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Picking up Interview magazine I anticipated a plethora of advertisements targeting people possessing high cultural capital. The magazine boasts the name recognition of pop art epitome Andy Warhol and a hefty price tag of nine dollars; both are immediate indicators of what type of person reads this magazine. The reader of Interview is presumed to have cultural knowledge of Andy Warhol and his impact in pop art culture. Knowledge of Warhol acts as a cultural barrier of entry; however, the lavish nine-dollar cost of the magazine is an economic barrier of entry. In order to access the high cultural capital content in the magazine, the consumer must have the economic means to purchase Interview. This means of access exemplifies the necessity of spending one’s time and money to gain high cultural capital. People with high cultural capital are defined as highly educated tastemakers with high incomes.

The black and white Alexander Wang ad flows seamlessly with the high fashion editorial spreads within the magazine. Leiss states, “The ads are difficult to separate from the aesthetically rich photographs which accompany the articles” (Leiss, 530). The model of the ad reflects the androgyny in advertisements that was popularized in the mid-1990s. Leiss writes, “As advertisers acknowledged an easing of sexual norms and mimicked the sadomasochistic style fashion designs of the period. Models in highly contorted poses draw the eye to voyeuristically inspect what appear to be mangled body parts” (Leiss 535). The model does not fit conform to mainstream ideologies of femininity. Instead, the model appears to conform to neither the overriding male or female genders. The naked body exposes her breasts, however, the areola is undefined. The male gaze teaches society, or the others lacking the high cultural capital, that large breasts are definitive of womanhood. This results in decentralizing the attention off of the breasts and places the model in a provocative, undefined gender. Her slouched forward pose further questions her femininity, as it is a more typical masculine pose rather than stereotypical, sexy, and feminine poses. She appears to be wearing minimal makeup that facilitates the androgyny of the advertisement. Her short, messy hair goes against traditional standards of feminine beauty. The advertisement depicts the model and brand as going against conventional formulas of female beauty, rather, utilizing provocative art culture in the ad.

In advertisements that promote high cultural capital the creativity and art of the piece is valued over the functionality of the product. This Alexander Wang advertisement has the model sans clothing, wearing only elaborate Alexander Wang shoes. High cultural capital allows this ad to be viewed seriously, even though if the look of the model were to be replicated in public, it would be met with shock and confusion. The advertisement only makes sense in the context where high cultural capital is present. Leiss describes, “The object is no longer the source of esteem, rather the consumer’s cultural taste is celebrated—their ability to distinguish objects reflects their superiority” (Leiss 533). The ability to interpret this advertisement as art and to translate the products into everyday use separates those with high cultural capital and those lacking.  Bourdieu explains, “To the socially recognized hierarchy of the arts, and within each of them, of genres, schools or periods, corresponds a social hierarchy of the consumers” (Bourdieu 1). One’s status is dependent on his or her education and appreciation for art. Those that can decode the art within the ads and consume accordingly, although not in flashy or overt means, are thought to maintain high cultural capital and “good” taste.

Advertisements rooted in high cultural capital exist and make sense in platforms targeted to people with high education and income. The advertisement is fluid with the high-profile magazine, high artistic value, and androgynous themes in high cultural capital-centered advertisements.

 

-Connor

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