Lecture: reading image and representation

Wed 2nd November

Within this lecture, I learned how to analyse images and construct meanings to show a design decision. When designing images, to make decisions on how people may receive my work, I should use academic studies to provide support for analysis.

We were shown how to use the ‘column approach to analysis’ to unpick someone’s design decision. This is where you have 3 columns named description, analysis and theory and you go through stages of unpicking the poster design. So for description, this is where you describe what you see in the image; you then draw an arrow into analysis and analyse what you see this to be and the ideas it shows. Once finishing the analysis, you then draw a line into the theory column; this is where you go onto the internet and books and find research that support the ideas that your presenting through the analysis. The more theory you read, the more you start to see in the image – the analysis and theory column always link.

As a group in this lecture, we analysed two James Bond film posters; one from the 60’s and the other from the 80’s.

Questions to think about:

How all aspects of visual design convey meanings about characters and their identities?

What attitudes towards characters are also generated from the visual construction? – what does the spectator perceive?

How male and female are designed in the posters for two James Bond films? – compare and contrast representations; what do these representations illustrate about changes in attitudes from the 60’s to the 80’s?

Framing/layout/gender; femininity and masculinity – what are we learning from these posters?

Dr. No – 1982
dr-no-poster

Description:

Male has cigarette and gun in both hands; in a suit; smoking gun; leaning forward and looking at the camera; smug look; wear black on a yellow background, dominant part of the poster; eyes are instantly drawn to him

The women are in minimal clothing; sexual objects; plain compared to Bond; all in heels; showing skin; in a line behind bond

Analysis:

Bond is perceived as being very masculine. He has a black, bow-tie, suit on which shows off his masculinity; giving ideas of wealth and power and the tuxedo shows class. His casual and relaxed nature of leaning forward and looking at the camera, shows a lot of confidence. In his left hand he holds a gun and in his right he holds a cigarette, showing two sides to him. His gun shows a dark side, along with his chilled/relaxed nature shows that he’s used to using it and isn’t afraid to use it either. Another analogy of Bond’s smug looks and gadgets is to his sexual nature; he looks dominant in the poster but is also always sexually dominant.

On the other hand, you’ve got the women. As Bond is places in the foreground, the women a sat in the background, out the way; posed formally, making themselves look presentable and showing all that they’ve got. They have open body language, giving away everything; they are defined by their bodies which makes them insecure. Bond however is fully clothed and doesn’t have to show his body. Not only are the women undressed, they’re in a line queuing up to be with Bond and have lesser clothing the closer they get to Bond. If you look at the end of the queue, the woman has more clothing and is slightly turned away suggested that Bond hasn’t got to her yet. Her leg is showing though so has a sexual demeanor but because she’s further away she must be harder to get. She’s also ethnically different – Bond is the good side and the good side is always white western – and is the same race as Dr. No the villain so is of course on the bad side. (Bond film’s villains always have accents, western vs. eastern; keeping Bond British).

Theory:

Another analysing the poster we were then shown quotes from different picks and we picked out parts that related to what we were already saying about it.

“Sorts of men who enjoy power and wealth” – Hegemonic Masculinity (Mackinnon, 2003, p9-12) – this links to Bond wearing a suit which implies power.

“Woman are subordinated” – Hegemonic Masculinity (Mackinnon, 2003, p9-12) – links to how the woman are in the background; less important

“Woman are…confined to their sexuality” and “men are shown as dominant” – (Strinati, 200, p184) – Bond is fully clothed and has a gun – masculine objects – and is shown as dominant in the poster; woman are undressed, showing skin, showing them as ‘sexual objects’

A View to Kill – 1985

view-to-a-kill-posterDescription:

Woman is background with gun; blue coloured; looking down on James Bond; evil-eyed; yellow/white gradient’

Bond is unsteady; open body language; worried look on his face; is in the centre of the page by the woman standing over him looks stronger and more dominant

Analysis:

Grace Jones (the woman in the poster) shows dominancy as she’s holding the gun pointing up and she is looking over Bond. She looks as if she’s appeared out of no-where but her black body among a white suit and her closed, static body language shows a powerful, dominant force – she is the villain. Bond on the other hand, has unsteady, open body language. He’s not as chilled as he was in the other film poster and is looking at the direction of his gun – not posing – and along with his facial expression it suggests anxiety and he is not in control.

In this film they’ve tried to show woman in a different manner but Grace Jones looks machine like and doesn’t appear to be a woman in this photo. Her flesh looks like metal showing her as if to be weapon to Bond and they’re making her out to be a powerful, strong and threatening black woman. In the 70’s, woman rights groups began to stop letting people objectify woman so in the 80’s when this film came how they have shown they’re trying to move with the time. But they’re showing strong and powerful women in a negative way, that the strong woman are making Bond confused and that his doesn’t know what is going on. Also, woman are still seduced and eventually have sex with Bond to show they’ve been ‘put back’ in their place so that they are not powerful anymore.

Grace Jones does look slightly masculine and is shown to be powerful and strong and is a threat to Bond. By Grace Jones being the villain, her being a strong woman has complete negative connotations because she is not on the ‘good’ side of Bond, therefore saying that all ‘strong and powerful’ women are not good people.

Theory:

“The girl is presented as a disturbance. Too aggressive, out-of-place” – (Bennet, T (1982) – a strong, powerful woman being shown as the villain in the story

“Anxiety about female sexuality” – (Street, 1997:86) – the woman isn’t shown sexually and is slightly masculine looking

Conclusion:

I really enjoyed this lecture. I learned a lot about not just how to critically analyse design but also about how objectified woman are in the Bond films – which is something I’m really passionate to learn about. I will take from this, how to analyse an image but also when designing my own work what to think about in terms of what other people would think when looking at my design and how they could read it.

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Author: ellenreiddesign

First year Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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