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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Gendered Gazes: A Look at the Use of the Human Face in Japanese Car Advertising

May 24, 2000 / 6.30 P.M.

Andreas Riessland, Oxford Brookes University

Regardless of its actual ability to influence people’s buying habits, commercial advertising is without doubt one of the most visible carriers of ideas and ideologies in present-day society, in particular when the exposure to its messages and images is as much part of the everyday experience as it is for today’s average citizen in urban Japan.

For those involved in the creation and display of advertising messages, advertising offers a potent means for the propagation and affirmation of their ideas concerning society as it is and society as it should be. For the social scientist, on the other hand, this display of socially relevant values and ideas presents a convenient tool to gain insight in the prevalent ideologies within this society.

Taking this quote;ideological payloadquote; of advertising as its starting point, this presentation looks at an advertising sector aiming at one of the most general audiences, advertising for passenger cars. Presenting examples from the four decades since the emergence of Japan’s automobile mass market, it intends to show how in car advertising, displays of the human body and particularly of the human face not only serve to emotionalize the advertised commodity, but also continue, in spite of changed market realities and the emergence of a large female customer share, to underpin the traditional stereotypes of the roles of the genders.

Andreas Riessland is a Ph. D. candidate in the Social Anthropology of Japan programme of Oxford Brookes University. At present, he works as a Lecturer at Keio University’s Shonan Fujisawa Campus.