Thursday, February 16, 2006

A short essay I did for class

I liked it, the writing is solid, so I figured I'd put it here. It's referring to this picture

On Sex and Illusions

See how easily the ad man pulls at your desires; so easily can he eroticize something even as mundane as a dress shoe. Everything in his art is programmed for maximum affect and nothing in its design is left to chance. He works to burn images into your mind using the best possible emotional appeal. Often the most effective and easiest way is to appeal to man’s greatest biological imperative: Sex.
Some subjects have an easier time using this technique as they are actually involved in the mating or courting process. Products like lingerie, cosmetics, etc. all have a very easy time using sex to sell their products, and more over the connection is casual and intuitive to the viewer. This picture is doing something a little different: It is trying to sell you sex itself.
Therefore, it is imposing the trans-substitution of values, what Marx would have called “Commodity fetishism”, the confusion of the symbol for the thing itself. The shoe here is not specifically related to the sex act, nor even necessarily to the courting ritual. Rather it seeks to pay to your erotic impulse and appeal to your sense of visual gratification. It is actually trying to sell you the sex, to use the consumer impulse as a release valve for repressed desire like a wicker man burned in effigy of Eros.
This effigy in particular is the compulsion to make you salivate, to create a reward association with the brand of shoe. It is to become an erotic icon, if not a sexual one, though it uses blatant sexual imagery. The ad itself cannot actually strive to make the product a sexual product, but rather a symbolic gesture to the viewer’s mind, to entice and tease his ego and lust. Notice also that the shoe is a dress shoe and it advertises itself as a shoe for gentlemen. We see here the implication of money and power, that like a king wears a crown to signify he is king and a peacock uses his feather bouquet to signify his virility this too is a signal to others of the suave and sexy.
Indeed more often than not, people rely on these signaling devices to put off an aura of desired qualities that they often lack. This advertisement is directly designed to pull toward those emotional insecurities. The contrasting black and white and suggestive leer of the tongue of the shoe is designed to actually stimulate the other senses subconsciously. The ad man wants you to smell the musk of sex and taste sweat on the body, to make you salivate and to weaken your ability to tell the symbol from the actual thing.
Through this substitution we are strung tight by our own physiological responses and lead along to believe that the qualities expressed can be ours if only we have the “right” commodities. We become men like paper tigers, plastered with the corporate logos professing things we wish we were. Moreover, our own desires may be kept in check and subliminated through avid consumption of their commodity simulacrums. This is done in a constant and ever-changing cycle so that the merchant may always have it thus:

That the Emperor indeed does have new clothes.


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