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Hybridity and Identity

This issue of Advertising & Society Review brings together four original articles around a general theme of “Hybridity and Identity.” Both hybridity and identity are frequent topics in a range of academic discourses about new communications technologies, gender performance, immigration, and globalization. The notion of a cultivated, fluid identity, rather than a fixed, core essence has become a common way of thinking about the self. The hybridity resulting from rapid change, the formation of diasporas, and cross-group memberships has taken the place of previous assumptions about the primacy of clearly defined group memberships. Such fluid concepts of the self and the social speak to the massive movements of peoples, the fusion of cultures in forms from music to cuisine, and the Third Culture Kids who increasingly populate the planet. Thus, there become many points at which one may observe a kind of liquidity among consumers in their definitions of social compartments that once were very solid. The authors here have investigated several of these. 

In the first article, “A Typology of Men's Conceptualizations of Ideal Masculinity in Advertising,” Linda Tuncay Zayer reports the findings of a qualitative study that asked young men to articulate their concepts of “ideal masculinity,” as expressed or reflected in advertising. A wider range of masculine profiles than one might have expected even twenty years ago emerges from this data, with interesting areas of overlap. In addition, several oppositional models of negative masculinity also emerge. From these data, we can observe a sea of changes in the notions of what a man should be, including, interestingly, an apparently diminished need to avoid the appearance of being feminine. 

Such changes in what anchors ideal notions of heterosexual masculinity, then, set the stage for a more fluid and hybridized sense of sexuality, such as is observed and interpreted in “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising,” by Wan-Hsui Sunny Tsai. New ground is broken by Tsai by analyzing the representation of “queerness” across several categories of sexuality, as seen in television commercials as opposed to print ads. In the process, Tsai shows the way ads tend to “tame the dangerous gender and sexual outlaws,” making them nearly indistinguishable from heterosexuals, but also creating a new, consumption-oriented stereotype of this community in which “enormous disposable incomes, high-end tastes, and conspicuous consumption” become the norm. 

Kavita Karan and Yang Feng in “The Emerging Hybrid Images of Women in China,” investigate the effects of globalization on the representation of women in a fresh way. Rather than presume a dominance of local or Western imagery, the authors investigate a set of core images appearing and repeating to varying degrees in three different types of magazines available for purchase in China. The result is a much more sophisticated, sensitive, and localized look at the way femininity, national culture, and tradition interact with globalized consumer culture and the media. 

Finally, Norah Campbell, in “Future Sex: Cyborg Bodies and the Politics of Meaning,” explores the hybridization of gendered identity in representations of cyborgs in advertising. Here, keen attention and well-grounded theoretical awareness come together to give us a new picture of our emergent ideas of human (and nonhuman) identity in an increasingly machine-focused culture.

Linda M. Scott
Editor

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