What is it you see when viewing this advertisement featuring Dakota Fanning and bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume? Unlike mine, your perception has not been completely altered yet.
However if I contextualise the advert, revealing the fact that it was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority and deemed as guilty of sexualising a child (Bergin 2011), you see the image differently. As discussed in my previous post, ‘Big Night Out For Fashion Junkies,’ the way each individual views an image is idiosyncratic. You may or may not have seen the implied sexual innuendo that is under question in this advertisement. So is the commercialized choice of actors media exploitation and sexualisation, or is it in fact the actors’ choice?
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) stated, “We noted that the model was holding up the perfume bottle which rested in her lap between her legs and we considered that its position was sexually provocative. We understood the model was 17 years old but we considered she looked under the age of 16…along with her appearance, we considered the ad could be seen to sexualise a child” (Bergin 2011). The sexualisation of children is another issue that can be added to the list of topics blamed on the media. The ASA’s statement exemplifies the power of the media and society’s trepidation of increasing sexualisation of teens. This ‘moral panic’ of the sexualisation of apparently ‘vunerable’ children is certainly magnified through the media but is also created by it.
If Lateysha from ‘The Valleys,’ examined in ‘Breaking News: Lateysha has chilli sauce in her hair,’ shot the same advertisement as Fanning it would probably just have been seen as a extremely tame campaign for her outrageous reality TV show. So why is this ‘mediated’ representation of Fanning considered sexualised enough to be banned?
The all-powerful media has encapsulated Fanning’s innocence that has lived on through films such as ‘I Am Sam’ (2001), ‘The Cat in the Hat’ (2003) and ‘Charlotte’s Web’ (2006) (Bio 2014). Even her role in ‘The Twilight Saga’, her first appearance in 2009, Fanning was chosen for the role of Jane to represent a ‘child-like beauty’ (Wikia 2014), that the character is described as having. The same can be said for celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan, who are remembered and constantly compared to their appearance and reputation when they were young girls. These women are evolving, is it so unfathomable to understand that their characteristics evolve with them? It does say at the top of the Marc Jacobs advertisement ‘The New Fragrance for Women,’ so perhaps Fanning wants to be treated like one rather than the innocent girl she is remembered for.
Marc Jacobs decision to shoot Fanning in the campaign due to her ability to be ‘seductive yet sweet’ (Bergin 2011) is questionable, as well as his statement that she is the ‘contemporary Lolita’. Due to the fact that Lolita featured in the controversial novel by Vladimir Nabokov about a middle-aged man’s sexual obsession for a 12-year-old girl, you can see where this moral crisis on sexualisation may have stemmed from. However a fellow BCM student Tiarne provided a new perspective for my study in her post ‘Reflecting, Reliving, Remembering & Reminiscing.’ The 7-year old daughter of ‘real life Barbie’ Sarah Burge was given no say in a media interview. In contrast with my case study, Fanning, although underage, clearly had a voice in the way in which she was represented highlighting ‘If you want to read something into a perfume bottle, then I guess you can’ (Toronto Sun 2013). I believe Fanning’s previous reputation has shaped our perception of her as a young adult thus this ‘moral panic’ is overly exaggerated.
However there are innumerable angles to analyse the media, my study over the past weeks and other students’ interpretation has taught me this. You are shaped by your personal context in the way you view the media. The media shapes your perspective. And those in charge of the media shape the ‘mediated’ public sphere. Objectivity? Hardly.
- Bergin, O 2011, ‘Dakota Fanning’s Oh, Lola! advert for Marc Jacobs is banned,’ Telegraph, 9 November, viewed 12 April 2014, http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/columns/olivia-bergin/TMG8876913/Dakota-Fannings-Oh-Lola-advert-for-Marc-Jacobs-is-banned.html
- Bio 2014, Dakota Fanning Biography, A&E Television Networks, viewed 12 April 2014, <A&E Television Networks>
- Wikia 2014, Twilight Wiki Jane, Wikipedia, viewed 12 April 2014, <http://twilightsaga.wikia.com/wiki/Jane>
- Toronto Sun 2013, Dakota Fanning defends banned Marc Jacobs ad, Canoe Sun Media, viewed 12 April 2014, <http://www.torontosun.com/2013/02/01/dakota-fanning-defends-banned-marc-jacobs-ad>
- Poulter, S 2011, Dakota Fanning’s ‘Lolita’ perfume ad for Marc Jacobs is banned for ‘sexualising children, Ninemsn Mail Online, viewed 12 April 2014, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2059097/Dakota-Fannings-sexually-provocative-perfume-ad-banned.html>