A closer look at monogamy and romance in How I Met Your Mother

how_i_met_your_mother

A favorite of mine is the popular How I Met Your Mother. This show is a collection of flash-backs following Ted Mosby’s desperate search for romance and the adventures he encounters with his friends along the way. How I Met Your Mother is mainly targeted towards young adults who relate to the emotional roller-coaster of romance. For my Marxist analysis I will be focusing on the pilot of the show because it provides a good summary of the main on-going themes. By looking underneath the show’s humor a clear message reinforcing the hegemony of “monogamous romantic relationships are desirable and results in happiness” stood out to me. This dominant ideology is illustrated by the pain Ted suffers due to his ‘single’ status, the approval Lily and Marshal invokes from other characters due to their ‘happily in love’ status and the disapproval Barney incites due to his ‘against monogamy’ standpoint.

Throughout the pilot episode (and the other episodes), Ted is evidently frustrated by being ‘single’ and desperately wants a monogamous relationship providing an anti-model for the audience. In this case, Ted’s suffering implies to the viewers that they do not want to be single like Ted. Ted’s desperation is sparked by Marshall’s engagement to Lily and is demonstrated by his ongoing defeated and discouraged attitude as well as his constant complaints about being single. He regularly expresses desire to be like Marshall and Lily which I perceive to be the show’s positive models.

How I Met Your Mother reinforces the idea of “monogamous romance results in happiness” by providing Marshall and Lily (happily engaged couple) as the role-models of happiness for Ted. Throughout the episode Marshall and Lily are viewed by the other characters, especially Ted, as the perfect couple. “The olive theory is based on my friends Marshall and Lily. He hates olives, she loves them. In a weird way that’s what makes them such a great couple, perfect balance.” (How I Met Your Mother, episode 1). The fact that Ted used the olive theory as an indication of his future with Robin (Robin hates olives, Ted loves them) shows that Ted looks up to Marshall and Lily to the point of using ridiculous nuances in their relationship in his own. The implication is clear when contrasting this positive approval with the condemnation Barney spurs as the opposite end of the spectrum.

Barney’s steadfast standpoint on “no monogamy” is paired with an outlandish persona which results in the viewers relating “no monogamy” with the ridiculousness and disapproval provoked by Barney. I believe this was the show’s original intent although Barney’s character since proved to be extremely popular and charismatic. “…even the dumbest single person alive and if you don’t believe me… call him. (Referring to Barney)” (How I Met Your Mother, episode 1). Barney is presented as a silly and amoral womanizer who the other characters rarely agree with.

The different levels of happiness and approval each of the main characters is presented with illustrates what the show is trying to imply as desirable and happy. The show’s message through these characters reinforces “monogamous romantic relationships” as the norm. Another interesting aspect of the show to consider for a Marxist analysis would be the show’s message on who is empowered in the young dating scene (attractiveness). Comparing the physical and behavioral characteristics of the “attractive” and “unattractive” characters of the show could be helpful for such an analysis.

 

“Pilot”. How I Met Your Mother. 20th Century Fox Television. 19 Sept. 2005. Television.

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The Next Big Thing: A Marxist Review on Apple

In a world intently devoted towards technological innovation, one flourishing company, Apple, has enjoyed success for decades. With a line of top quality products including iPods and iPhones, iMacs and Macbooks, Apple wants customers to believe owning their products will enhance your ability to experience the world around you. Those who own one of these devices are open to an empowered level. When you first reveal one of these products to others, an audience and its attention is immediately drawn, at just the touch of a button, life becomes much simpler and efficient, and competing companies stand no chance against these Apple devices. Ultimately, people who haven’t experienced Apple are subjected to the companies hegemony: those who have embraced Apple products maintain an empowered state.

Many Apple products, especially their first released iPods and iPhones have the ability to draw attention. Being one of the first iPod commercials unveiling their completely new music playing device, capable of storing up to 1,000 songs, this unique yet extremely intriguing advertisement instantly lures viewers. For such a plain commercial, the messages embedded in various ways are grasping. As a person’s hand moves the iPod, showing all angles, its “impossibly small” design and shiny back quickly catches the eyes attention and immediately makes one want it. This is exemplified when a second persons hand reaches in the screen, trying to get a hold of it. Most would prefer to be the one with the iPod, rather than the person trying to get it. In the background, an audio track is played with lyrics only saying “give me that”. This advertisement critically signifies ones socio-economic status and suggests that if you own an Apple iPod, the people around you will be drawn to you, making you the center of attention. To some, this attention will bring joy and an empowered level over those who don’t have one.

iPod Nano First Generation Commercial: 

Apple displays the new iPhone (4s) with Siri, a tool that essentially reduces inconveniences, therefore making daily conflicts avoidable. In one commercial, actor John Malkovich is shown in his house with his iPhone in hand. He asks Siri several questions, including what the weather is like, plans for the evening, and restaurants serving Linguica. In a matter of seconds, Siri immediately responds with all the answers he’s looking for; good weather through till Tuesday, no plans booked for the evening and five restaurants nearby with Linguica on their menu. Simple and efficient. With tasks that may require much more time and effort, the iPhone quickly resolves most concerns. With no more than one press of a button, ones life can subtly become much more efficient. However, those who don’t possess this device fall away from Apples hegemony.

iPhone 4s – John Malkovich Commercial: 

Plenty of Apples commercials hint that most competing companies, such as Microsoft, don’t stand a chance. In the classic Mac vs PC commercials, where Justin Long plays a Mac computer and John Hodgman plays a Microsoft PC, the flaws of a PC computer completely out-weigh those of a Mac, making Apples product the more desirable choice. In this specific commercial (shown below), Mac and PC are shown still “packaged” and about to be set up. The Mac emphasizes how simple it is to start up, suggesting multiple projects the owner may attempt almost immediately, including creating a home movie, designing a website and testing out the built-in camera. On the other hand, the PC has to download new drivers and erase pre-installed trial software. The audiences viewing this commercial are instantly drawn to the Mac and its impeccable features and those owning a PC are at a major disadvantage.  Rather than enduring the hassle of a PC, why not buy a Mac and avoid those complications.

Mac vs. PC – Out of the Box Commercial: 

Whether it be an iPod, iPhone or iMac, Apple products can lead to a better life, through ways of attention and efficiency. These tools are very prestigious. Many pass up on the opportunity to purchase from Apple due to the expensive prices. Therefore, those who do buy Apple devices can be considered to exemplify a materialistic and economic personality. As shown over the years, Apple is always introducing new technology and proving their ideology that newer is better. Its your choice if you want to be the one with or without the next big thing.

SpongeBob Marxistpants

Spongebob_mr_krabs_and_plankton

SpongeBob Squarepants, a classic childhood show that first aired in 1999 portrays anthropomorphism in sea creates living in fictional underwater city Bikini Bottom. The show usually centers on everyday silly misadventures of SpongeBob and his friends. But, a frequent recurring plot is of evil Plankton’s (a zooplankton) numerous (and failed) attempts at stealing the “secret formula” to make the irresistible Krabby Patty of Mr. Krab’s Krusty Krab restaurant .The target audience, children and young teens, interpret a good versus evil scheme, perpetuating the hegemony that evil Plankton will never prevail and that SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs are the “good guys” for foiling his plan.

For example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCjtBT8YEDo

However, on a deeper level, it is the materialistic goods that drive the plot: the moral economy of Mr. Krabs, the possession of the physical (and only copy) of the secret formula, and the physical body dominance. Therefore, a Marxist analysis is appropriate and important in understanding the hidden messages of how material possessions lead to wealth and ultimately empowers the owner to have control of those who do not have ownership, leading to the latter’s disempowerment. Note that material possessions include all norms, physical items, social practices, rules, ideas, and laws in a given society (Sellnow 72).

SpongeBob, a carefree character, exudes a naïve personality that gets him easily taken advantage of. By contrast Mr. Krab, owner of fast food restaurant and SpongeBob’s employer, possesses a sly and calculating. As a result, Mr. Krab’s always takes advantage of the sponge chef, leading to an example of hegemony, where dominating groups (the bosses) have more power over other groups (the employees for instance) in a working society, where the workers seem to have no personal voice. The restaurant owner crustacean holds all the power. He is the one that employs SpongeBob as the cook that gives him a low wage job. But, it is Mr. Krabs who is really benefitting and earning almost the entire profit margin. SpongeBob has accepted this as normal as a result of Mr. Krabs feeding him praises and nonsensical excuses to encourage him to work his best while exploiting his worker’s rights.

For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJTH6Bq3CKM

(8:04-8:10)

Even merely possessing the one –of- a -kind on paper secret formula has given Mr. Krabs great power in the fast food industry. This secret ingredient that Plankton has been trying to steal from him has started has started a huge rivalry. Plankton believes that just be possessing the formula is the key to turning his lacking -of -quality -food restaurant into a booming business. This motive alone sends an ideological message to children that as long as you possess some physical secret weapon, even if you steal it, you will be successful.

Aside from SpongeBob’s naivety, Plankton’s diminutive size emphasizes his disempowerment. Being only 4 inches tall is a serious disadvantage when trying to physically overcome a crab 20 times his size. To me, their difference in statures is a powerful symbolism that once again reinforces to the child audience that evil will never win. I mean, how could that happen when its obvious Plankton can be squished so easily by not just Mr. Krabs, but really by anyone. Once again, just by having a size trait, there is an obvious and unquestionable immediate sense of empowerment and disempowerment balance.

This video demonstrates how vulnerable Plankton’s size makes him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T-LjQYRaQc

SpongeBob Squarepants has been quite a popular show for children. At first, the show gives off a strong childhood innocence vibe. However, deeper analysis can reveal the subtle messages of power based on possession of certain economies, whether they are intangible ones or physical ones that you can own. Since children are not likely to overthink the more intense messages broadcasted, it is very unlikely for the young target audience to realize that they are exposing themselves to a hegemony. In the long run, negative effects may show after these children grow up into teenagers and subconsciously have accepted that naturally, there will be rightful empowerment and rightful disempowerment in their lives without stopping to question any of it.

Sellnow, Deanna. The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. Los Angeles: SAGE

Publications Inc., 2010. Print.

SpongeBob Squarepants (TV Series)YouTube. YouTube, 1999-2013. Web. 07 Feb. 2013

Community College for Misfit Toys

community

NBC’s Community kicked off its fourth season last night so it seemed an appropriate choice for my Marxist analysis. The following Marxist analysis is focused specifically on the pilot episode, as I believe the pilot episode says more about the core of the show than any other episode.

The pilot begins with a disaster of a speech from the dean of Greendale Community College in which he accidently confirms the stereotype that community college is “loser college”. The episode then follows a disbarred lawyer named Jeff Winger, who tries to manipulate a professor into giving him all the answers to all his tests, as well as forming a Spanish study group to attempt to seduce a fellow student.
On one hand, hegemony suggests that education is both normal and desirable, yet the idea that community college is second rate education or “loser college” is also firmly imbedded. Subscribing to this ideology leads to the acceptance of a bizarre and diverse (religiously, ethnically, and age-wise) group such as the one presented in Community as normal and common sense only in a community college setting.
Many of the jokes presented in the pilot make fun of the second-rate nature of community college. For example, in response to Professor Duncan’s (whom Jeff tries to get answers from) adage that cheaters never prosper, Jeff retorts “If I wanted to learn something, I would not have come to community college.” Many of the teachers and professors are played by comedic actors (ie John Oliver and Ken Jeong), and generally are portrayed as jokes themselves.
The members of the study group itself, who become the main characters of the show, are almost all attending community college as a result of a past failure. Jeff Winger was caught with a faulty law degree, Britta Perry is a former high-school dropout and political activist, and Annie Edison and Troy Barnes both lost scholarships to top-tier universities. In fact, the only member of the study group who seems to be happy and willing to be there in Abed Nadir. The message seems to be that people have to do something wrong to “end up” in college.
Jeff Winger is the main and model character, because although he is manipulative and self-centered, he is an intelligent, confident leader whose very presence commands attention. He controls almost everything and everyone he comes into contact with, and both perceives himself, and is perceived by the audience, as being too intelligent to belong at a community college. In the end, however, he is shown as needing the help of the very group he manipulated.
Community then presents the alternative worldview of seven unique individuals in a proverbial “island of misfit toys” known as community college. The show appeals to student audiences, who relate to the characters, but would not find living like them desirable.
In conclusion, Community works as a sitcom because it presents a picture of a community college as a big joke, reinforcing the hegemony that community college is “clown college” or “loser college”. However, it is an occluded preferred reading because Jeff, the model character representing the professional and academic ruling class needs the misfits to help him successfully navigate the very community college he made fun of.

“Bravery It’s What Defines Us”- A Marxist Analysis

“Bravery It’s What Defines Us”- A Marxist Analysis

The 2013 SuperBowl commercials were somewhat predictable. Due to the targeted audience being male, commercials focused on cars, food, beer, and women as props. The advertisement under analysis will be the Audi 2013 SuperBowl commercial, analyzed through the Marxist Perspective. It narrates a boy who embarks on one of the most pivotal moments of his adolescence: “Prom Night.” This commercial depicts a middle class family and their handsome young son going to prom by himself. By driving his father’s luxurious Audi, he gains confidence. He cruises to the school and parks in the principal’s spot. He then marches into prom, grabs the arm of the prom queen and kisses her without obtaining consent. After, we see him with a silly grin on his face, despite having been given a black eye by the prom king. The prom queen is shown smiling somewhat in the aftermath. According to Marxist Theorists, a Preferred Reading is the easiest, most obvious common sense interpretation of a popular culture text. (Sellnow 73) Therefore under the Preferred Reading Perspective, Audi’s SuperBowl commercial titled “Prom” features their fine automobiles, but more than that, it’s depicts a “feel good” story as its narrative. Viewers root for the underdog, and in the end he seizes the girl, the car, and the confidence.

What this boy felt like doing at that particular moment is more important than whether or not the prom queen wants to be kissed. She appears to be in a relationship with someone else, and there is no implication offered in this commercial that this is something she would want. It turns out that she happened to be okay with the forced contact in the end, thereby justifying his actions to himself. The commercial closes with, “Bravery. It’s what defines us.” The word for just walking up to a woman and kissing her without her consent is apparently, “bravery.” This is what Marxist critics refer to as an Occluded Preferred Reading. Embedded within what seems to be at least on the surface an oppositional message. (Sellnow 74) Therefore the corporate branding strategy that Audi used in the Occluded Preferred Reading Method is: gain confidence, forcibly kiss a girl, it will feel good, and she will like it.

Hegemony is the privileging of a dominant groups ideology over that of other groups. For example: Men are more empowered than women. (Sellnow 72) According to the Washington Post, an ad during the Super Bowl cost $3.5 million for thirty seconds. (Lawson) This is what the prestigious Audi Automobile Company decides to spend their money on. Simply put, Audi supports the interests of those in power. Their message is you gain power and confidence when you drive an Audi. In regard to the Audi commercial, forcing oneself on a woman and unwanted sexual contact is deemed acceptable. The forced contact is not only okay, but also a great thing and sends the further message that women want this. Movies, television and pop culture images showcase men who are persistent and chase women without their consent. Their actions in the end aren’t rewarded by an arrest for stalking but instead with the object of their desire.

Audi 2013 SuperBowl Commercial:

Work Cited:
Lawson, Corrina. “Audi SuperBowl Commercial Fail: Sexual Assault is Good!.” WIRED. GEEKMOM, 04 Feb 2013. Web. 8 Feb 2013. .

Sellnow, Deanna. A Marxist Perspective. 1ST Edition. Thousand Oaks California: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. 72. Print.

Sellnow, Deanna. A Marxist Perspective. 1ST Edition. Thousand Oaks California: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. 73. Print.

Sellnow, Deanna. A Marxist Perspective. 1ST Edition. Thousand Oaks California: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. 74. Print.

AXE “Premature Perspiration”

AXE has established itself as a worldwide brand name in home and personal care products with emphasis on deodorants and shampoos for men. Through their massive marketing campaign that includes AXE commercials, samples and advertisements, AXE has become a leading force in the personal care market. It also has allowed the company to establish their purpose of meeting the everyday needs of people everywhere while promising to help guys look, smell and feel their best. However these advertisements often if not always tend to focus on the symbolism behind what their products can do outside of personal care and grooming without actually talking about the products itself. The AXE brand therefore has established an ideology in consumers that AXE will give you the ability to have sex with pretty girls you probably had no shot with .The company does this through always using what society considers to be hot or beautiful women but average looking men who somehow end up getting the girl out of their league simply by using AXE, which can be seen in the commercial, Premature Perspiration.

In Premature Perspiration you see average looking men who see girls they consider to be hot and out of their league. As these men begin to see these women they suddenly break out into heavy perspiration, which is shown to be a major turn off for the women. As these men continue to perspire, they begin to start breaking down emotionally as the women leave. One of the men however uses AXE and suddenly becomes better looking, confident and ultimately gets the girl. The commercial played into the ideology that AXE allows its consumers to get the beautiful girl through the use of their products.

Through this perspective you can also see that the commercial identifies the two subject positions, models and anti-models. The model is the one guy who decides to use the axe product and gets the girl, while the anti-models are all the other men who don’t use axe products and end up without the girl. In terms of a Marxist perspective, there are various economic metaphors at play. For one the anti-models look to be part of the middle working class, their possessions tend to be nothing special or something of great value while their status seems to be one of poor respect. The men are seen in places of low worth when they begin to perspire, which include a low class living room, a coin laundry and a bowling alley. These are typically places or situations where you would not see men with high socioeconomic status and power.

Hegemony is defined as the privileging of a dominant’s group ideology over that of other groups (Sellnow 72). The commercial plays into this theory of hegemony. It does this by accepting the dominant norm in society that beautiful women should and can only be with the typical hot male unless they do something to themselves, example using AXE. It also plays into hegemony through the socioeconomic symbols in the commercial of wealth and power. All the men experiencing premature perspiration also are shown to lack economic status, in that they would not be considered well off in society. This plays into the notion that people without money experience problems both physically, the perspiration and emotionally, the breakdowns. Hegemony is also evident through the fact that the commercial shows that only physically attractive and beautiful women have the ability to make men perspire. This also agrees with the socially accepted ideology that beautiful women are empowered and looks matter.

The manipulation of advertising and their marketing strategies has allowed the AXE brand to become a worldwide leader in personal care products.  Through playing into society’s accepted norms and acknowledging their values, AXE has been able to directly relate to a huge target market. This is evident in the Marxist analysis performed as well as the various socioeconomic symbols in the commercial. AXE shows that they use society’s interest in beautiful women to create a scenario in which any guy can get even the most beautiful girl. Lastly, despite AXE creating false hope in the minds of their customers, they do a great job of making society believe in the ideology that using AXE is common sense and will empower you through their use of hegemony and clever promises.

Dolce & Gabbana Ad.

Marxist Analysis of Dolce & Gabbana Advertisement 

Dolce & Gabbana can easily be identified as a billion dollar company due to their successful marketing. Known to be “…the most powerful and influential designers of our time.” (Bio 2005) this pair of Milan based designers are world renown.  Through fashion shows, perfumes, jewelry, accessories, and clothes Dolce & Gabbana rule the fashion industry. Though despite their existing fame, like many brands a key technique that has been used continually to market their product is advertising. Through advertising they continue to widen their audience, further developing their success. However, the ads are quite puzzling because they seem to sell ideologies and people rather than products. Oftentimes the only things on the ad are the very attractive men with a minimal number of women, all alongside a Dolce & Gabbana label. Rather than an association being made between the clothes and jewelry of the brand, people know the label as a result of the relationship they make between the sexually appealing models and the label. Thus, consumers are drawn to the sexuality and appearance of the people in the ad rather than the products the company is selling. In the ad a strong sense of hegemony is presented with respect to gender biases, and the reinforcement of certain socioeconomic factors and various norms and values popularly followed in society.

Through a Marxist perspective hegemony is defined as having a dominant group’s ideology over other groups, where these dominant groups are empowered (Sellnow 72).  Through the manner in which Dolce & Gabbana advertise their company, hegemony is evident in many aspects. For instance, as a result of hegemony and the popular ideology of men being more dominant than women, gender biases arise. This ad is targeted equally to men as to women, but reflects two different messages.  Men would be drawn to the idea of having an attractive physical appearance that would interest the female population. This is supported by the attractive, well bodied, greasy looking male models standing around the woman lying down. Here the belief arises that through physical attractiveness women would be drawn to them and their dominating masculine character. Whereas although women are also drawn to the aspect of physical attractiveness, the idea of being desired by men is also evident. They are drawn towards the idea that Dolce & Gabbana would give you the sexual appeal that every women desires. This is reinforced with the male model standing over the female, looking at her with that sense of desire, while the other models also look at her with interest. The ad reinforces the idea of inequality between men and women due to the differentiation between them in this ad. Furthermore, due to the lack of clothing worn, consumers are left to wonder what the company is actually selling. The only clear understanding that can be attained from the ad is the definition of what a man and woman are supposed to be.

Generally, socioeconomic factors help to define the social status of individuals in a society.  These social statuses then go on to distinguish the various classes in society and indicate the various ‘power levels’. Therefore, hegemony is once again evident, this time with respect to social classes. Despite the unclear distinction of whom this ad is directed towards, it is implied through the presentation of the ad. Most Dolce and Gabbana advertisements are found in fashion focused magazines such as GQ, Elle, and Vogue. Oftentimes these are the most expensive magazines being sold and are bought by certain kinds of people. That is to say, that these are not the normal magazines that an average individual purchases for leisure, such as PEOPLE, US and Cosmopolitan.  Such magazines advertise ‘high-class brands’ that would not be found in your average magazine. Moreover, they are usually directed towards a higher class of people, such as the ‘fashion fanatics’ – the ones who know everything there is to know about the fashion industry, the ‘business men’ (GQ) – the men who would like to carry themselves as classy as they can, and the others who are only satisfied by wearing topnotch brands. Therefore, the ads are usually directed towards upper class individuals, and as a result differentiate between the different classes in society. Furthermore, this differentiation emphasizes the ideology that the wealthy, those who can afford these high-end brands, are more empowered than the average individuals in society. Although this is not explicitly stated in the ad, the distribution of the ad alongside its intended audience, clearly identify that  not everyone is suggested into buying such products.

The term economic metaphor is popularly used by Marxist theorists to explain how almost anything is representative of the norms, values, and practices evident in society (Sellnow 73). From the presentation of the Dolce & Gabbana ad one can determine a clear definition of men and women. From the ad one understands a preferred meaning as the differentiation between men and women.  Men are shown to be dominant and thus, very masculine individuals; while women are illustrated as objects of sexual desire. The ‘ideal images’ of men and women are portrayed by the models in this ad as they are beautiful, youthful, and extremely, physically attractive. Similarly, this is a fairly popular ideology in society as to what women and men should look like. The ad reinforces norms in society with respect to the differences existent between men and women and therefore, illustrates the lack of equality between these genders. Through the Marxist perspective it can be determined that because of this sense of inequality, the hegemony of men being more empowered than women is clearly illustrated. However, from simply looking at the ad one may not realize that. The only way one can truly understand this ideology being expressed is through questioning the behavior of the men compared to the woman that could be understood in the ad.

Essentially, Dolce & Gabbana is a very successful international brand. Their success lies in their products, but also within their marketing strategies. Through acknowledging popular societal norms and values they are able to identify successful targets to market their products to. Through looking at Marxist materialism and economic metaphors, it can clearly be identified that Dolce & Gabbana target the unrealistic and biased ideologies that members of society have. Dolce & Gabbana is the best known brand within the fashion industry, however, they approach their consumers the same way all other brands do, by understanding the desires of consumers and then further reinforcing these unrealistic ideologies. Moreover, they increase their success by reinforcing unrealistic norms and values within society, such as the existence of empowerment. Dolce & Gabbana do not represent good values and morals, but they know how to manipulate and work in favor of society.

MLA Citation:

Bio. Dolce and Gabbana Biography.  2005. 30 January 2012 <http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/biographies/dolce-gabbana.html&gt;

Sellnow, D. Deanna. The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. California: SAGE Publications INC., 2010.