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Media Literacy 101: John Berger on Advertising

By January 15, 2012 November 28th, 2013 No Comments

In “Ways of Seeing” art critic John Berger writes*,

[Advertising] proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, or our lives, by buying something more. This more, it proposes, will make us in some way richer – even though we will be poorer by having spent our money. Advertising persuades us of such a transformation by showing us people who have apparently been transformed and are, as a result, enviable. The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour. […] Advertising is never a celebration of a pleasure-in-itself. Advertising is always about the future buyer. It offers him an image of himself made glamorous by the product or opportunity it is trying to sell. The image then makes him envious of himself as he might be. Yet what makes this self-which-he-might-be enviable? The envy of others. Advertising is about social relations, not objects. Its promise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. The happiness of being envied is glamour.

*I have substituted “publicity” with “advertising.”

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