Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Perfume Marketing and Feminist Aesthetics: ‘Alternative’ Styles in Advertising and the Male Gaze, Pt. 2

“Rebel, rebel, your face is a mess”: Vera Wang Princess & Vera Wang Glam Princess

If the Juicy Couture ads I talked about yesterday were aimed at sixteen year-olds, then Vera Wang Princess, like Seventeen Magazine, may say they want teens to buy their goods, but are actually aiming to catch those tweens before they begin their dating duties. Therefore we get our pretty princess to our left, staring seductively at your as she pulls up her skirts, daring you to come get her. Yes, the look on her face a little sullen, like the way you practice in the mirror, and the pirate hat is clearly edgy, but underneath that ‘rebel’ exterior, she’s still waiting to be consumed by the viewer, like every other objectified girl before her.  and that big purple heart riding at the edge of her skirt?  Yeah, that's exactly what's she's daring you to come get -- her heart.

Don’t believe me? Here's our little rebel again, actually laid out for you.  I don't know which part kills me more: her exploding cleavage, the rumpled sheets, the tousled sex hair with crown barely hanging on, or that she's looks like she's pulling her own hair! (Her right hand in particular.) Now if you're into hair pulling, good for you.  What I hate here is the happy girl, laid out on a platter for the viewer, subtly suggesting violence will be a-okay with her.  If the ads were more adult, I might be less bothered by this aspect, but the model is so young and the "princess" themes infantilize her further.  As an advocate for victims of sexual assault, many of whom have been young women on the cusp of exploring their sexuality in a world that does not like women to be in control of their sexuality, I find these ads truly scary because of this part of it. I am also not at all jazzed but the rope encircling that heart shaped bottle and spelling out "princess."  What about being a princess involves rope?  Nothing, unless you're into kinky kidnapping fantasies.  And again, if that is what you and your adult partner engage in with mutual full consent and safe words in place, awesome.  Somehow,  I don't think our little princess has consented, and I think this ad tries to make it okay for you to engage in  a dominance fantasy, and her consent isn't required or even a consideration.

As for our princess, you can have her alone in her bed, or if that doesn’t quite work for you, there’s a shirtless boy to cue you in about what’s about to happen to our little princess. Apparently “born to rule” means marrying a denim clad prince.  And you know how best to bed them – by wearing Vera Wang Princess. Isn’t that how we all hope to ascend to power? By sleeping our way to the top, willingly or not? The cat, by the way, killing me.  I cannot decide if it makes the image more innocent and therefore better, or heightens the weirdness of the lolita-esque sexual messages, making it worse.  The only thing I can come up with is that cats, like women, are animals to be taken care however you deem fit.  They are to be pampered, but are not active people with equal right to reason, autonomy, or rule. If you've got thoughts about the cat please share them because I am so puzzled.

Okay, one more.  Vera Wang Glam Princess puts the modern spin on it, by making ‘princess’ the equivalent of modern celebrity. What I find aaaaa-mazballs about the male gaze in this ad is how completely overt it is. A crowd of photographers in the background, meant to indicate all the focus of the world’s attention is on our little glamorous royal. The three photographer faces you can see? All dudes. Because, let’s remember girls, the only attention that matters in the world is male attention.

Hand drawn pirate tattoo or not, our Vera Wang Princess/Glam Princess is hardly a rebel. Assuming of course we mean actually rejecting traditional modes of femininity as defined and limited by patriarchy and for male consumption, and not just trying to pick up slightly alternative fashioned boys by dressing similarly.

And the saddest part? I found these photos of a woman trying to make her daughter into this ad. How's that for women policing themselves?

Tune in tomorrow for continued ranting in my current series “‘Alternative’ Advertising and the Male Gaze in Perfume Advertising,” also known as “Rebel without a Clue.” &If you missed yesterday's portion of the series, following the "Perfume and Feminist Aesthetics" tab above.


Doc Elly said...

Interesting series! About the cat, it looks like he's about to stuff it down her cleavage so that it can go exploring (cat fetish anyone?), but maybe holding a nice "pussycat" in one hand is a not too subtle exposition on what he's doing with his other hand.

Keep 'em coming!

experiential marketing said...

I have to agree with Doc Elly, you sure do make interesting articles. Thank you very much.

Diana said...

Thanks all for the interesting comments and ongoing support -- always appreciated