Sunday, December 12, 2010


Notice the body's appearance on the ads designed for viewing between the 1960s and the present. A viewer automatically associates him- or herself with the person(s) in the ad. Brown emphasizes "you might say, then, that this visualizing medium at once materializes and dematerializes the human body" (Brown 50). As Ewen further points out, there has been a shift in advertising's use of the body. Packaging, advertising, and product design are employing more and more disembodied images (Ewen 85). Even though it is not always shown, the body is always suggested in the all ads.

Phantom Bits and Bites
Interaction and materiality are delineated from the visuals with the ads--you only need to see the product to know what you are supposed to do with it. Tapping our visual psyche, food ads no longer have to show us realistic uses for their products--they are not bound by materiality. For example, this bottle of SKYY vodka might be used as a pole in this ad, but a viewer of the image automatically knows that the liquor is meant for consumption. The bottle being taken out of context and used for another use is a metaphorical device used by food advertising all the time.
Legs straddling a vodka bottle in a magazine ad. Image Source:
The body is just decoration in the ad. The bottle is the bigger and the true object of attention--desire. We can remove the legs and body entirely from the picture, and our imaginations would re-materialize a proper use for the product for us. We've been well-conditioned to associate the pleasure of eating to food porn. The more food media, the more ‘food porn’--and the more food media becomes an amputation from its original self and its material heritage. The new food mediums (food blogs, food albums, Facebook pics, Twitpics) are de-materialized food mediums.
Carl's Jr. Burger Ad. Image Source:
To illustrate our point on body amputation and the (de- and re-) materialization of food, take this burger--an effective ad that merely suggests an Carl's Jr. menu item. It's a printed image (now digitalized) that makes a person want to interact with the material as if it were a real burger on the plate. When removing the body from within these ads, we start to see what Ewen calls "a consciously depersonalized corporate iconography, one which evinces the aura of technical perfection (Ewen 214). The material real form of the burger is almost never as good as the advertisement. The burger is perfect, dematerialized into a digital file, Photoshopped, optimized, and then printed on glossy paper or a shiny computer screen for consumption. A perfect immaterial version of its original, imperfect material counterpart. No matter how unreal, we do consume the burger--just not physically. We don't even leave the chair and we get a certain fill from the media image. We are starring with the burger when we see it. What McLuhan's "Gadget Lover" outlined, we ourselves have become numb and disconnected from the original purpose of the media and its message. There is no material connection to food to the consumer. As McLuhan puts it, we are numb to its effects and no longer feel the need to seek out the material part of food as it has become a 'purer' media entertainment that merely reflects onto to itself (McLuhan 65). This has a lot to do with our society's acceptance of doesn't squint around on its own except in a metaphoric sense; it mediates between our eyes and the sites of space that it helps us experience as sights (Schlereth 2). Food, like pornography, is consumed like Pavlov's bell for pleasure. This also explains the current American obsession with The Food Network.

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