Codes are part of everyday lives of the people. People use codes for communication, interaction and personal reflection. In communication, we know that for two persons to be able to understand each other, they must use codes under similar context themes. Although this can shift from one minute to another, once one of them could not follow the context that the other one is using, this will lead to misunderstanding or no understanding at all on the part of the receiver.
Codes and signs can have different meanings. Codes can also be used differently and in accordance to the desire of the user. Regardless of this there will always be dominant connotations for them which are dictated by the society or by the group one belongs to. An individual can produce multiple connotations and use them to his desire but for the usage of more people, there is now the necessity for limited definitions for these codes like lexical or contextual readings; because of this, myths will now enter the scene.
According to Roland Barthes, myth is a higher order of signification. For him, myths are actually ideologies. These ideologies come from the bourgeoisie or the elites who have the power to control political, geographical, cultural, religious, historical, sociological and psychological connotations for signs which molds bigger abstract concepts of “nation”, “freedom”, “equality” etc…
Majority of the people follow this ideological myth as it naturalizes culture and views for a sign.Encoding and Decoding of codes are based on how we interpret things, but according to Roland Barthes, this interpretation of an individual is not alone and influenced by the existing different views. The process of naturalization happens when a specific worldview or ideology of the bourgeoisie / elite group chooses the best connotation for a signifier and this view are thought as true and natural.
Application of Barthesian myth to Camay’s advertisement
Camay is the brand of scented hand and body soap introduced by Procter and Gamble. It was first introduced and sold on the 1960s. Since then, like other beauty products focuses on how to make a woman feels more feminine and beautiful. They use the idea of an ideal beautiful and seductive woman as the ideal wife or lady.
Image A is one of the recent advertisements of Camay soap. The main endorser of this brand here in Philippines is Angelica Panganiban. If we will read the textual codes incorporated in the image we will find:
1.) The square image is divided into two.
2.) Its background color is pink (different hue of pink).
3.) The left side has a man (male model wearing pinkish polo) and a woman (Angelica Panganiban wearing light pink).
4.) At the lower left half of the image is the linguistic code “Soft, scented skin that leaves him wanting more.”
5.) At the right side of the image are the six varieties of the soap under three scents.
6.) The logo of Camay at the upper right side.
We can see that in totality, this image depicts the ideallady. Although, the way I will read this text is also under different worldviews dictated also by those in power, I will focus only with the implication of the text and how it affects and try to naturalize an idea about Filipina beauty.
Let’s first read the way the models are positioned. They chose a beautiful, mestiza, flawless and famous woman wearing something like a camiseta or a thin sleeveless top which was usually wore inside a saya or dress before. The way her hair was also bundled gives a clearer view of her face and of the way the male model act as if smelling her neck. It can be read that a beautiful woman must be like the female model; beautiful and with a sense of innocence because of her almost bare face which the media also portrays as simplicity and natural.
The mass media ad sends the message that if women will use their soap then she will be chase by good looking men and they will never stop loving her because of her smell and soft skin. It sends the ideology that attractive women must have soft, flawless and white skin, which can only be achieved by those wealthy people. This ideology is unrealistic as it is trying to naturalize something unnatural for a common Filipina woman who always exposes herself to sun, pollution and whole day of work. It is also unrealistic since Filipina women are not mestizo but brownish in color. It gives the ideology that women ought to focus on how soft and fragrant are they to attract men. In addition, it also conveys that the only reason to make the man not leave you is through your physical appearance. That man fall in love and commit to a woman if she is beautiful physically. We should also take in consideration that the way beauty is perceived by the people is on how the media told them how it should be perceived.
Another ideology that we can perceive though the text comes with the linguistic text on the image. The text is perceivable in different ways. The text “soft, scented skin will leaves him wanting more” proposes different meaning and possible outcome for the woman in the image. This plurality of meaning of the linguistic text add with the seductive and welcoming look of the female model might provide another bias toward which outcome should be expected when someone use Camay soap.
At the end of the day, this image is very simple yet within it is a means of intervention of the company and the media. It is now used as a tool for the company to infiltrate the ideology they want to naturalize in the minds of the readers.
Disclaimer: This article is part of my school requirement and the analysis is only given as part of the application for Bathe’s concept of myth. There is no intention to use it as an advocacy against the brand of Camay and to the company of Proctor and Gamble.
Chandler, Daniel. The Basics: Semiotics. 2nd ed. Routledge: USA. (2005)
Source of image: makeupbybambi.blogspot.com