Today’s generation, and the one before it, has grown up inundated with media. Magazines, television, movies, and advertisements found within these, and independent of these forms of media are designed to sell products. But how can a company pitch a product to an audience that is supposedly as diverse as this country’s population? Employing advertisements that not only sell a product, but tell a person how they ought to look, speak- or not speak- and act in general allowed, and continue to allow, companies to captivate an audience, star struck by the beauty and class of the faces on the billboard, the television, and the magazine covers. Gia an HBO special produced in the late nineties, depicted the life of the model that those in fashion industry claim revolutionized fashion and photography. Starring Angelina Jolie, the movie brought the damage that is done to the models themselves to the forefront.
The film begins with a carefree young girl, as most little girls tend to be. Then we see her quickly grow up when her mother leaves her and her father for another man. Hardened by this experience, Gia adopts a ‘rough around the edges’ persona, clad in a leather biker’s jacket, and torn jeans, her hair more often a wreck than not, and she carries a pocket knife that she does hesitate to use to intimidate a haughty secretary during her first modeling interview. Taken under the wing of the modeling industry, Gia’s style captivates the fashion world. She is an instant superstar at a young age. As Gia’s success compounds, she begins to show signs of strain.
Jean Kilbourne suggests that though we are all aware of “the damage done to girls by the tyranny if the ideal image, wieghtism and the obsession with thinness”, there are other, even more detrimental messages in the media which we are all submersed in (Kilbourne 263). She poses that through advertisement as blatant as a perfume ad that reads “Make a statement without saying a word” and “the silence of a look can reveal more than words” girls are being “urged to be ‘barely there’” (Kilbourne 263). Advertisements like these convey that women have only one thought and desire, lust, and that thought can be readily displayed with a blank look, a pouted lip, or a finger in the mouth.
These messages are sent to the models constantly in Gia. In one scene the fashion photographer tells the girls to “look brain-dead”. If a woman is desired to be brain dead they are left helpless “submissive”, “vulnerable”, and “subordinate,” (Crane 316). Before long, Gia’s newly mended relationship with her mother crumbles and her romantic involvement with her makeup artist, Linda begins to fail. “People keep going away from me, that hurts,” Gia tells confides in her agent, Francesco, seeking advice. Obviously, her agent only cares about further exploiting Gia’s beauty, and pushes her leave everything else behind. She says “Work. You have a gift, use it. Life, life will be there later. When you have worked, and you have lived, and you know who you are, life is easy. Work. It's the only answer I know”. Gia was prodded to continue her career in spite of all else failing and crumbling around her. In search of an escape, she turns to drugs which only worsen her situation. Unable to get through a shoot, with out shooting up, her fame is smudged, her relationships fail entirely. Ultimately she is diagnosed with AIDS and dies in her hospital bed, truly helpless for the first time.
The film demonstrates that the media has the power corrupt a person. It can completely alter their perceptions of themselves, driving one to extremes to become whom ever it is they feel convicted to emulate. There is no escaping these harmful messages in today’s era of information. Therefore it is crucial to the well being of women, and men, to keep a critical eye focused on the media to avoid the brainwashing that companies spend millions on.
Crane, Diana. "Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines” Gender, Race and Class in
Media. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez.
Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, The More You Add: Cutting Girls Down to Size.” Gender, Race and Class in Media. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez.