Essay #2: Visual Rhetorical Analysis
Length: 1000-1250 words (not including Works Cited) in MLA format, 12-point font
Source limit: Two (2) sources minimum
You must include a “Works Cited” page and use correct MLA format for in-text (parenthetical) citations.
The Visual Rhetorical Analysis assignment asks you to select a photograph, print advertisement, and/or work of art and analyze its features to discover a deeper meaning. Just like a written text, a visual communicates meaning on a deeper level beyond merely the literal. Your essay will illuminate this meaning thereby helping your audience understand your interpretation of the image.
Refer back to Chapter 10 of Argument! for additional guidance. Specifically, the “Good Advice” box on page 157 can help you in analyzing your visual. If you are analyzing an advertisement, for example, then you should consider these questions:
• What produce or service is being advertised?
• Who seems to be the targeted audience?
• What is the ad’s primary strategy?
• Does the ad use specific rhetorical strategies such as humor, understatement, or irony?
• What is the relation between the visual part of the ad (photo, drawing, typeface, etc.) and the print part (the text or copy)?
• What is the ad’s overall visual impression?
Remember that your essay should be free of grammatical and mechanical mistakes, and you should, as always, proofread your essay very carefully.
I also have attached 2 sample essays which were given scores around a B. Look at them to guide you to give me an A grade.
Beauty or Freak?
Recently there has been a movement to change girls’ dolls into looking more realistic. Some people argue that dolls can greatly influence and distort little girls’ sense of beauty. Other people, especially young women, try to copy a doll’s physical appearance. One such individual is the Ukrainian model Valeria Lukyanova, also known as the “Living Barbie” or “Human Barbie” (Mosbergen). Lukyanova says that “Every good-looking woman with fine features and a slim figure looks like a doll” (Sandberg). She also states that she wants to perfect herself and that her body is natural and not the product of surgery or a computer artist (Sandberg). Though she does admit to getting breast implants because she wanted to be “perfect” (Nelson). Even though she looks like a Barbie, Lukyanova denies ever trying to look like a doll, instead she says “I just like everything beautiful, feminine and refined. It just so happens that dolls are based on the image of refined girls” (Mosbergen). She also uses her appearance to promote her spiritual ideas (Mosbergen). Lukyanova and others like her have started the “Barbie flue,” a trend among girls, especially in Ukraine, who attempt to attain near-unrealistic standards of beauty (Sieczkowski).
The pursuit of unrealistic standards of beauty can be seen as destructive, especially to a women’s self-esteem, and counter productive, as many people are now championing natural beauty. Even though Lukyanova says that almost all of her body is all-natural and that she does not try to look like a doll, the images of her look too unrealistic. Pictures of Valeria Lukyanova show her unrealistic body and the extravagant fashions and makeup she wears. These pictures show her attempts to attain unrealistic standards of beauty and show that societies standards of beauty are unrealistic, unnatural, and degrading towards women. Valeria Lukyanova exaggerates feminine features by using symbolic colors in her clothing and accessories, and by creating new highlights and shadows through the use of makeup in order to conform to societies unrealistic views of beauty.
The first part of the image that is noticed are the proportions and lines of Lukyanova’s body. Her figure is extremely feminine and exaggerated, she has large breasts, a tiny waist, and curvy hips. Her limbs are very thin, her skin is flawless, and she has long, blond hair. To me, her body seems unreal. Lukyanova does admit to having breast implants, but she denies having any other surgeries (Nelson). Her figure is reminiscent of what society tells us is beautiful and her reason for obtaining her breast implants was to make herself “perfect” (Nelson). Her reason for getting implants indicates that she conforms to the societal standards of beauty. The toys designed for young girls teaches them that women should have an extreme hourglass figure, with a small waist and large breasts. Lukyanova’s obsession with perfection and maintaining her exaggerated figure shows her conformity to societal standards of beauty. To me this picture of Lukyanova supports the view that women need to look perfect and have “perfect” bodies. Lukyanova’s popularity on the Internet, for the way that she looks, also supports the “ideal” or “perfect” stereotype of the female figure.
The way that her body is posed in this photograph is also feminine, though it is stiff. Her head is tilted to the side and her hands are on her hips, this pose makes her look almost like a Barbie doll. Dolls do not speak or think for themselves, instead they are controlled by their owner. In the past, though this view is changing with the feminist movement, women were viewed similarly to dolls. It was believed that they should be seen and not heard. The unnatural, feminine pose that Lukyanova is standing in supports the view that women are brainless and doll like, almost like a trophy wife. Her long blond hair also plays off of the stereotype of the “dumb blond.” Lukyanova’s body emphasizes the stereotypical view of how a beautiful woman’s body should look, and the way that she is standing supports a degrading view of women as objects.
The second most notable part of this photograph are the symbolic colors in Lukyanova’s clothing and accessories. She is scantily clad in black short-shorts and a gold bikini top, all of her accessories are either gold or white in color and match with the top that she is wearing. The minimal clothing shows off Lukyanova’s body, especially accentuating her small waist. Not much is covered by the clothing that she is wearing, creating a more sexualized atmosphere. She is shown as a rich object of desire by the minimal clothing and the plethora of gold colored jewelry. The colors of her clothing and accessories mean different things. The color gold is automatically associated with the element gold, and is the embodiment of wealth. Black, in this photograph, exudes elegance. This color makes her look slimmer and more put together. The combination of black and gold also makes her look more rich and sophisticated, instead of trashy or trying to look rich, and prevents the photograph from being overly sexual. The color white is associated with cleanliness and purity, which seems to send a conflicting message. Though, cleanliness and purity make sense in the context of this photograph, since she is made to look like a doll, and dolls are usually played with by young girls. The white also accentuates the whites of her eyes and the white in her makeup, making her eyes look larger and more doll like. The colors and symbolism of Lukyanova’s clothing accentuates her exaggerated feminine figure, while tinting how she is viewed.
The last important part of this photograph are the highlights and shadows created by Lukyanova through the use of makeup. Makeup can almost be used as a substitute for a magic wand. With proper makeup flaws can be hidden and assets highlighted. Many women wear makeup everyday or very often and know how much makeup can change their physical appearance. Makeup can be used to shape the face by creating more dramatic highlights and shadows. In this photograph, Lukyanova has a lot of makeup on. Her eye makeup is especially notable. There are certain techniques that one can use to create the illusion of larger eyes, which are seen as more feminine and doll-like. Lukyanova lined her upper eyelids with black eyeliner and drew a new lower eyelid below her natural eyelid with the same black eyeliner. Then she lined her lower eyelid with white eyeliner and added circle lenses (colored contact lenses that increase the size of one’s irises). She is also wearing eye shadow and mascara, possible fake eyelashes as well. All of these makeup tricks make her eyes look bigger. Lukyanova’s eyebrows have also been manipulated to be thin and arched, which are considered to be more feminine than thick eyebrows. Other than her eye makeup Lukyanova is wearing blush and lipstick, or a similar product. The blush is used to give her cheeks color, making her look healthier and younger. Lip products can be used to shape lips, giving them a fuller look, as full lips are a sign of youth and femininity. Lukyanova may be wearing makeup on other parts of her body in order to create a more feminine looking body and cover up her flaws, though it is difficult to tell if this is the case. Lukyanova’s makeup is used to enhance her beauty and make her features closer to the ideal standard of beauty.
Valeria Lukyanova, the “Human Barbie,” has changed her body in order to look “perfect.” She conforms to societies unrealistic views of beauty by creating an exaggerated female figure and manipulating her features with clothing, accessories, and makeup. Photographs of her looking like a doll only help to enforce the view that women should be a certain type of beautiful and that women should be doll-like, and not just in their looks but in their behavior as well. Even though Lukyanova may not want to portray herself as overly sexual or as a doll, her images have a strongly negative impact on the movement to accept different female body types as beautiful.
Faena, Sebastian. Living Doll. 2012. Photograph. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.
“The Meaning of Colors.” Changing Minds. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.
Mosbergen, Dominique. “Real-Life Barbie Documentary: Valeria Lukyanova, ‘Living Barbie,’ Featured By Vice (VIDEO).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
Nelson, Sara C. “Not So Plastic Fantastic: Real Life Ken & Barbie Engage In A Slanging Match.” The Huffington Post UK. N.p., 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.
Sandberg, Patrik. “V Magazine / LIVING DOLL.” V Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
Sieczkowski, Cavan. “‘Living Barbie’ Valeria Lukyanova Poses For V Magazine, Talks Doll Life (PHOTOS).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
Visual Analysis: Saigon Execution
Saigon Execution is a photo that really encapsulates the startling, graphic emotions that occurred during the Vietnam War. It was captured by Eddie Adams, a professional photographer, who served in the Marines during the Korean War as a combat photographer. The photo originally caused the anti-war movement to spark into outrage. It was waved around and “held up at demonstrations by members of the intensifying anti-war movement” (Adler) and used to focus on the vicious, cold hearted acts that took place during the Vietnam War. The war had many casualties, and the anti-war movement wished for a swift end to the terrors of war. In this award winning, iconic photo, we can identify the raw, descriptive, facial expressions and the striking story that make it a definitive piece of history.
The faces and postures we perceive in the photo can express many things. We see a man aiming a gun at a helpless victim. The victim looks like a civilian, dressed in a plaid button up shirt that is ruffled. He looks malnourished; his skin seems dry and unhealthy. His figure looks frail and weak, with his back hunched over, and hands seemingly tied behind his back. His eyes are wincing from fear, either from the gun, or perhaps some torture he had been through. His mouth is in a grotesque shape, as though he is in pain. He looks like a man on deaths door, but does not wish to be, with fear clearly written on his face. However, the executioner has a blank, expressionless face, as though he has done this many times before. Looking at the executioner’s back, which is towards the photo, augments our perception of him as a cruel, evil person. He looks fitter than the victim, with lean arms and upright back. There is also no hesitancy in his posture, as he stands strong with his right arm steady. Upon closer inspection, the executioner’s eyes look tired. His sleeves are drawn back, from the hot weather, or the hard work he has done throughout the day. He is balding, probably from the stress of the war and his authoritative position in it. His gun, which is a small sidearm, really shows that all guns, no matter how small, can be a threat. Even the soldier next to the executioner seems to have a nasty smile. With his helmet shadowing his eyes, he definitely looks evil, and as if he is enjoying the execution.
However, with some background story, the picture becomes different. The executioner is South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, the chief of national police. The victim is Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, who headed a “Viet Cong death squad who had been targeting and killing South Vietnamese National Police officers and their families” (Corona). He was even “responsible for the murder of one of Loan’s senior officers, as well as the officer’s family” (Corona). This causes us to shift our sympathy from the victim to the executioner. Lem’s face changes from fear of the gun to misery and perhaps regret. He is still wincing away from the gun as his neck seems to be pushing his head away from the gun, but now that we know what this man has done, we get a sense of justice and judgement in our hearts. The general’s face appears sad and burdened, as though he does not wish to be the executioner, but we get the sense that the general is doing the right thing and he knows it. Even the soldier’s face changes from a malevolent grin to a grimace filled with pity. His helmet now seems to be covering his eyes so that he may be spared from seeing such an execution.
The picture was actually taken just as Lem was shot. It is a picture taken perfectly; it freezes that exact moment of his death, just before he falls to the ground. The camera reveals Lem in his final moment, keeping him somehow alive in the picture. Although this execution occurred in seconds, everything in the photo looks as though they are right where they need to be. A picture is worth a thousand words, and that is definitely the case in the Saigon Execution.
Adler, Margot. “The Vietnam War, Through Eddie Adams’ Lens.” NPR. NPR, 24 Mar. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
Corona, Lauren. “The Story Behind the Man Who Was Killed in the Famous “Saigon Execution” Photo.” Today I Found Out. Today I Found Out, 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
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