Sex in advertising as a cultural norm, a critical mash-up.
Demonstrated in the 1857 Performance of The Poor of New York
It is common for one to enjoy something which they are familiar with. The amount, by which a person participates in an activity, often depends on whether or not they know enough about it. In the December 8th 1857 production of The Poor of New York it is demonstrated that in order for a performance to be successful, it must be catered to its theater region’s existing culture. According to a New York Times article from 1857, the production is described as “a remarkable drama in many respects, and for powerful local interest has never been surpassed in this city” (NA). There are many factors of a play which are altered due to a change in performance location. Things such as translation of text from one language to another, rewriting dialogue, reinventing the plot, adding characters, and altering cultural elements to reflect life in a different city are all things that arise from a change in location.
The **** Club wrote The Poor of New York script for this production, based off of Les Pauvres des Paris in French, it was the reflection of life in France at the time. In order for The Poor of New York to be understood by a new audience, it needed to be translated into the native language of the new audience. In the New York Times article, the reporter was not completely clear of the origins of the original play, and states “the origin of the work may be traced to the French drama Les Pauvres de Paris” (NA). It is important to note that the reporter focuses their attention on the adapted version of the play rather than the original. This demonstrates that the original play was considered less important than the recreated one, since the adapted play was written in English. The revamped play was largely successful, in part, because the language it was performed in matched that of its audience in New York.
Location and culture are closely related. For that reason, in the original, Les Pauvres des Paris, the plot, settings and characters did not reflect the culture of New York. After the **** Club rewrote the script, a new story evolved, which reflected life in New York. The reporter writes “the fidelity of the pictures they present is recognised by the audience, which, in such matters, is worth more than individual endorsement or opinion can be” (NA). By altering the script, through rewriting the play, less of the French culture was seen, and predominantly New York culture was shown. Since the audience was, for the most part, from New York, it was easier for them to relate to a script that reflected their culture and lifestyles. Consequently, because of location, the script had to be altered to be considered relevant to the play’s New York audience. In the play’s review it is written that “The point wherein this drama excels most local dramas that have preceded it is to be found in the skill displayed in its construction” (NA). The original construction of the play, whose roots lead back to France, did not reflect what life was like in New York. Consequently, this demanded a total reconstruction of the play so that the plot and characters truly reflected the city in which this play was set to perform in: New York. In the end, this particular production of The Poor of New York was successful; attention to detail was put forward in order to mirror living in New York during that time.
The normative life patterns in one part of the world often vary completely from another. The events which were originally included in Les Pauvres des Paris would not have seemed relevant in a New York atmosphere. As a result, the plot needed to be altered, and new sections needed to be included to reflect what life was like in New York. The performance reviewer wrote “The merit of a drama of this kind is its entire grasp of the emotions of the moment” (NA). The way the writers chose to reconstruct the plot was aimed at reflecting life in New York closely. Since the new plot reflected life, in a way that the audience could recognise it, it was easy for them to engage in the performance. Hence, the play generated interest in those who enjoyed attending theatrical performances, “it is a remarkable drama in many respects, and for powerful local interest has never been surpassed in this city” (NA). This ultimately highlights the effect of this particular location on the play, a change in location often results in a changed script altogether.
Social norms, gender norms, as well as types of occupations will vary between places. If an audience cannot feel connected to the characters and plot of the play, they often lose motivation to attend performances. The economic situation in Paris, France, may have resembled that of New York in the United States. However, there were most likely differences between the two places which were evident through the characters of the original play. When the reporter explains their experience of the play, and their reasoning behind praising this performance, they write “the adaptors have added several new characters, changed the plot, invented at least one half of the play, and rewritten the dialogues so as to salt the individualities common in our midst” (NA). Members of the audience must have seen similarities between themselves and the characters of the play, and accordingly they must have felt a personal connection to the play. Recognising reflections of themselves on stage easily motivated more people to attend the second nights show. Through incorporation of new characters into the play, who reflected norms, values, gender roles, and economic status in New York, people enjoyed the play since it was pertinent to their personal lives. Consequently, since much attention was given to the accuracy of the play, it generated interest, making the play popular in the city, leading to the overall success of this production.
In many parts of the world, corruption hides in the streets. Specifically in New York, people often experienced dishonest businessmen whose aim it was to swindle them out of their money. In order for this production to reflect circumstances in New York, the actions, behaviours, and attitudes of the characters had to closely reflect that of the city. The play’s adaptors were apparently successful since, to the reporter, it seems unclear whether the message was added, or taken from the original play “It is not obvious that this real or apparent truthfulness can be taken from the French, and for this we are indebted to the **** Club” (NA). Furthermore, the article states “The performance Tuesday night was excellent. Every artist in the establishment has a part for which he or she has been measured, and although these parts are not by any means wordy, they tell on the audience” (NA). Since the recreation of the play so closely reflected life in the city, showcasing both the good and bad, it encouraged people to attend the performances. The New York inspired rewrite of the entire play was catered towards its audience. Thus, it was effortless for the audience to follow and connect to what was on stage, ensuring success.
Location plays a role in altering the language, plot, and characters of a play. Consequently, all of these changes must be coherently connected in such a way that the title reflects what is in store. The original play, titled Les Pauvres de Paris does not indicate that the recreated play was set in New York. Because location played a role in influencing the adapted version of the play, the title had to be changed to The Poor of New York. Something as small as changing the location used in the title, can influence the amount by which the play succeeds. Since in Paris, the original story reflected French life, it was successful in France. Since in New York the adapted version reflected American life, it was successful in the United States, “The local allusions were quickly taken, and well received” (NA). By incorporating certain elements that connected to the city, the audience was able to find things that they could relate to.
This performance seemed natural to the audience because it showcased parts of city life from New York. Moreover, it was easier to portray the characters convincingly since they were inspired by the types of people that lived in the city. It is important to consider the comments of the reporter “we are introduced too, to many new characters, mostly in humble life, and all more or less affected by the prevailing life” (NA). The reporter’s comments highlight that the characters projected qualities found in those from New York. The way these character’s projections were crafted, reflected their cultural roots in New York. Had the plot and characters reflected life in Paris rather than New York, one can figure that the New York audience of this play would not have been as easily inclined to see the play. In the end, this production would not have attained the same level of success without the alterations made, to reflect the production’s location.
Where the theater was situated played an essential role in the success of the 1857 production of The Poor of New York. The reporter who reviewed this play evidently enjoyed how much it reflected life in their city. The reporter explains “it is built on correct art principles, and moved with culminating interest from the prologue to the ending scene” (NA). However, one key element of the play remained unchanged: the tableaux. Although the majority of the play needed to be altered, the tableaux portions remained because it was seen as innovative. When the tableaux scenes were discussed in the news report it stated “The tableaux all come in at the right places, and are contrasted with a due regard to the momentary emotional capacity of the audience” (NA). Therefore, although the location played a key role in reconstructing the play, it made no difference in the set-up of tableaux in the play. Since certain theatrical elements are consistent regardless of the location, this production of The Poor of New York held on to the integrity of the original play, which proved to be a beneficial choice on the part of the production team. Therefore, this production was known to be a “complete success” (NA).
People often enjoy things which they can relate to. In theater, some plays need to be recreated in order to satisfy their target audience. The Tuesday, December 8th 1857 production of The Poor of New York was evidently recreated in order to please its New York audience. Several factors of the play were changed as result of a shifted location. According to a New York Times article from 1857, this particular production thrived, “the house on both occasions being crowded in its utmost capacity” (NA). Ultimately, one can see that the content of a play is largely dependent on the location of a play.
No Author. “The Poor of New York.” The New York Times 10 December 1857. Print. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/91396676?accountid=14771>.
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell is a journey through a number of unexpectedly beneficial events that unravel because of situations that seem disadvantageous. The book compiles a series of stories which connect to the greater idea that although something may seem to be disadvantageous to a person, it can prove to benefit them in the end. Gladwell utilizes a variety of themes within his collection of stories, ranging from World War, crime, discrimination, disability, employment, and education, to sports to support his thesis that thinking about an obstacle in a different way can lead to overcoming that obstacle. Each of the stories were examined in a specific way, reinforcing his central idea that underdogs and misfits often have the ability to turn their unpleasant situations into blissful endings, through hard work and determination.
The author, Malcolm Gladwell, studied at The University of Toronto, wrote for The Washington Post, and The New Yorker. Malcolm Gladwell has had four books on the New York Times best sellers list, which included Outliers, Blink, The Tipping point and David and Goliath. I had never read a book written by Gladwell; however, I was intrigued to find out why his work was so popular. Out of the titles I saw, David and Goliath stood out the most since the underlying caption on the cover was “Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants”. Being a student who has never been at the top of the class, I often consider myself to be an underdog; I figured that I may find some strategies to succeed through reading this book. After reading the book I realised that to succeed, it is not necessarily what you do differently; it is that you think differently.
I expect the content of the book to age well because regardless of the times, there will always be readers who still appreciate reading the classics. The old-world charm and literary values that are present in such epics cannot be matched in today’s world of sci-fi thrillers and vampire romances. There are always life lessons to be learnt from reading such literary novelties. I believe that if people use what they have to their advantage, rather than focusing on their disadvantages, they will be able to achieve their goals. These stories demonstrate that misfits and underdogs have the upper hand in many situations, when their willpower and determination are utilized to achieve what they want most. Such lessons will still be relevant to people years from now. Historical events such as the World Wars, and the American Civil Rights Movement, will continue to prove that although a person or group is considered unlikely to succeed, they can succeed with the right mindset and work ethic.
The title of the book is not indicative of what the theme will be. The story of David and Goliath is one of the many examples used to connect to Gladwell’s theme that being in a position which seems to have a lower hand is not necessarily a problematic thing. Gladwell explains that in order for people to succeed they must find the benefits of being in their position, and use them to their advantage. For those who do not know the story of David and Goliath, it is summarized in the first section of the book. The biblical story is one where the unlikeliest underdog (David) succeeds by using Goliath’s arrogance against him during battle. Throughout the book Gladwell connects important themes from the story to the idea that underdogs and misfits do not have to, and should not, consider themselves disadvantaged. The story of David and Goliath is connected to Gladwell’s theme of having faith in one’s self, it is demonstrated in David’s behaviour as he steps up in a seemingly hopeless battle. Furthermore, David exemplifies a person who focuses on what good can come from being in his position, uses it to his advantage and consequently he defeats Goliath. David, who was not the same size, and did not have the same armour as Goliath, used Goliath’s naivety to kill him by targeting Goliath’s unprotected head.
To read this book no background information is necessary. All of the stories, ideas and concepts discussed are explained in relevance to the overall theme that the book imbibes. One can overcome seemingly-disadvantageous situations with the right mindset. I think that anyone with a high-school education could benefit from reading this book. Its supporting evidence advises that by changing one’s perception of their difficulties, they can find advantages within them, enabling them to make significant changes for the better. For example, Gladwell points out that dyslexia can prove to be advantageous, even in university. One story explains how trial lawyer, David Boies (a dyslexic), found ways of dealing with his inability to read, which proved to benefit him and assisted him in overcoming his difficulty. David was able to develop strong listening skills which allowed him to recall things that were spoken or read to him. Although he was unable to quickly read through files, he was able to process and retain anything said to him on demand. David utilized his dyslexia to his advantage and consistently worked at improving himself and his reading, writing and listening skills. To understand a story in this book, such as David Boies’, one would not require prior knowledge of his background because the underlying themes are explained coherently throughout.
The book is readable and factually accurate. The book includes a Reference Notes section, showing from where Gladwell had retrieved his information. Additionally, there are footnotes, explaining points, images, charts and graphs found in many sections of the book. The language is simple, and easy for most to follow. Some stories are relayed almost conversationally; the language is natural which makes the book an easy read. The examples are stated, explained, and then coherently traced back to underlying themes of the book. None of the examples seemed irrelevant or unnecessary. Each example was different, yet connected in one way or another to the art of finding benefit in seemingly-detrimental situations.
There are no illustrations in this book. There is one image that reappears because when looked at under different contexts, Gladwell explains, it has changed meaning. The image seems to be of a young African American boy, during the American Civil Rights Movement, standing calmly as a police dog is charging at him. At first glance at the image it seems as though the boy is surrendering to the dog. After closer examination it appears that the boy was not surrendering, he was defending himself by pushing the dog back with his leg. Although the boy seemed to be helpless in that situation he thought quickly, protected himself, and made the police look as if they were completely heartless in the eyes of the media. Although the boy had the underhand, he made the best of the situation; additionally the photograph attracted a lot of attention from the media making him seem like a martyr, giving an edge to those involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Other visuals in this book include graphs and charts, which illustrate statistics pertaining to crime and education. Each visual is tied into an explanation, and accordingly they are aimed at further demonstrating Gladwell’s point. Gladwell points out that it is often beneficial for a student to choose their second choice for university. Although attending a prestigious school looks better on a résumé, it can actually reduce a student’s chance of succeeding in their prospective field which is shown in several charts. Gladwell’s ideas on people succeeding in unlikely positions also lead to the idea that those who are considered likely to succeed often are not successful.
An improvement that I would suggest for this book would be adding a section where the names and faces could be connected. For example, having an extended background on the characters discussed in the book, such as where they ended up, or where they are now, would be interesting to read. Additionally I would have liked to hear of Gladwell’s experiences in being a misfit or an underdog and how he overcame his challenges, at some point in the book. There is not much explanation as to the inspiration of the book, which would have been interesting to know, but it is not detrimental to the overall message. Otherwise, the notes and index included were effective and need not be changed.
After reading David and Goliath I find myself rethinking the way I look at challenges. Just because a situation seems difficult to succeed in does not mean that it is impossible to prove to have the upper-hand. Certain life experiences seem to be inconvenient, but when considered from a changed perception, those inconveniences prove to be advantages in the end. I would recommend this book to my peers, especially those in post-secondary education since at many points we collectively feel like underdogs who are unlikely to succeed. I believe through reading this book people will be able to revaluate how they think of situations they are faced with. Malcolm Gladwell connects the series of stories to the idea that one can have the upper-hand even if they are considered as a misfit or underdog.
Chosen PSA: What’s Your Thing? (Companies Committed to Kids)
Youth, do Your “Thing”
It may be necessary in a society with insecure youth to advertise the importance of celebrating individuality. In “What’s Your Thing?” created by Ogilvy and Mather Advertising for Companies Committed to Kids (previously Concerned Children’s Advertisers), emphasis is put towards encouraging youth to find their “thing”. This public service announcement works to illustrate various activities from which youth may be able to identify with and potentially mimic. This paper argues that the purpose of this public service announcement is to encourage its youth audience to participate and engage in a recreational activity that suits them individually. Using arguments from “A New Consumerism” (Cross), “The Alien Past” (Strasser), “Reflection and Reviews: An English Teacher Looks at Branding” (Twitchell), as well as further discussion of consumerism and hermeneutics from “Content Analysis and Hermeneutics” and “All the Cool Kids are Doing It/Communicating the Emotional” lectures by Heydon, the aforementioned argument is made. The main indication of this advertisement’s intended audience is the demographic of its cast.
The aim of “What’s Your Thing?” is directed towards a youth audience to encourage them to find and participate in an activity that suits their talent. The message that “[e]verybody is good at something” (“What’s Your Thing?”) is transferrable to a vast audience; however, the age group of the chosen action explicitly reflects a chosen youth audience. One may interpret that the PSA aims at mirroring its’ target audience through the choice to illustrate this PSA through a youth cast. As Howard Beale ranted (“Turn off Your TVs”), television produces and reproduces its’ audience, to an extent. In correspondence with Beale’s argument, the advertisers applied this concept with the intent of creating a youth audience dedicated to using their recreational time to improve their talents. If the audience acts as a mirror or as a by-product of television, then the function of this ad is to get youth to mimic the individualized dedication shown in the ad.
In order for the audience ‘produced’ by this PSA (“What’s Your Thing?”) to reflect the individuals depicted in it, (as a ‘product of television’ – “Turn off Your TVs”) dedication was used as a common identifier between each of the individuals. This PSA can be interpreted to promote individuality through its depictions of uniquely-talented, uniquely-dedicated, youth. The PSA compiles seemingly candid scenes of youth practicing their various hobbies, pastimes, and activities, from bug-collecting, to practicing magic, to playing sports (ibid.). The candid nature of these scenes appear to be presented through the “creative perspective” (Kelly et al.), because they are placed in believable locations, and most seem oblivious to the camera, which indicates that these scenes were spontaneous. The PSA complies many different activities from which the audience members are hoped to identify with, over the course of one minute (“What’s Your Thing?”). The addition of “[n]obody’s good at everything” aids to encourage youth to single out something that they are “good at” (ibid.). By crafting numerous unique activities, the PSA works to relate to youth whose individual interests are likely to vary across a broad spectrum. The inclusion of unique interests among more traditional interests in the ad projects the message to youth whose interests may seem odd to others.
The ad works to motivate youth to work towards and identify with their interests; the broad spectrum of presented hobbies encourages the “produced audience” (Heydon) to individually exhibit their unique interests. As discussed in “The Audience”, personalization is an essential factor to consider when the intent of the advertiser is to motivate the audience to do a certain thing. The audience is fed a number of ideas with the hope that at least one of them will motivate youth to exhibit the same determination seen in the ad. The PSA identifies its intended audience to be youth, the intended message is that the youth should participate in what they are “good” at (“What’s Your Thing?”), and the ad goes further to highlight that there are countless things that people (specifically youth in this case) are good at, and that each individual is good at something different.
To convince youth to participate in activities that may set them apart from other youth, the ad was required to provide enough incentive through its communication. It is important for advertisers to connect with their audience through relatability; a shared identity between advertiser and audience may increase the chance of the ad’s success. Kelly et al. discuss “creative perspective” in relation to viewing the world through the perspective of the audience; they explain the necessity to use that perspective when crafting an ad. Relatability through the creative perspective creates shared understanding, and a level of trust. The incorporation of numerous activities presented in the PSA gives insight to any number of talents that the audience may exhibit (“What’s Your Thing?”). Through relatability, the advertisers depict youth in an apparently natural way; the youth in the ad resemble how youth appear in real life: sometimes loud, odd, active, and energetic. One example from the PSA is the “magician” who has just “cut” his sister in half “again”(“What’s Your Thing?”), the young girl is yelling for her mom, something most people have experienced at some point in their lives.
The ad illustrates the idea of illustration, which is an important aspect of recreational participation, unlike some advertisements that capitalize on the idea of obsolesce or convenience. While Susan Strasser argues that consumer cultures promoted the idea of ease and convenience (“The Alien Past”), this PSA diverts to a consumer culture where physical engagement and hard work are promoted. The difficulty to sell the idea of hard work arises when consumer advertising routinely works against it to idealize the ease of convenience. The PSA diverged from using the consumer culture “common sense” values (Strasser) as tactic, because the advertisement promotes the opposite of ease: hard work. Twitchell’s discussion of the “you-just-don’t-get-it motif” (123) applies here in part, since each individual in the PSA does something that is unique, which they do for their own enjoyment despite what others think. There are many activities demonstrated so the audience may not understand some of them; however, the PSA insinuates that individual talent should be celebrated rather than discouraged, even if people “don’t-get-it” (123).
The visual content conveys the message of individuality though participation to an extent, but the textual elements were necessary for clarity. Hermeneutics (“Content Analysis and Hermeneutics”) allowed for clarification of the PSA’s intention. “Nobody’s good at everything” contrasted with “[e]verybody’s good at something” in the ad, shows a progression of encouragement towards identifying and participating in an individual talent. Hermeneutics, “the science of interpretation” gives attention to the “textual levels of persuasion” (“Content Analysis and Hermeneutics”), the first textual element may appear as a deterrent from being “good” at something; however, the second textual element signifies that one need not be “good at everything” (“What’s Your Thing?”). These methods used to persuade youth to engage in individual activities, were crafted with the intention of promoting youth to have ambition and interest towards the things they enjoy and have aptitude for.
It is likely that a PSA from Concerned Children’s Advertisers is directed towards children and/or youth; however, an unequal division in the cast’s genders reduces the efficienct of the ad since the entire cast is male (apart from one female sub-character). If youth (as a whole) are the targeted audience, and the intention is to motivate these youth to participate in individualized activities, the chosen method is likely to be effective more so towards male youth. In “A New Consumerism” Vance Packard’s ideas of affluence are discussed with regards to advertising and marketing which “produced a mass of insecure individuals each trying to define and display themselves through their goods” (343). The “goods” (“What’s Your Thing?”) in this case are the hobbies and talents exhibited through the individuals presented. In this case the insecurity of not being “good at everything” is being argued against, emphasis is put on participating in whichever “thing” the youth are best at.
It is important to understand the audience that is being advertised to, it allows for the creation of a mutual level of understanding between advertiser and consumer. The “creative perspective” (Kelly et al.) is evident in this ad through its depiction of youth physically engaged in their individual activities. This method demonstrates understanding of the audience: youth who resemble those from the ad, on the advertiser’s part. The advertisers know that youth are good at a vast number of different things and illustrate this through numerous depictions of possible talents and interests. The incorporation of unique interests as well as recognizable interests offer youth numerous opportunities to find a shared talent from the PSA. The creative perspective (Kelly et al.) was used by showing many of the youth mid-practice, which creates a sense of the candid moment, which may seem more spontaneous and natural. These types of shots provide the ad with an air or authenticity, which is likely to encourage a positive reception from the audience.
Capitalism and consumerism are routinely romanticized through advertising (Twitchell), in order to counter this type of advertising stance, youth were encouraged by being shown the potential that youth their age exhibit. The material possessions held by those youth were not necessarily important, but the dedication put forth through their practice provided them with tenacity, and potentially with talent. Twitchell argues that through “romanticism […] the objects of our dreams become material not ethereal, we started to spiritualize the secular, to give the stuff of getting and spending a transdental affect” (232). To romanticize diligence and tenacity, rather than a commodity, the PSA incorporated both talented youth (for example the performing dancers) and youth with potential (for example the tuba player who is rehearsing). The PSA does not tell youth what they are good at, instead it offers numerous suggestions towards what their talents may be, and tells them that “[e]verybody’s good at something” (“What’s Your Thing?”). The persistence seen in the youth presented may influence the youth audience to aspire to work on their own talents.
In a consumer society, where convenience and ease are idealized, things that require effort and time to succeed in lose some of their allure. Furthermore, the difficulty to motivate an audience to act a certain way arises when alternatives to recreational activities (such as gaming or watching television) seem to encourage inactive behaviours. “What’s Your Thing?” is an example of a PSA with the intention of encouraging the participation of recreational activities. The intent and purpose of this ad is to motivate youth, especially male youth, to identify what they are “good” at, and to dedicate their time to it. The ad diverges from consumerist ideas (Strasser), and promotes activity over the promotion of commodities. The methods used, including the incorporation of the creative perspective (Kelly et al.) communicated the message through numerous depictions of the point “[e]verybody’s good at something” (“What’s Your Thing?”). While the ad may not be effective towards a youth audience containing both male and female audience members due to its use of only male characters (with one exception), it is effective towards a male audience through its incorporation of numerous examples of male youth depicting what one can be “good” at.
“What’s Your Thing.” Promoting Self-esteem. Companies Committed to Kids, 1999. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
Cross, Gary. “A New Consumerism, 1960-1980”, (339-345).
The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader. Ed. Joseph Turow and Matthew
- McAllister. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.
Heydon, Jeff. “The Audience.” University of Toronto. 14 January 2015.
—..“Content Analysis and Hermeneutics.” University of Toronto. 28 January 2015.
—.. “All the Cool Kids are Doing It/Communicating the Emotional.” University of Toronto.
18 March 2015.
“Howard Beale: Turn off Your TVs.” YouTube. YouTube, 1976. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
Kelly, A., Lawlor, K., O’Donohue, S., “Encoding Advertisements: The Creative Perspective”(133-146). The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader.
Ed. Joseph Turow and Matthew P. McAllister. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.
Strasser, Susan. “The Alien Past: Consumer Culture in Historical Perspective”, (25-35). The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader. Ed. Joseph Turow and Matthew
- McAllister. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.
Twitchell, James B., “Reflection and Reviews: An English Teacher Looks at Branding”, (227-236). The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader. Ed. Joseph Turow and Matthew P. McAllister. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.
Twitchell, James B. “Miss Clairol’s Does She…Or Doesn’t She?”(118-125).
20 Ads That Shook the World: The Century’s Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How It Changed Us All. New York: Crown, 2000. Print.