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					Alet Strijdom

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The covers of both the Vanity Fair of March 2006 and April 2007 caught my eye as very

provocative advertisements, the first for the special edition of the magazine itself and the

second for the five times Golden Globes and twenty five times Emmy Award winning

television show, The Sopranos. The show was a HBO production and was called “the

television landmark that leaves other landmarks in the dust” by the Washington Post. The

critics hailed the first part of season six as a masterpiece, and it won several awards

during its screening. The show is not only seen as a critical success but also as an

incredible financial success. It is known as the most successful television series in cable

history and critics often call it the greatest television show of all times. The cover for the

special edition illustrates the readers the magazine targets, the certain social class

associated with the magazine.

       With the success of the television show, the Vanity Fair magazine most likely

jumped at the opportunity to do print commercials and ads for the program. The

magazine has become a status symbol itself, and even though it has an almost

pornographic front cover it has become acceptable, because of the magazines status. If

this same scene were to be displayed on another magazine, it would have been classified

as an uneducated individuals-pornographic scene. This theme correlates with that of the

show, which makes it a very successful advertisement. For example, the fact that Tony is

a criminal in the show is acceptable, because he is an educated man. This is exactly the

case with the pornography on the “educated” magazine cover. This theme bonds the
magazine and the show together, and will attract viewers of the show, to also buy the

magazine, a very successful tactic in deed.

       The show tells the story of a bunch of mobsters and their families and the day to

day adventures they encounter. A mean image and feel is given to the characters that fit

their job prescriptions as mobsters and gang members. The characters are high class

criminals and the show focuses on them as individuals and the personal problems they

encounter as well as the families involved. The main character is Tony Soprano and he is

a city waist manager during the day and a mobster at night. He’s family knows that he is

a mobster, but they are unsure of what his role is and how he really makes a living, so

they just pretend that being a waist manager is his only job. This in fact is in contrast with

the sole purpose of being a father and the core of masculinity, because there is no honest

and understanding connection between the family and their father. Tony is a well

educated man, and his reputation has given him a lot of power. Yet he has inner struggles

because of the fact that he has heart problems, and so he tries to show his masculinity by

beating up people, and further emphasizing his image of power. This power theme plays

a big part in the story and is one of the main themes on which the show is based. This

strong theme gives the show’s marketing team a great deal of ideas and images to work

with when advertising the show.

       The show’s advertising team clearly took advantages of the characteristics of the

show and putts it to work when creating this front cover for the Vanity Fair. Tony

Soprano is sitting with nude blond women on his lap, but there is much more to the

message this scene conveys. Tony has an uninterested and bored facial expression, other

than what would be expected. He is looking strait at the camera with this poker face
giving an intimidating feel to it, expressing his power and importance. His importance is

also pointed out by the smart clothes he is wearing. This gives a clear contrast of power

between the two characters with the man being smartly dressed and the women almost

nude. Her body is completely facing him, and her whole body image implies her being

dependant on him. Her face is not visible, which makes the situation impersonal and thus

generalizing women and their social role as a whole.

Tony is smoking a cigar, which may symbolize that he does in fact have other interests

and needs, other than the woman who’s only interest and necessity seems to be the man.

She has a seductive sense, but Tony is not showing too much interest. He has his hand on

her, but it is clearly not a soft and loving touch but rather a clutch showing possession,

and further illustrates her as an object. Just the clear fact that she is sitting on him, and

not by herself, also states her dependence.

        In the special edition of the Vanity Fair, we see a similar scene with a man sitting

between two female figures, but this has a different view on social order than the scene

from the sopranos cover. This cover targets the class of reader that buys the magazine,

and tries to sell the successful, wealthy and classy image of the magazine. They use a

dressed up man, decorated with make-up and hair gel to show his sophistication. The man

is displayed as dark and both the women are illustrated as pale powerless figures. Their

nudity emphasized this point further. The black clothes he is wearing is smart and formal,

a token of class. The background of the ad is dark contrasting, and thus emphasizing the

women and placing them to be the main attraction, focus and goal of man’s life. Both

these women are pale, laying down which makes them seem like the classic angels or

virgins in early mythology and arts. Behind them, the man is searching, and needing the
women, trying to seduce her, again being illustrated as bad and evil. This man in the

figure seems to be the stereotype of a “Latin lover” with his looks and appearance being

his only power, opposed to Tony in the soprano’s edition. Here the man is not only seen

as evil, but also displayed as more feminine. He is wearing a suit with his hair all made

up, and his face covered with make-up. He has a soft feel to him. This image of a metro

sexual man is often used in the media these days as the ideal manly figure. The real

image of what a man should be like has come so distorted that this image is being

accepted as the true and ideal manly figure. Cologne brands, fashion brands, companies

that sell hair and facial accessories all use this image to sell their product, and women

have come to use this image as a measuring stick for what characteristics of a man is

attractive and which aren’t.

        The audience to modern day media, are greatly influenced by the fact that the

characters used in advertisements and movie scenes with negative messages, are often

celebrities.

        These two different men, both have certain aspects and characteristics which are

seemed as status and power objects. The media tends to make this out to be the only two

features that are acceptable by women. The only two things that would bring you

happiness and satisfaction, and also, at the same time, displaying women as the only

happiness and satisfaction. The cars we drive, the clothing we wear, both related to

money and looks, are often used in advertisements to sell the idea of only wealthy and

“good looking” men get the satisfaction and the reward while the woman, which is

presented as the object is the trophy to the man, and she is only attracted by these

symbols. Unfortunately this has become true and we can see our world changing and
becoming more materialistic and falls by the day. The only reason for this social change

is the media, and the products they try to sell through using these aspects. The acceptable

images, goes along with the product and buying the product would thus make you

acceptable to society and even worse, make you attractive. This is surely the reason for

much deeper evils committed in our modern day society. Relationships don’t seem to

last, men and women become tired of always having to fit in and compete to be accepted.

           This phenomenon has to take the blame for many men reaching a mid life crisis,

when they get tired of not only the standards set for them and the mould they have to fit

in, but also the women they chose for life. All of a sudden, she is not acceptable because

she doesn’t meet the criteria set by the media and she doesn’t have the looks or

characteristics the man has become to adopt as attractive.




Citation

-2008 Home Box Office.

				
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