August 19, 2010

Designer Death (Trigger Warning)

Of course Marc Jacobs isn’t the only violent offender. The collage below  was mostly created from my personal collection of ads, a collection I have been compiling for the last decade. You’ll see that Marc Jacobs is joined by Duncan Quinn, Dolce and Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Zac Posen, Victoria’s Secret and Louis Vuitton.

Through the use of glamorized and often sexualized  images of violence, adverting reflects the dominant cultural values; masculine control, power and domination in contrast to submissive, silent feminine passivity. Lets face it, these advertisements are a component of the larger, mainstream cultural climate. They are not representative of a few violent misfits.

The advertising industry is one of the most prolific components of the all-pervasive “culture industry.” Through mass produced images, our cultural tastes and desires are created and nurtured, becoming normative and commonplace.

Is it not through this pleasure and entertainment that cultural objects are produced and advertised, thus creating the cultural industry? Entertainment challenges our moral decision-making and promotes the right vs. wrong, good vs. bad debate amongst the masses. Furthermore, through this entertainment we are taught an attitude of passive acceptance.

We dismiss these images as unremarkable. Expected. Entertainment. These oversimplified sentiments dismiss the notion that this spectrum of images is in any way a fundamental thread in the violent fabric of the culture or that it manifests in tangible ways. I still marvel at the throngs of individuals that dismiss our media culture as benign.

When the Lohan, Vogue Italia, and Rachel Zoe photos are viewed along with violent ad imagery, we are given a gruesome vantage point into our mainstream hypermasculine, hyperviolent culture that in turn desensitizes us to the serious nature of violence against women.

Cross-posted at WIMN’s Voices with additional ad collages.


  1. Aside from the obvious offensiveness of misogony and desensitizaion, I fail to understand how this type of marketing would make potential female customers want to buy product from these labels. ?

    Comment by Melissa Wardy — August 19, 2010 @ 9:54 pm

  2. What strikes me is that beyond the gruesome violence and victimization portrayed in these images is the fact that the real women in these photos work in industries where they are routinely stripped of their power, where the employment and exploitation of underage models/actresses is par for the course, where substance abuse, sexual harassment, depression, and eating disorders run rampant. The physical violence in these photos is also a reflection of the psychic violence these women are often subjected to in reality.

    Comment by Claire — August 25, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  3. I have a problem with people who think this is perfectly okay! I seriously don’t understand why fashion designers, photoshoot coordinators, and makeup artists think it is okay to display women in a lifeless manner. What really upsets me is the eroticization of domestic violence. Domestic violence is anything but sexy and cute. I remember a hair salon placed an ad with a woman with nicely done hair, dress, and high heels sitting on a couch with a black eye. A man stood behind her holding a necklace (probably to strangle her with, I don’t know). The caption said “Look good in all you do”. When people became outraged, the salon owners told people to “lighten up”. I think the attitude the salon owners had to the outcry is the same attitude many people have with domestic violence. This is a serious situation and it needs to be talked about more.

    Comment by Skye G. — January 31, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

  4. Most humans’ ultimate fear is death, and it is really sad that models and photographers are degrading women to enter that realm. People must realize the message it sends across, the one must look “seductive” during death. It is really a sad joke, and most people have become so numb to it. One can not call something like this art, because it is so fake, and has no real purpose or a true message behind the photo.

    Comment by Yasmin M — January 31, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

  5. I find this type of advertising and so called art very offensive! It is degrading for women and helps desensitize us toward violence. Acts of violence against women are not funny and should not be made light of. If these images were to promote awareness of violence issues it may be more acceptable but any other use of these types of images should be censored or banned as far as I’m concerned.

    Comment by Tina Brenner — April 24, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

  6. Besides the problem that the women are dead, even more serious is the fact that they are sexualized by wearing lingerie and posed seductively. We also rarely see ads of men dead or in any dangerous situations, it is all women who are vulnerable. When our society constantly reproduces these images, it normalizes violence against women. Women are sexualized enough, but when they are shown dead, it portrays that a woman doesn’t even have to be alive to have sexually feelings towards or to even commit the act. The excuse of it is “just one image” or it is “artistic” is a lame way to discount this issue as important. These images contribute to the larger view of society and with the perpetuation of the similar images, it is not “just one,” but a bunch of violent images. I find it really disturbing that people think its okay to participate in and use the images to sell a product. I don’t even want to know what the company is when they have an ad campaign centered on dead women. It is also scares me that kids flip through magazines and they are already bombarded with tons of violent things in our society, but seeing dead women in fashion magazines normalizes it even more. When ads and crime scenes are indistinguishable, you know there is an issue.

    Comment by Samantha H — April 28, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

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