Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising's Image of Women / Game Over: Gender, Race & Violence in Video Games

By Olson, Beth | Journalism History, Autumn 2000 | Go to article overview
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Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising's Image of Women / Game Over: Gender, Race & Violence in Video Games


Olson, Beth, Journalism History


Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising's Image of Women. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2000. 34 minutes. $295.

Game Over: Gender, Race & Violence in Video Games. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2000. 41 minutes. $250.

These two videotapes are part of the most recent offerings from the Media Education Foundation; both are intended to provide an academic view on two pervasive media phenomena advertising images of women and video games. According to statistics quoted in the videotapes, advertising is an $180 billion a year industry; it's estimated that we see 3,000 ads each day; and we will spend 3 years of our lives watching TV commercials. Video and computer games are a $6 billion a year business; one out of every ten U.S. households owns a Sony Playstation; and children spend an average of ten hours per week playing video games.

Killing Us Softly 3 is the updated critique from Jean Kilbourne on representations of women in advertising. Kilbourne has spent more than 20 years analyzing the symbolic messages in advertising; her previous films were Killing Us Softly (1979) and Still Killing Us Softly (1987). Kilbourne presents more than 160 print ad examples (with some TV ads interspersed) in a lecture format, complete with a chiefly female audience and their reactions, which range from groans to (mostly) laughter. The audience reactions almost resemble a laugh track. However, Kilbourne strikes the right balance in tone, managing to be funny and then serious about the ad representations and their potential ramifications from low-self-esteem and eating disorders to normalizing violence against women.

One could consider the strength of the material to also be a weakness: some of the ad examples resemble mild erotica; ultimately, Kilbourne labels advertisers as pornographers. The representations of implicit violence against women and Kilbourne's graphic verbal descriptions may leave sensitive male and female viewers momentarily uncomfortable. On the other hand, such outrageously strong evidence validates her interpretations. One of her more valuable conclusions is that everyone both females and males are limited, wounded, and dehumanized by stereotypical depictions of masculinity and femininity in advertising.

In a rare discussion of the impact of video game consumption, Game Over: Gender, Race & Violence in Video Games combines wellillustrated examples from violent video games with interview comments from academics.

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