Example Of Research Paper On Representation Of Gay/Lesbians In The Media:
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Happy Same-Sex Family as New Type of Media Stereotyping
Being closely connected with social processes during its history, the media today adapts to the demands of modern society that has changed significantly over the past two decades. Progressive views on life caused the wide recognition of same-sex marriages; for advertisers it means the emergence of new consumer niche – homosexual families. In this sense, recently released Nikon’s commercial “I am Generation” where it represents same-sex family is considered to be a new type of media stereotyping.
Advertising with and for homosexual people started to fill the media more than 20 years ago, and mostly focused on an attractive niche of affluent gays and lesbians. However, today’s society has already formed new demands, and modern advertising has to take the progressive views of society into account in order to satisfy its demands. This is how homosexual families have become a brand new niche of consumers as well as the representation of gay and lesbian families in commercial is becoming a trend nowadays. While focusing on homosexuals who have a full family, marketers also capture the attention of progressive straight people who is free of stereotypes, prejudices, and stigma since being tolerant towards minorities and support gay marriages is a new fashion among modern social groups. Being closely connected with gay and lesbian policy processes and also with the social media’s reaction to these processes, advertising today seeks to catch the mood of its potential customers. New commercial of Nikon with gay family in it – is the example of how modern social processes help marketers to form new stereotypes in the media. And the significant question that has to be asked is: which of them – gays and lesbians policy, social media or still advertising – dictates how homosexual families should be represented in the media and finally accepted by society.
The theme of representation of gays and lesbians in advertising has already appeared in works of different researchers. For instance, in his article “Advertising and the Political Economy of Lesbian/Gay Identity”, Fred Fejes puts forward profound ideas of why, how and for what gays and lesbians became attractive for the marketers, and how media stereotyping of homosexuals influenced on social perception of them. Being considered as hyper-consumers (Fejes 214), lesbians and gay males “achieved an equality [within consumerism culture] far greater that found in the political and social realm.” (213) The long way of invisibility and ignorance was finally changed to marketers’ increased attention to the marginalized sexual minorities that were seen now not only as beneficial customers, but as trendsetters for straight people as well. (214)
Needless to say, gays’ and lesbians’ emergence in mass commercial was accompanied by the birth of stereotyped picture of how an average homosexual person has to look: well-educated individual of the age between 20 and 40 with average or above average income, who is free of supporting the family and ready to spend most of his money on fashionable drinks, clothes, perfumes, technologies and tourism. (214) Lesbians and gay males have always appeared in advertisements as beautiful and handsome, healthy and happy, fun to be with and interesting people (217), that subsequently has become a problem. They stopped being viewed as those who suffer from discrimination (219), whereas in reality sexual minorities were still under the pressure of stigma and prejudices that straight people of different social statuses and classes expressed towards them (220).
Along with “Advertising and the Political Economy of Lesbian/Gay Identity”, Toby Miller wrote an article named “A Metrosexual Eye on Queer Guy” where the author explains the emergence of popular TV show with five gay males as main heroes as a reaction to the phenomena of metrosexuality. (Miller 115) “The male body is up for grabs as sexual icon, commodity consumer, and worker The gay men in Queer Eye offer a makeover for straight men under the sign of metrosexuality, indicating that the field of the Metrosexual reaches far beyond Manhattan wine bars and clubs.” (Miller 112) In this sense, the importance for straight men of being good shaped, sexual, and attractive caused the popularization of gay people in commercials and TV programs as they have been (and still are) considered as those who pay much more attention to their appearance than heterosexual people do.
In fact, there were not great changes in the methods of the representation of gays and lesbians in the media – modern commercials still promote the image of handsome, happy gay man or woman who is in a good shape and with average or high income. But today, while paying attention to niche of homosexual customers, advertising does not fear anymore to lose its much larger heterosexual audience. New important feature of democratic tendency of being tolerant and people’s proclamation “Let’s get rid of stereotypes and open our minds to something new and unusual” were quickly adopted by marketers. As soon as legalization of same-sex marriages started to be an urgent issue of political discourse as well as an object of social close attention, advertisers understood that sooner or later homosexual families would be an integral part of social structural diversity, and in turns, for the benefit of marketers, an integral part of consumers’ niche. Tiffany & Co., the jewelry brand that is strongly associated with marriage traditions, has released the commercial where gay man proposes to his lover and gives a ring from the new jewelry collection for same-sex couples. Company Honey Maid that produces crackers has made a sincere commercial with gay males couple and their children baking, having lunch and playing together, in order to emphasize the “normality” of such family. Therefore, having realized the fundamental changes that occur within one part of society, the media started to prepare another part of society to these changes.
The issue of close connection between social life and the media, generally, and advertising, particularly, has to be considered in more detail since this research paper seeks to follow this connection and determine its character. As well as the media have always been an intermediator between government and society, advertising has always been an intermediator between goods and customers. In today’s world where the term “product” has gained much broader meaning and can refer to, for instance, information, creative directors and advertisers has begun to sale not just goods, but also other products, such as ideas, information, or views (suffice it to recall the high popularity of social advertising). However, if twenty years ago the media served as megaphone for advertising, then nowadays it is mostly the voice of society and public opinion. In other words, in the past advertisers were deciding what people should like and purchase, they were forming customers’ tastes and styles and made people believe that everything that was presented on TV was needed to be purchased. Today’s situation is quite different. As soon as new generation of consumers stopped watching TV and turned to social media as to the alternative source of entertainment, advertising was forced to turn to social media as well in order to learn what modern demanding customer likes, and give him something that he does not have yet. Therefore, nowadays it is the society that dictates its tastes and styles, whereas advertising only fulfills these wishes.
Thereby, when the representatives of commercial market have noticed that the theme of same-sex marriages is widely discussed by many governmental and social institutions, and by the whole society as well, they have tried to use this issue in the advertisements of their products. Nikon, the global corporation that specializes in producing digital cameras and other imaging products, has recently released its new commercial with gay males family that has been in conjunction with company’s project “I am Generation”. The phenomenon of this commercial lies in the selection of the family – it is about Kordale and Kaleb Lewis and their three children – Desmiray, Malia and Kordale Jr. The gay couple became unexpectedly popular last year when they posted on Instagram photo of how they were doing their girls’ hair in the morning before children’s school. The picture gathered nearly 40, 000 “likes” and more than 5, 000 comments, and the two black gay males became the target of heated debates on the social media for a long period. In this sense, it is not surprisingly that Nikon has chosen this family for its new commercial; moreover, the company has opted for Kordale and Kaleb as the representatives of a stereotyped American family, or to be more precisely, brand new stereotyped same-sex American family.
The commercial itself includes all parts of typical representation of a happy family: two parents and three children; nice yard and large house; scenes where parents prepare their children to school in the morning – breakfast, doing girls’ hair, dressing, “kissing goodbye” (AwesomeVideos “Nikon Generation Image”); scene where family walks and plays in the park, and takes pictures on Nikon camera, which “would be able to better explain what the type of family we are” (“Nikon Generation Image”); scene where parents take their children to visit grandparents and spend pleasant evening in the family; and finally, one of the most cliché scene of family commercials – two parents kiss their child in both cheeks. According to the best traditions of family commercials, the video is accompanied by quiet beautiful music. Needless to mention, Nikon has gone even further and represented homosexual family with two non-white gays whose three children are also people of color. It proves that modern community is ready to accept the fact that racial and sexual minorities have to gain all rights and benefits the white heterosexual people have. Nikon proclaims that these minorities deserve a full life: everything in its advertisement points to the fact that this family is common and normal, and this is exactly what Nikon has wanted to present to the people. "We just want people to know that we're normal, and you can't judge people on their 'normal'" says Kordale. (“Nikon Generation Image”)
In order to analyze Nikon’s commercial in the context of social and marketing significance and stereotypification, Fejes’ article on gay and lesbian identity needs to be mentioned here. Just as the author writes about the media’s role in the formation of gay and lesbian identities twenty years ago, today the role of mass culture in this process still remains primary and important. The main difference lies in the fact that nowadays society has already been accustomed to the representatives of sexual minorities within social structure, whereas it still needs to accept that fact that gay people want to create their families, adopt children and receive full package of equal rights and benefits from the government. So the new goal of modern advertising is to represent gay families as diligent and useful social units.
Nikon has already contributed to the development and perception of this idea. In its commercial, company has made same-sex family maximally similar to the traditional one – even Kordale and Kaleb themselves look like straight men with their athletic build, masculinity and numerous tattoos. In respect of Miller’s view on gay stereotyping, when the “wave of self-fashioning has emerged as an industry” (115), Kordale and Kaleb are presented to the audience as attractive, healthy and manicured men, looking like straight men, to be more accurate, like metrosexual straight men. On the other hand, these are the distinctive features of stereotyped representation of homosexual in the media as well: young, attractive, well-educated, healthy, happy, and wealthy gay couple that lives “in a gay-friendly environment where is no sexism, racism, homophobia, or poverty” (Fejes 219). These cliché are complemented by the media stereotypes of typical American family, so the perfectly stereotyped image of the happy family with two careful gay males is a new level of media stereotyping.
According to Fejes, in times when homosexual people only began to appear in advertising, corporation were afraid of losing the straight audience, therefore they were reluctant to involve gay men or lesbians in their advertising campaign (214). Nowadays release of the commercial where homosexuals (or homosexual families especially) are presented means mainstreaming and confidence in social acceptance, on the one hand, and proclamation of absolute tolerance towards sexual minorities, on another. Marketers do not fear a backlash from heterosexual customers anymore; conversely, they support progressive views of modern society and use this sympathy of heterosexual people for discriminated homosexuals for selfish purposes to earn more money. However, as long as the debates over legalization of same-sex marriages continue, there always will be another part of society, which refuses to encourage gay families. In its commercial, Nikon has taken into consideration this detail as well. “I am Generation”, the name of this commercial campaign, tells the public that same-sex families are the equitable part of our generation, thus preparing those who against such marriages to the thought that legalization of gay and lesbian unions will finally put an end to long debates over this issue.
Paradox of modern consumerism era lies in the fact that every sphere of human activity that one way or another is connected with products and services undergoes a crisis of development. Instead of proposing and promoting of fundamentally new products, images and ideas, advertising today rather draw its inspiration from people. New society forms new tendencies, and one of the most fashionable tendencies of modern culture is the need to be tolerant and free of stereotypes and stigma. This is how the popular theme of same-sex marriages has entered the commercial world, so that the representation of homosexual couples has come to the new level – now they appear in the commercials as happy spouses and parents. Stereotypification of gay families in the media has emerged due to already entrenched clichés of how an average gay individual as well as an average heterosexual family have to look. Therefore, by integrating of the best family traditions into the life of well-educated and attractive gays and lesbians, marketers have received a brand new picture of family, same-sex family. Moreover, they have also received a new niche of consumers. Nikon has presented its commercial with two gays and their three children, living prosperously enough to buy a Nikon camera and take “I am Generation” picture. This commercial seeks to cover an extremely large audience: homosexual minority who wants to make a family; heterosexual people who sympathize discriminated gays and lesbians; and, finally, “I am Generation” advertisement also focuses on the next generation who will live in the world where same-sex families will be an equal part of society.
AwesomeVideos. “Nikon Generation Image ‘Kordale & Kaleb’.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 6 Feb. 2015
Fejes, Fred. “Advertising and the Political Economy of Lesbian/Gay Identity”. Gender, Race, and Class in the Media: A Text Reader. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003. 212-22.
Miller, Toby. “A Metrosexual Eye on Queer Guy.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 11 (1). 2009. 112-17.
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