Due to the ongoing process of Globalization, the contents of the most popular media-products are now becoming increasingly uniformed. This simply could not be otherwise, because the earlier mentioned process presupposes standardization. In its turn, the latter allows companies to substantially increase the extent of their commercial effectiveness.
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As Vrontis, Thrassou and Lamprianou pointed out: “The experiences of a growing number of multinational companies suggest that there are potential gains to be obtained by standardizing marketing practices” (480). At the same time, however, it is now becoming increasingly clear to marketing managers that, in order for a particular media-product to appeal to the targeted audience, it must be psychologically attuned to how the audience members tend to perceive the surrounding socio-cultural reality.
This creates objective preconditions for the media-products’ content to be semiotically consistent with what happened the specifics of an ethno-cultural affiliation, on the part of potential consumers. After all, today’s psychologists are thoroughly aware of the fact that it is namely the particulars of how one positions itself, in the ethno-cultural sense of this word, which defines the concerned individual’s existential mode more than anything else does.
Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that, as of today, marketing strategies utilized by the owners of transnational media-corporations in different parts of the world, do take into consideration the discursively relevant aspects of the targeted audiences’ cultural uniqueness.
In this respect, we can only agree with Sinclair and Wilken, who noted that: “While the economic logic of globalization might impel global marketers to seek the theoretical advantages of standardization, experience with the realities of linguistic and other cultural differences has obliged them to go some distance towards the ‘glocalization’ of their marketing campaigns” (147).
In this paper, I will explore the validity of the earlier suggestion at length, while analyzing the discursive significance of the visual and textual messages, explicitly/implicitly conveyed by the covers of the UK and the US editions of Vogue Magazine (February, 2010).
The most easily identified difference between the two covers is that, whereas, the US cover depicts a clearly Caucasian model (Jessica Biel), the UK cover depicts a model (Cheryl Cole) that can be best identified as a someone who has been born in the multiracial family. In fact, on the magazine’s cover, the latter appears to be at least partially Pakistani, in the ethno-cultural sense of this word.
In its turn, this can be explained by the specifics of how the policy of multiculturalism is being implemented in the US, on the one hand, and in the UK, on the other. Whereas, in the US, the policy of the multiculturalism enjoys a rather semi-official status, in Britain it is in fact being enforced upon citizens.
Moreover, whereas, in the U.S., the representatives of racial minorities do not exercise enough political influence, in order to be able to directly affect the process of the country’s domestic and foreign policies being designed and implemented, this is far from being the case in the UK.
After all, it does not represent much of a secret that, as of today, a growing number of British socially prominent intellectuals, as well as religious figures, does support the adoption of the Islamic Sharia Law, as the British jurisprudence’s integral part (Rodgers and Lindsey 8).
This, of course, suggests that, due to the essence of demographic dynamics within the British society, the UK is on the path of becoming increasingly ‘traditional’ country, where more and more citizens are willing to affiliate themselves with the values of the religion-based morality.
Partially, this explains the apparent dichotomy between the postures of the depicted models on the covers of the US and the UK editions of Vogue. For example, the cover-photo of Jessica Biel implies that the depicted model is an intellectually liberated woman, who is thoroughly comfortable with taking an active stance in life.
This is because, as it can be seen on the cover, she is being represented in the manner that stresses out her emotional comfortableness with what happened to be her existential self-identity of a person, unaffected by the conventions of the ‘traditional’ morality. These conventions presuppose that women should present themselves as essentially timid creatures, who can only realize their full potential while in the relationship with men.
Yet, while understanding perfectly well the sheer power of her feminine charms, Biel does not seem to be willing to fetishize them, as if she wanted to say: “I am an independent woman and I am proud to be what I am”. This is the reason why Biel’s image conveys the subtle message of ‘liberation’ – the woman in question clearly thinks that there so much more to her individuality than merely her good looks.
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The same, however, cannot be said about the photographic image of Cheryl Cole, featured on the cover of the UK edition of Vogue. After all, there can be only a few doubts as to the fact that the manner in which she has been photographed, implies her affiliation with the traditional virtues of womanhood, commonly associated with the notions of timidness, passiveness and shyness.
The very defensive manner, in which Cole holds her hands (as if she wanted to protect its innate existential essence), suggests that on a subconscious level, she is aware of her own fragility, as an individual. At the same time, however, she appears to be simultaneously aware of the fact that it is specifically men, who can help her to realize the full extent of its existential potential – hence, the strongly defined spirit of a sexual seductiveness, emanated by the UK cover of Vogue.
In this respect, Cole’s cover-image does seem to be discursively consistent with Weininger’s suggestion that: “A woman does not value herself by the constancy and freedom of her personality… (she) can only value herself at the rate of the man who has fixed his choice on her” (123). It is needless to mention, of course, that there are male-chauvinistic overtones to the above quoted suggestion.
Yet, they resonate perfectly well with how monotheistic religions (such as Christianity and Islam) used to treat women. Given the fact that, as it was pointed out earlier, Britain is on the way of becoming nothing less of a quasi-Islamic state, it makes a logical sense for the UK-based publishers of Vogue to strive to appeal to the religion-driven aesthetic tastes of British Muslims, which will soon attain the status of the country’s actual ethic majority.
The legitimacy of this idea can also be illustrated, in regards to what appear to be the qualitative aspects of how both models are dressed. For example, as it can be seen on the US cover of Vogue, Biel wears a man’s shirt and a denim-costume. In its turn, this signifies even further the depicted model’s emotional comfortableness with the idea that women are not restricted to wearing only ‘gender-appropriate’ attires.
The reason for this is simple – denim-fabrics, in general, and jeans, in particular, have traditionally been associated with the masculine virtue of industriousness (Woodward and Miller 7). Therefore, by willing to wear clothes made out of denim, women unconsciously exhibit their subliminal desire to cease being subjected to a patriarchal oppression, the important element of which has always been prescribing the representatives of a ‘weak sex’ to refrain from putting on these kind of clothes.
Despite the fact that, as we have noted earlier, the religions of Christianity and Islam are equally oppressive towards women, in the US, the majority of Christians cannot be referred as ‘true believers’, in the classical sense of this word. One of the reasons for that that, as of today, the religion of Christianity in Western countries has ceased affecting people’s lives de facto, because the sheer fallaciousness of this religion’s dogmas is clear to even moderately bright Whites.
One of the reasons for this is that, due to its outdatedness, the Christian code of behavioral ethics no longer correlates with what happened to be the cognitive aspirations of modern people (Rawls 95). Because in the US, fundamental Christians consist of intellectually marginalized outcasts, they are not in the position to apply any pressure upon those women who refuse to share their male-chauvinistic religious nonsense.
The same can be said about Islamic fundamentalists in the US – the FBI is keeping them on a short leash. This is why, Biel’s decision to appear on the cover of Vogue, while wearing a denim-outfit, appears fully justified – she never had a reason to be trying to appease conservatively minded citizens, in the first place.
In Britain, the situation in this respect is quite different. Because this country can no longer be considered thoroughly secularized, non-religious British citizens are now being unofficially required to refrain from positioning themselves as intellectually liberated individuals, as the growing population of Muslims in this country may find it offensive.
The validity of this statement can be well illustrated in regards to the recent incident of the British soldier Lee Rigby having been decapitated on the streets of London by the Muslim believer Michael Adebolajo in broad daylight. In the aftermath, high-ranking officials from the British army advised British soldiers not to wear a uniform, when they are off-duty, in order not to anger Muslims (Shiv 9).
In my opinion, the earlier described socio-cultural situation in Britain partially explains the particulars of Cole’s appearance on the cover of the UK edition of Vogue. After all, as it can be well seen on it, even though she wears a clearly feminine yellow dress, due to being ‘lose’, it effectively conceals the model’s bodily curves.
Yet, this is exactly what Muslim women’s traditional dresses are supposed to do, so that when looking at women in these dresses, men do not get overly excited and consequently refrain from considering to commit the sin of adultery. Nevertheless, it is not only the visual subtleties of the discussed Vogue-covers that hint at the specifics of the cultural climate in the affiliated countries, but the textual ones, as well.
For example, in the left upper corner of the US cover, we can read: “Not in the mood? The quest for a female Viagra”. It is needless to mention, of course, that the pharmaceutical term ‘Viagra’ has the clearly defined undertones of masculinity, as the drug in question was designed specifically for enhancing men’s sexual potency. In its turn, the notion of male sexuality cannot be discussed outside of how men go about adopting a particularly active stance, while looking for female sex-partners and having sexual intercourses with them.
Therefore, the combination of the words ‘female’ and ‘Viagra’ implies that women who are cognitively comfortable with it, do not necessarily think that passivity/submissiveness accounts for the integral element of their lifestyles – quite on the contrary.
Given the fact that ever since the time of its founding, the US remained an essentially secularized state (the country’s Constitution proclaims the separation between Church and State), it is not surprising that in this country, even moderately religious women do support the idea that it is fully appropriate, on their part, to explore their sexuality actively.
In this respect, the situation in the UK is quite different. After all, the UK Constitution openly states that Protestantism is even today considered the country’s state-religion (Madeley 275). Partially, this explains why, as compared to what it happened to be the case with American women, British women have traditionally been deemed much more ‘classy’ – that is, more passive and shy in their relationships with men.
The latter presupposes that, as compared to American women, British women are much merely likely to overlook the discursively derogative sounding of a number of terms, to which they are being exposed, such as ‘chic’, for example. Predictably enough, one of the topics, advertised on the cover of the UK edition of Vogue, features the word ‘chic’ rather prominently: “Office chic. New weekday wardrobe”.
Even though that this term means ‘style’, it clearly resonates with the word ‘chick’, which is a slang-word that derived out of the notion of ‘chicken’ – hence, degrading women, as being somewhat less human. There is, however, even more to it – because the mentioned topic features the word ‘chic’ in conjunction with the word ‘weekday’, the combination of these two words implies that the physiological specifics of women’s gender-affiliation, makes them less adequate, in the professional sense of this word.
After all, this topic implicitly suggests that, even when addressing their professional duties (during the course of weekdays), women never cease remaining solely concerned with the matter of their physical appearance. Essentially the same line of argumentation can be used, when it comes to discussing the discursive significance of other topics, mentioned on the covers of the UK and the US editions of Vogue.
For example, one of the topics on the cover of the US edition of this magazine state: “Clothing to borrow from your boyfriend”. Apparently, it never occurred to those who came up with this topic that there could be anything wrong about women wearing men’s clothes. The reason for this is quite apparent – the very secularized realities of a post-industrial living in America naturally predispose women to think of the extent of a particular clothing-item’s appropriateness, as such, that reflects its functional subtleties.
Why not to wear men’s shirts or trousers, if the circumstances call for it? The same thought, however, would probably never occur to British women. This is because, being traditionally minded, they tend to deal with life-challenges indirectly – that is, they tend to rely upon men, when it comes to addressing these challenges.
Therefore, as opposed to what it happened to be the case with their rationally minded American counterparts, the majority of British women believes that it is namely their feminine charms, which allow them to advance in life more than anything else does.
Hence, the meaning of the question: “Can you live without mascara?”, featured on the cover of the UK edition of Vogue – the fact that this question is clearly rhetorical, suggests that it is quite impossible for women to enjoy living, while sparred of the opportunity to apply a makeup to their faces. Apparently, the article’s author was perfectly aware of what happened to the innermost essence of British women’s subliminal anxieties, in this respect.
Given what has been said earlier in the paper, these do appear to be dialectically predetermined. There is another topic, featured on the cover of the US edition of Vogue, which can be discussed, as such that reflects American women’s tendency to indulge in pursuits, which have been traditionally been ‘assigned’ to men: “Close encounter.
The tale of an almost adulteress”. This topic suggests that the publishers of the US edition of Vogue do realize what accounts for the actual nature of female sexuality, as such that is being physiologically rather than socially defined. This is because the suggestion that it is indeed possible for women to enter into the adulterous relationship with men implies that, contrary to what many women themselves tend to think, their sexual desires are being just as strong, as compared to the ones of men.
What it means is that a particular woman’s ability to enjoy sex as much as she wants, does not solely depend on whether she happened to possess good looks or not, but also on whether she is committed enough to end up in bed with the man she covets (Musser 23). It is needless to mention, of course, that this subtly conveyed suggestion parts away with the conventions of the religion-based patriarchal morality, which objectualize women.
Therefore, we can well speculate that this topic’s prominent display on the US cover of Vogue signifies the validity of the idea that the American society is indeed more progressive than the British one – at least in respect of how it treats women. Had this not been the case, the UK cover of Vogue would not feature topics that do advocate the legitimacy of women’s willingness to objectualize themselves, as something fully appropriate.
Yet, this is clearly not the case. For example, the topic seen in the UK cover’s bottom right corner, states: “What it takes to get a supermodel’s body?”. This topic implies both:
- The measure of a particular woman’s de facto worthiness is solely concerned with her physical looks
- It is entirely appropriate for women to strive to be as thin, as possible, so that they would be in a position to successfully marry off, and to consequently attain the dubious happiness of pursuing the lifestyle of a pretty but brainless ‘doll’ – at the expense of being unable to give birth to healthy children.
After all, it does not represent any secret for physicians that unnaturally skinny women (such as supermodels) do experience troubles at childbirth. Yet, male-chauvinistic societies could not care less about women’s physical well-being, but only about whether women can serve men as sexual toys, which is why in these societies; women are encouraged to take part in the ‘discourse of thinness’ (Neff 10).
Therefore, the earlier mentioned topic can well serve as an indication of the fact that, despite its formal affiliation with the dogmas of political correctness, the British society remains rather oppressive towards women. Quite clearly, this is not being the case in America, where women are being encouraged to explore their existential uniqueness, without paying too much attention to what happened to their actual physical shape.
As another topic, featured on the US cover (‘The refreshingly real Jessica Biel’) suggests, it is namely the depicted model’s intellectual open-mindedness, reflected by the woman’s comfortableness with being who she is, which deserved her the right to appear in this particular edition of Vogue. It is understood, of course, that Biel is indeed sexy.
However, what adds more than anything else does to the aura of sexiness, emanated by the model, is that, as it was mentioned earlier, her very posture implies that she has no psychological complexes, whatsoever, in regards to being a thoroughly modern woman.
In the UK edition of Vogue, however, the notion of modernity appears subtly ostracized, as one of the featured topics does encourage readers to adopt a cyclic outlook on what accounts for the essence of historical dynamics: “The return of 60’s glamour”. Even though that as a ‘thing in itself’, this particular topic is best referred to as ideologically neutral, there are strongly defined discursive connotations to it, because it implies that it is possible for the ‘past’ to return.
Because there are indeed a number of good reasons to believe that the British society is undergoing the initial phase of the process of deindustrialization/clericalization (induced by the ‘invasion’ of Muslims), we can refer to the mentioned topic, as such that is being metaphysically consistent with the society’s ongoing qualitative transformation.
As it was stated in the Introduction, in regards to the covers of the UK and the US editions of Vogue, there is indeed a good rationale in believing that Globalization does result in the standardization of the media products’ content. The very laws of a historical progress predetermine this state of affairs.
Nevertheless, the culturally defined specifics of how the members of targeted audiences tend to perceive the surrounding reality, do affect this content’s societal implications. Therefore, even though that the US and the UK based editions of Vogue do feature themes and motifs that the magazine’s publishers consider being potentially appealing to women, the discursive significance the covered topics cannot be discussed outside of what account for the specifics of the socio-cultural climate in America and Britain.
This once again exposes the fallaciousness of those sociological theories that treat humanity in terms of a homogeneous compound, consisted of the representatives of Homo Sapiens species. Apparently, one’s ethno-cultural affiliation does affect the concerned individual’s cognitive inclinations rather substantially. I believe that this conclusion is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.
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