable. Thus within the logic of Williamson, the
advertisement is principally an agent of phallocentric ideology, of reinforcing an image of
women as available for the consumption of men.

4. Active Audience Theory

Williamson’s thought saw advertisements as examples of interpolation; of the formation of
subjects within an ideology, as the equivalent of what Altusser called an ideological state
apparatus.

Ads position us as consumers and as people who have a need or desire for certain products
and the social meaning s which these products have. There is a subjective identity which ads
require us to take on. Positioning the individual subject in such a way as to naturalise a
dominant ideology of consumerism. ”(Williamson: 60)

In this determinist argument, the text not only situates the viewer but also organises his desire
and consequently his ideology and then tells him that it is natural. It suits the analysis that we
have done above.
The next generation of scholars after Williamson would move to positions influenced by
reception theory and emphasise the different responses of different audiences or readers.
Williamson (167) concludes that in fact, advertising has little content, it empties the meaning
out of signs and creates powerful new associations., stating,

“Advertisements (ideologies) can incorporate anything, even re-absorb criticism of
themselves, because they refer to it, devoid of content”

She identifies the principal characteristic of advertising as being the creation of associations
between elements that are empty of their content, American theorists, Arheim(1988) and
Messaris (1997)would agree completely. Messaris (1997: 58) quotes Arnheim’s disciple
Molly Bang “the word associate is the key to the whole process of how picture structure
affects our emotions
“.
3
3
quoted in Messaris 199è:


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