Stereotypical Representations in Lebanese Advertising
Since the early days of advertising, women and men have suffered from stereotypical representations. Women mostly have been reduced to four roles: The femme fatale, the sex kitten, the supermom or the nasty villainess (Media Smarts, n.d.). Men to a lesser extent have also been represented stereotypically. They are often portrayed as belonging to one of the following stereotypes: The joker, the jock, the strong silent type, the big shot, the action hero and the buffoon (Media Smarts, n.d.). The Lebanese and Arab advertising realms continue to flaunt these stereotypical representations of women and men.
I looked at three different print advertisements I found in two magazines: A Lebanese magazine, Nadine and an Arab magazine, Al Hasnaa. The advertisements are present in the appendices.
The First Ad: Two Men
This ad is taken from the April 2013 issue of the Lebanese magazine Nadine. This ad promotes stereotypical representations of men.
In this ad, the item being advertised is the new CD of Lebanese artist Fares Karam. Two Arab looking men occupy the majority of the ad space. A wide shot is used. The name of the label, Rotana, appears at the bottom. One of the men is sitting on a lavishly ornate gold chair. The other man is standing by his side, holding the top of his chair. The sitting man is casting a distant glance to his right. The standing man appears to be looking beneath him at the sitting man. They are both dressed similarly in expensive looking clothes: black shoes, black pants, white unbuttoned shirts, black jackets and black unmade ties. They are clearly well groomed. The walls behind the two men and the floor beneath them are dark. The darkness of the background combined with the obscure expressions of the two men and their dark clothing suggest a dark, heavy, masculine mood.
This ad promotes the stereotype of men as the strong, silent type (Media Smarts, n.d.). The men’s neutral expressions suggest they always keep their feelings under control. They do not show any emotions, as it is a sign of weakness. Their rich clothing suggests they are successful in their professions. These men are financially powerful, always in charge and having everything under control.
The Second Ad: A White Woman and a Black Woman
The second ad is taken from the March 30 issue of Arab magazine Al Hasnaa. This ad both reinforces stereotypical representations of women and promotes the concept of Western beauty as universal beauty.
The items being advertised are two foundation creams by the French brand Yves Saint Laurent: one light beige and one brown. The foundation cream is a primordial component of any woman’s make-up routine. It is generally the first thing that women apply on their faces in the morning. As the caption at the bottom states, this foundation cream serves many purposes. It illuminates the dark parts of the skin, unifies the skin tone, hides its imperfections and enhances natural facial features.
The faces and shoulders of two women occupy the majority of the ad’s space. A black woman’s face and shoulders occupy the left side of the ad. The woman is a brunette, with brown eyes. A blond woman’s face and shoulders occupy the right side of the ad. The woman is a blonde, with blue eyes. Both women are extremely similar, apart from the color of their hair, skin and eyes. They are both wearing what appear to be sexy black dresses. Their hair is styled in exactly the same way, away from their faces, thus highlighting their facial features. They are not wearing any kind of jewelry. The camera angle used is a close-up angle shot from below. A white golden circle resembling a halo of light that contrasts with the black dresses of the two women occupies the majority of the background. All these techniques serve to emphasize the faces of these two women. They are both glancing directly at the camera with sexy, smoldering stares. The ad’s underlying message is that the beauty and sexiness of the women originates from the foundation cream. This ad seems to suggest that by merely applying this foundation cream, and with a basic hairstyle and barely any make up, any woman, black or white, will instantly be transformed into a sexy flawless creature. This ad thus reinforces the stereotype of women as femmes fatales. Also, in contrast with the previous ad that showed the full body of the two men, this ad only shows the faces and shoulders of these two women, suggesting that a woman’s entire identity can be equated to a pretty face
In addition, in this ad, black women’s natural features, such as full lips and curly hair are moderated. Furthermore, the black woman’s skin tone is lighter on her face (especially the forehead, nose and cheeks) compared with the rest of her body (The New Elegant Black Woman, 2012). Keeping in mind that the forehead, nose and cheeks are the areas on which women apply their foundation cream, this ad seems to suggest that by applying the Yves Saint Laurent foundation cream, women will be one step closer to achieving the Western ideals of beauty.
The Third Ad: Two Men and Two Women
This ad is taken from the April issue of Lebanese magazine Nadine. The item being advertised is the Arabic show “The X Factor.” The ad features the words The X Factor in bold red at the top with the caption “incomparable” in Arabic. The four judges of the show, two men and two women are portrayed in the middle. Another caption, in English, is found at the bottom. This ad strongly reinforces stereotypical representations of women.
First, the two women are placed at the center surrounded by the two men. This strategic placement seems to suggest that men are the protectors of women. Also, the two men are standing slightly behind the women. Women are thus the center of attention. The men are directly facing the camera while the women are slightly facing sideways, granting the audience a better look at their physique. In addition, the two men are wearing black suits and dark shirts while the women flaunt brightly colored and extremely tight and revealing dresses that emphasize the roundness of their breasts and behinds. They both have a thin waist and an hourglass figure. They also both have long hair and heavy dark make-up around their eyes. The two women represent the ideal Arab beauty. The choice of clothing and posture in this ad thus reinforces the idea that men’s success has nothing to do with their appearance or physique. On the other hand, women’s success and worth are strongly correlated with the shape of their body and their appearance.
This ad is placed in a magazine whose audience is mainly female. Arab women looking at this ad will thus internalize the idea that to be successful they must look like femmes fatales: be fit and curvy, wear revealing clothes and always have their hair done and wear heavy make-up.
The Arab advertising scene has been plagued with stereotypical representations of women and men. Each gender has been reduced to a couple of typical roles. Some attempts have been made in the past decade in order to raise awareness about this issue. The most notable was Dove’s 2004 campaign for real women (Helm, 2008), which featured women of realistic heights and shapes. Nonetheless, male and especially female stereotypical representations continue to strive.
Karam, F. (2013, April). Nadine, 1680.
Helm (2008). Surprise! Dove’s campaign for real women actually kind of fake. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved from: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/brandnewday/archives/2008/05/surprise_doves.html
Media Smarts (n.d.). Media portrayals of girls and women – Introduction. Retrieved from: http://mediasmarts.ca/gender-representation/women-and-girls/media-portrayals-girls-and-women-introduction
Media Smarts (n.d.). Common stereotypes of men in meda. Retrieved from: http://mediasmarts.ca/gender-representation/men-and-masculinity/common-stereotypes-men-media
Media Smarts (n.d.). Visible minorities. Retrieved from: http://mediasmarts.ca/diversity-media/visible-minorities
The New Elegant Black Woman (2012). Black women must advertise their unique feminine features. Retrieved from: http://elegantblackwoman.blogspot.com/2012/09/black-women-must-advertise-their-unique.html
The X Factor. (2013, April). Nadine, 1680.
Yves Saint Laurent. (2013, March). Al Hasnaa..