Television commercial is one of the most effective and powerful means of product advertising in today's world of media and technology as it provides possibilities for the use of both audio and visual effects to draw the attention of audience. When ultimate aim of the advertiser is to capture the psychology of the audience and draw his/her interest to consume the product, creativity is used to design advertisements with all possible visual and audio effects intermixed.
Creativity and the work of art or literature it creates, as Freud says, is associated with creator's conscious and unconscious desire. Most of the advertisements, at least Nepalese ones, are created by male designers. And the female designers also, if any, follow the majority. At such a scenario, it is obvious, even from observation, that most of the advertisements produced are influenced by the conscious/unconscious desire of the designer, i.e. male gaze. It is also because the supposed desire of the common audience is the central focus of most of the designers and that desire is what they try to exploit.
The advertisement designers in doing so take recourse to voyeurism. The spectacle provided by the television advertisements makes a safe and secure place for the voyeurs to take pleasure from looking secretly. The screen of the television is such a spectacle which distances the viewed from the viewer where the observer can look at the images in the screen but the images in the screen could not look back or disturb the observer. The advertisements that try to exploit this situation fall under this category of advertisements which victimize women’s images in the screen through voyeuristic male gaze.
The situation in television is likened to that of the darkened cinema hall, where the audience feels secure as the darkness distances him/her from the images of the cinema and other people in the hall. The more the position of the audience is secure, the more the possibility for him/her to get pleasure of looking images secretly. So as the darkness of the cinema hall, which is a public domain, facilitates voyeurs towards pleasure of looking, the television set and its privacy constitute necessary spectacles for voyeuristic pleasure.
Let's make an analysis of some advertisements where voyeurism is pervasive. Advertisements which cater to the expectation of male voyeuristic gaze could best be seen in soap advertisements. One of the advertisements recorded for analysis in this research is of a toilet soap named Citrus Lime. The audio version of the advertisement when translated into English reads like this:
Freshness of Citrus Lime, each moment each celebration
A product of Mahashakti Soap. (My Translation)
As the audio narration of the advertisement conveys, the soap is designed to bring freshness. But this effect of the soap is contradicted by the image of woman presented (Clip 2). More than freshness the advertisement focuses in arising sexual desire to the audience through presentation of a woman in swimming costume. Besides, the advertisement’s focal point is on the fetish parts of the women, viz: exposed underarm, breasts, neck and belly. The woman is presented as a sexual object to be viewed by voyeurs. To supply a secure position for the voyeuristic male gaze, the woman is made to close her eyes while stretching her both arms upward so that voyeur could fearlessly watch her as there will be no possibility of her looking back. This is a necessary spectacle for creating pleasure of looking for the voyeurs, as voyeurs can only peep or secretly watch. In this advertisement, the "socopholia" or the pleasure of looking is the central force that is guiding the designer in its production.
Some advertisements like that of Mini Water Pump are explicitly affected by voyeuristic pleasure of looking. The advertiser to introduce a new product, Mini Water Pump, uses a scene of a woman bathing in her bathroom, a typical situation for peeping. The advertisement opens up with alight interior of a cozy bathroom and focuses on the back side of a naked woman (Clip 3), who is taking shower. An old man peeps into her bathroom and takes pleasure in secretely looking a beautiful woman bathing naked. Other men outside follow the first old man and start peeping, and in few seconds, whole villagers are peeping inside. The woman notices this and throws a bucket full of water through the same peeping holes and all of the voyeurs run away. With this scene the advertisement ends.
The visuals displayed in this advertisement do not have anything to do with the water pump, which is the product the advertisement wants to advertise. The sexual and voyeuristic images of the advertisement are used only to draw the audience's attention, which is nothing more than catering to the desire of male voyeuristic gaze.
Similarly, there is another advertisement of Rite Juce. To quote the audio versions of the advertisement the advertisement reads like this:
Every thirst demands, Rite juice.
Now available in one litter pack!
On buying one litter Rite Juice, a glass free! (My Translation)
This short audio visual advertisement of Rite Juice displays the image of a woman with wet hair and body which is accompanied by the above audio narration. Unlike the advertisement of the soap Citrus Lime, here the woman can look back at the audience also. But yet, the way she is presented together with the juice could be analysed as one of the effects of male gaze. It is a fact that the product, juice, has its consumer without regard to sex and gender. But the advertisement makes sense as if the males are only the consumer of the product. The women's image in the advertisement (Clip 4) is the major focus rather than the product itself. The image of woman is over invested with sexual meanings as if she is the metaphor of thirst, a sexual lust of male. The advertisement has presupposed only the male audience and it presents men and women in the perspective of male gaze. This as too clearly displays voyeuristic features.
The advertisement of New Liril Orange is yet another example of advertisements which have voyeuristic features. One may ask looking at the clip of the advertisement placed here (Clip 5): why she is exposing herself without looking at the audience? The answer is simple. Had she been presented with her look, there would have been fewer chances for the voyeurs to have pleasure of looking at her body. There would have been less confident spectacles for the voyeur’s pleasure. In other words, her looking back would have generated “fear” in the audience. The advertisement thus is in the perspective of male gaze. The woman is presented as a field of observation and her body parts exposed with over invested sexual meanings. She cannot look back, she is passive and so she could only exhibit to-be-looked-atness. Had she been presented with a look of her own, she would have her own identity. But the way she is presented rules out the possibility of acknowledging her identity. She is acknowledged in the advertisement simply as an object. As Sangita Rayamajhi writes in her study, Use of language in Nepali Press:
Even Kantipur Weekly, in spite of its exemplary write-ups, Q&A and opinion columns etc., the photo clips of women on the cover page and the blow up posters in the center page of some weeklies tend to devaluate the position of women in society. Women have been commodified to provide pleasure and hence increase the sale of the weekly. (34)
While images of women in magazines are commodified to provide pleasure, the marketing strategy is guided by voyeurism. The belief is that the pleasure of looking women’s body parts, is the demand of audience. This makes the magazines full of blow up posters that cater to male gaze. Same applies to the television commercials as well.
Fetishistic pleasure is the second central force that is guiding the structure and content of Nepalese advertisements. Advertisements that cater to male gaze are produced with the central aim of offering fetishistic pleasure of looking. Substituting certain objects or parts of body with fetish is the major tendency of such advertisements. The substituted parts are, in general look, “very inappropriate for sexual purpose, e.g. a piece of clothing or underlinen” but they bear relation to sexuality. Such substitutes are with some justice linked to the fetishes (Freud 297).
This psychological trend of making fetish substitutes in media is not uncommon in Nepalese context as well, for this comes with the power of unconscious and human desire for pleasure at looking. Dr. Abhi Suedi tresses this trend in multiple modes of media:
In many weeklies and newspapers young women's photographic texts become fetish, which is the feature of the female photographs produced by the male gaze. This feature applies to paintings as well where the concept of male gaze is very important subject of feminist interpretation of artistic works. (Subdi 15)
This feature also applies to Nepalese television advertisements where moving images of women are fetishisized. The advertisement of Kailash Tea, for instance, shows how the parts of body are used as sexual genitals. The audio version of the advertisement of Kailash Tea translated into English reads like this:
Golden earring, golden ring, golden top, golden Fulli and silver Pauju for myself, all in one tea. Thousands of prizes in purchase of Kailash Tea! Kailash Tea, changes your mood instantly! (My Translation)
The advertisement starts with the display of a meticulously made up women’s face, and as the narration proceeds, the camera shifts its focus gradually from one body part to another: on her fingers, her nose, her ears, her neck and lastly her feet (Clip 6). The advertisement exposes her feet intentionally to arise libidinal desires in the audience as the woman pulls over her Sarie to show her Pauju that she wore around her feet. The white coloured legs here are exposed as fetish, which are presented as substitute for sexual genitals. The advertisement thus fetishizes the feet/limbs of the women.
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