Historical Analysis: Dolce & Gabbana

D&G1

The above image is an advertisement for Dolce & Gabbana clothing. The company decided to depict its clothing through a scene portraying gang rape, with a group of half-dressed men standing around a woman who is being restrained by one of the men.

The first and most obvious tactic that Dolce & Gabbana is using is shock value. Although current society is certainly desensitized to sexual imagery in media to an extent, scenes like this one are still jarring. Had this been an image of people simply standing around in Dolce & Gabbana designs, a consumer may have just flipped past it in a magazine. However, the image portrays an act of violence that is very taboo in reality and is more likely to cause the viewer to stop to examine further. No one stops to question a boring ad of a couple models standing around. They do stop to wonder about why there is a gang rape scene in the middle of their magazine.

It could be argued that the soft sell is also used in this advertisement. Even though the brand name is overlaid atop the image, it is mostly translucent, implying that what the ad really wants you to notice is the image, not necessarily the brand. Only after the shock value has caused you to stop and look at what is going on do you notice that it is, in fact, an advertisement trying to sell you something.

This advertisement has no informational function, other than that you can infer that the clothes in the image are Dolce & Gabbana designs. However, its transformational function fits well with the time in which the ad ran in magazines. The most recent recession affected a large majority of people in the United States. Instability and uncertainty about the future caused a lot of emotional strife during the time period. Many people lost their jobs, and with them, their security. Men who lost their jobs felt insecure about being able to provide for their families and even themselves. This is a deep emotion, one that can cause people to feel as if they have lost control and end up feeling hopeless about their futures, causing people to be vulnerable to influential forces like the media.

Gang rape and rape in general is associated with sexual desire, yes, but it is almost always referred to as a quest for dominance and power over the victim. Dolce & Gabbana plays on the feelings of loss of power experienced during the recession by running an ad that can give men an opportunity to associate themselves with power when they see it. To sell clothes, Dolce & Gabbana must get the viewers to associate with the models in the image. Playing on fear and insecurity, Dolce & Gabbana tell the men who see this ad that if they buy Dolce & Gabbana designs, they will return to power and dominance, even in this time of recession.

This is the transformational function of the ad – it acknowledges that people are in a position of insecurity during this time, and offers them a new subjectivity, or lifestyle. Men who see this ad will get the idea to turn their lives around by buying expensive clothing, specifically Dolce & Gabbana, and that will lead them to feel more secure and lead a better life.

~Allegra T.

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