Life Beyond the Screen
Frankly, I’ve never been interested in watching television. However, the rare times I do find myself in front of a television set, I am forced to recognize my attraction to advertising. The beautiful music, smiling models, and cute storylines tend to provoke quite the emotional reaction. As a child, I used to keep a piece of paper by the television so that I could keep a list of everything that I wanted my parents to purchase. Even though I no longer pay the same kind of attention to television, I must confess that I am the same weak-willed child eager to see the new products and companies available at any given time.
With the newly popular theme of including feminist ideals in advertising—such as Pantene’s campaign against apologizing—I can’t help but express my gratitude. It’s nice of these companies to give a brief hint at achieving societal equality. I hope that all these goose-bump-inducing ploys are getting plenty of individuals to jot down a new product worth purchasing.
Still, once the chills on my back dissipate and the goose bumps disappear, I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth: these companies selling both their product and feminism short. Because the main goal of advertising is profit, brands add the feminist side of the commercials with excessive superficiality. For example, in the Pantene commercial, everything is presented with the sort of flashy realism typical of television. Translating thirty seconds of empowerment on a Hollywood set to the less picturesque, complex reality is far more difficult than the actresses make it seem. Maybe the brands have inspired an activist or two, but it’s more likely that they’ve allowed a sizeable population to develop false ideas of what it means to support female empowerment, feminism and equality. Watching a commercial doesn’t render activism. The ideas offered in it are not nuanced enough for people to establish their own opinions on the subject, anyway.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the products are so unclearly featured in the commercials that the general population may never even purchase them!
Advertising is almost plague-like in today’s society. It is a disease to which I am far from immune. That said, I would rather face the side effects if they are “self confidence,” “empowerment,” and “equality.”
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.