In this chapter in his book, Media, Gender and Identity, David Gauntlett writes about the work of Anthony Giddens’ and how Giddens analyzes the way in which individuals “understand and shape their self-identity in modern societies” and how media plays a role in shaping this understanding (91). Giddens suggests that the way individuals conduct their lives and understand who they are in this world has to do directly with social forces; however, social life is not completely determined by these outside forces. Giddens says that there is a social structure but that this social structure can easily be changed if an individual feels the need to change that structure. Giddens suggests that individuals almost unconsciously conduct their lives based on this social order and when another individual decides to do something that may be out of the ‘norm’, it makes people uncomfortable. Gauntlett uses the example of how individuals in the past and present have questioned the way in which men and women should behave, and this has rattled people because men and women are changing the way they may have behaved in the past or according to past social structures. Gauntlett continues to write that Giddens believes we are in an era of late modernity.
I find it particularly interesting when Gauntlett writes that modernity directly affects an individual’s self identity. Because of modernity, new technologies, etc, individuals are offered many options, or many identities to choose from. In effect, some traditional self identities are being diminished. Advertising and the corporate world allows consumers to choose from multiple identities and therefore, consumerism directly relates to an individuals lifestyle. Gauntlett also writes that not only has modernity affected an individuals self identity, but it has also affected the body. Gauntlett writes, “In every interaction with another person or group, each of us routinely fosters more or less of an illusion designed to give the ‘right impression’ to our ‘audience’ (104). Gauntlett refers to this as the ‘reflexive mobilization’ of the body. In today’s society, we are able to ‘manipulate’ our bodies into fitting in to specific social situation. Obviously, modernity has a direct effect on society’s views of their self identities and their physical self.
I chose this advertisement because I think it shows directly how modernity, including new technologies have affected our sense of self identity. This commercial is sickening. The narrator says, “I know we don’t all get to be born beautiful, but what I wouldn’t give to have a body like that”. This just shows how our society has put stress on the fact that we can now alter our bodies to fit a specific social ‘norm’ or expectation. It breaks my heart that because we are not all ‘born beautiful’ we can rely on consumerism and alterations to change the way we look to fit that definition of ‘beautiful.’ The only way to change this perception and the measures individuals take to alter their bodies to fit that social ‘norm’ is to change the way society views beauty. However, as long as media, advertisements, and society at large portray that image of beauty, how will individuals ever change their ideas of beauty?