Visual Culture: UWE


Really, really, really rough essay draft…..

Lucie Perrier


Critical Perspectives [UAIAPQ-15-1]



Present a detailed, critical analysis of a cultural text


Photo shopping, is this seen as a positive process of enhancing the physical body shape or a negative, unrealistic way of perfecting the human body?

In this essay I will be focusing on the June 2011 edition from Flare magazine featuring Jennifer Lawrence, who has been edited from head to toe. I aim to address why we have this need to portray women in a unrealistic format. Why is there a need to cut, shave down and alter many features on the female body ready for magazine covers. I chose to focus my cultural text around this particular magazine featuring Jennifer Lawrence because it caused a stir within the media due to its highly photo shopped cover. She is a young female who is adored by many people, considered a role model for many females around the world, but for some reason Flare magazine took the original photos and airbrushed them considerably. Is this the right message to present in todays society, an unrealistic view of what a female should look like.

Flare magazine released the Jennifer Lawrence cover over two years ago and has become a controversial story for all the wrong reasons. It was quite plain to see the amount of editing that had been used on the front cover which of course angered many and this wasn’t the publicity Flare magazine anticipated. The released cover was an eye catching edition but not all for the right reasons. The before and after images are considerably different, before image (figure 1) shows the untouched, real, naturally shaped Jennifer Lawrence. Whereas the after image (figure 2) presents blatant enhancements and areas that have been cut down. Figure 2 shows that J. Lawrence has had her waist made thinner, re-shaped hips, her face has contouring to give a thinner face, arms thinned down and even her eye colour has been lighter.

Was all this necessary to sell the magazine, is a perfectly proportioned female our depictions of what a woman should look or strive to be?

As a society we depict what is femininity and what is masculinity.  Still we revolve a lot around what we look like and stereotyping between males and females but photo shopping women just cements these stereotypes and these are then passed down to the next generations. What’s normal and what’s not as far as advertising women?

Mostly advertising has gotten much more powerful than ever before, much more intrusive than ever before (in terms of)  the tyranny of the ideal image of beauty you know, the fact that we are surrounded by this impossible image of beauty that makes us all feel bad-that’s worse, because of computer retouching and photo shopping, and the ability that advertisers have these days to create absolutely impossible images                                                                                                                        (Dr Jean Kilbourne- future of feminism)

This is a powerful statement quoted by Dr Jean Kilbourne because it highlights the underlying issues that surround photo shopping and how easy it is to fall into that way of thinking about image and our own interpretations of what is normal. There are many new organizations that highlight the negatives behind the advertising companies. One particular group called SPARK (Sexualization protest, action, resistance, knowledge) which is to raise awareness about the portrayal of women and their bodies in todays media circles. Essentially this is what the group work with, females ranging from twelve year’s old and up. This is just one organization that deals with the aftermath of the medias interpretation of women.

Some people, groups are aware and very much against the idea of altering the physical attributes of female models and celebrities whereas the majority of the time we see photo shopped images on the front covers of most magazine’s. I feel as though it’s a divide when it comes to is this a good or bad thing.

Jennifer Lawrence is known for her strong views on being a strong independent female. She says its important to feel secure in your own skin and embracing herself as a female role model. She has been voted the sexiest female from a survey in the Huffington Post (New York) A quote was taken from J. Lawrence after the release of the magazine caused a frenzy of bad publicity.

“Girls see enough of this body that we can’t imitate, that we’ll never be able to obtain, these un realistic expectations, and this is gonna be their hero, and we have control over that”.

This I feel is slightly contradicts her views on being natural and feeling confident no matter what we look like as females. She feels strongly about being a role model and standing with her own opinions but I cant help but think this gives a slightly mixed message. The pressures of looking as perfect as these edited images is near impossible, the fact that we clearly have un-realistic views that we see everyday on glossy covers in most shops, there’s no escaping. Why do these celebrities and models go ahead and have these photos produced and then they have different views and opinions in interviews? just like Jennifer Lawrence I just cant help but think this is just another story of un necessary photo shopping that will just become another fact or number.


In conclusion as I look back over this particular area, I feel as though photo shopping does alter our way of thinking, portraying genders in narrow frame of mind. What we see through the media is only conducted by our own ways of thinking and popular culture.

The concept of altering women in today’s society is I believe expected. It’s not just the case about photo shopping but how this affects what we see and feel are the expectations of what women look like. Flare magazine are not the first magazine to be scrutinized for editing their front cover women. Jennifer Lawrence did grace the cover where she was heavily photo shopped, it did gain media attention but that didn’t stop Flare from selling millions of that particular cover. I feel this is because as long as we have that bar at the highest possible level for women to have flawless skin, perfectly proportioned, no bumps, lumps, excess weight which the higher voices in the industries’ have the power to control what we see and what is ‘normal’. As long as this keeps happening and progressing males will have this expectation of what a women should look like, which then has a knock on affect with deeper issues especially for women. Jennifer Lawrence is not the first and definitely will not be the last.

(This is my first initial starting block for my essay. Needs a lot more work!)


The finished poster…

ESSAY QUESTION: Research, books and websites…..

My cultural text for my essay will be based on photoshopping magazine covers. One particular story with FLARE magazine, it was a cover story involving Jennifer Lawrence. The actual finished magazine cover really did cause a stir with the readers, other celebrities as well as Jennifer Lawrence herself. 

The finished cover was completely changed and chopped. Jennifer Lawrence’s waist, face and arms were dramatically shaved down as well as her her make up being re touched and her eye colour was even changed!!

'We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing,'” she said. “Girls see enough of this body that we can't imitate, that we'll never be able to obtain, these unrealistic expectations, and this is gonna be their hero, and we have control over that,”

This was a quote that Jennifer Lawrence gave after the magazine cover was released, she has become a role model on the fact that she’s not a stick thin, perfect blonde model that has to be prefect every time she is on the front of a magazine cover!! 

Reading References:

  • Advertising and popular culture- Jib Fowles
  • The Aftermath of Feminism- gender, culture and social change- Angela Mcrobbie
  • Modernist women and visual cultures- Maggie Humm

Class, Cultural Capital, Taste and Power: Lecture 8

What is class?, What is Cultural capital?, What is Taste?…..

In today’s society according to a major survey conducted by the BBC, suggests that people in the UK now fit into 7 social classes:

  1. Elite- most privileged group, very distinct from the other 6 classes  
  2. Established middle class- largest group, second wealthiest 
  3. Technical middle class- lack of interest in culture 
  4. New affluent workers-young class of people, middle scale in finance 
  5. Traditional working class-scores low in all forms of capital
  6. Emergent service workers-new young, urban group but relatively poor 
  7. Precariat or precarious proletariat- the poorest and most deprived class

With these 7 categories, who’s to say or judge what our social class is! In today’s society we are all subconsciously trained to judge each as we are being taught to do this from the day we are born.


This is an important word to describe class and power, it’s an indicator of class. We seem to judge every single person on what they wear, what they eat, where they live and even what they purchase. We will never have a neutral position as our tastes are taught to us from a young age.

What is Beautiful? who deems what is beautiful? this is a question that has millions and millions of answers. We only know what is beautiful because of what we are told. 

Whose Reality is it Anyway?…. Lecture 7

We live in a post-modern, post-industrial society  ’A growing information economy’.

As a result of this our world is finding it harder to cope with the growing use and the high demand of technology and energy!

Fusion and Homogeneity:

A ‘global village’ has its benefits, ‘cultural fusion’ being one example. Therefore if two cultures come together and collaborate {one culture dominating the other} a new cultural form can be produced. 


We all live in a world where we can communicate from one place to another using many options of technology but there are still some parts of the world that don’t necessarily have the options of communicating via technology. Not having the everyday essentials that most of us have as part of our everyday life to catch up on the news around the world. We call this the Digital Divide.

There are always times when we stop seeing these images or stop hearing about it and this then runs the risk of making us not aware or making us think its less important because we no longer see or hear about it!

Hegemony = Dominant Influence:

Our reality of the world and how we perceive/ think/ see is all passed down and told to us by something, someone and most power structures!! 

Creativity- Definitions and Histories: Lecture 6

What is Creativity? 

Creativity is an important part of what makes us employable! We use the word creativity to describe jobs in the usual areas such as fashion, printing, music etc, but there other job titles that some may not think come under the creative industries title such as:

  • Tourism 
  • Catering
  • sports
  • engineering 
  • scientists 

creative industries’ have become the fastest growing sector in the UK in the last 10-15 years. 

Over the centuries, especially the 18th century saw art as a separate activity, therefore this then saw the influx of museums and galleries. This gave art more of a definition and started to become more respected.

The term ‘creative industries' is a far more optimistic view used in the present day, as it gives a larger margin of different talents that come under the same title.

{Homogenous- standardised uniform that all works in the same way} 

SEX AND GENDER… Why is sex still an issue? Lecture 5

Equality of the sexes is still not achieved!

Uk statistics show that every £1 earn”t by a male, a female only earns 79.9p!! (These facts were released in 2011)

Why should You Care?

Still to this day our gender affects how we are treated, how we might be portrayed in the future and the expectations by others i.e. large power structures!

From this lecture there was a very strong point made, “understanding how your identity is constructed and perceived will help you understand and communicate” i thought that was a powerful statement because its a simple concept to just be comfortable with yourself and have the confidence to carry your gender in any direction you please.

I enjoyed this lecture as it was eye opening to talk about the divide of gender equality. It was interesting to hear different opinions from both male and female sides, but it really made me think of how much of a role your gender plays in pretty much every decision you make. The sad thing is that sometimes your gender controls your next step rather than your own mind and common sense!!


"Present a Detailed, critical Analysis of a cultural text"

This question got me thinking about all the different components that i needed to consider to answer this question. 

A cultural text is anything that has been produced by a culture: music, film, photography, media, tattooing, clothing (fashion).

The list could go on, as you can see its a broad concept at first but after breaking down ideas and stripping back the layers it does leave you with an idea thats simplified enough to talk about it as a cultural text.

Some of my interests for the essay question circle around more fashion dominated areas such as the fascination with nike air max trainers and how they have dominated the market once again. The iphone being another area (apple products) and its immense global domination!

These are just really broad ideas for the moment, i need to look more in depth at these areas and try to decide/pick a one set answer, that sums up a detailed, critical analysis of a cultural text.

The Science of ‘Signs’ Systems: Lecture 4

This has really opened my eyes to the whole thought process behind how we react, feel and and see with symbols and signs.

Its a complex structure when it comes to breaking down the concept between just one simple sign or symbol but when you strip back the layers it becomes far more than a word.

There are two systems that are used when it comes to representing either sound or indicating the same word but not necessarily having the sound.

Phonetic alphabet e.g. the letter ‘A’ corresponds with a particular vocal sound.

Ideographic system uses symbols to represent a thing without indicating any of the sounds.

There are many categories for signs and symbols, but as a society we subconsciously see, hear and speak these symbols and signs but don’t see how we get to that stage and why we have recognition for these signs and symbols.

Iconic signs: they look like the things they actually are. Indexical signs: these refer to other knowledges, natural signs maybe. Symbolic signs: having a meaning only due to convention. These are the main areas in which signs are categorised.

Its an important system to be familiar with as one simple avert can have a paradigm that you may not realise you are actually picking up on, a cultural signification.  

The Birth of Consumer Culture: Lecture 3

The industrial revolution was the birth of modern society. 

This lecture really made me think about how far we’ve come as a society and how brands started and still dominate what we see and consume in modern society.

In 1848 WHSmith opened its first bookstall and the first free library opened in 1852, which gave more and more people the chance to progress with reading and learning no matter what their class.

Karl Marx quoted ‘objects were not valued to their ‘use value’ but increasingly for their ‘symbolic value’. This basically meant cheap brands vs expensive brands.

Two phrases that are still relevant in today’s society are:

Conspicuous Consumption: to show everyone how much money/power they have.

Conspicuous Leisure: sending others out to spend money (wife), this was evidence that the family were earning large amounts of money.

A persons identity became increasingly tied to what and how they consumed material goods. The phrases above were then used to describe different forms of wealth and class of people.

This was one of the most important era’s for our country, societies and different classes as it has moulded us throughout the decades. This was the start of brand domination.