Semiology can be defined as the study of sign systems; the way we as humans communicate through signals, be that symbols, language, images, the clothes we wear and so on. The idea of giving signs a structural discipline was that of Ferdinand de Saussure (1875-1913). He developed systems for the way that signs worked through making definitions for the way that they interact and relate with humans, which proved crucial in the development of not only linguistics but the study of cultures as well.
In short, semiotics is the way that signs and the systems or codes that they fit into operate and are perceived by the people who view or experience them. For example, a picture denoting a football is a sign of a football and therefore will mean different things to different people: Some may think of the sport, whereas some may think of an actual ball or the hooligans that are sometimes associated with the game. These different interpretations of the sign are down to different cultures or types of people and their experiences, which make them think in a particular way.
Saussure used his description of language, with ‘langue’ as the system or code to which it abides by and works from, and ‘parole’ as the manifestation or using of this system, to act as a parallel guide for the rules and applications of semiotics due to the use of signifiers (‘langue’) and signification (‘parole’) in both linguistics and semiotics. ‘A linguistic system is a series of differences of sound combined with a series of differences of ideas’. (Ferdinand de Saussure, 1)
In linguistics, the signifier is the way that a particular word is spoken or written and the signified is what said word means to a particular person or culture. From this a direct comparison can be drawn to the signifier and signified of semiotics. The signifier being the sign and the signified being what the sign means or relates.
The first advertisement that I chose to analyse is a recent one promoting a Dior fragrance called ‘Addict’. It denotes a dripping wet, scantily clad, (underwear only,) slim woman dancing in what looks like a sexual manner, whilst pulling at her own knickers as if to imply that they could be easily taken off. The subject is dancing next to a large window, whether she is outside or within the building is hard to discern, but reflected in the glass are many brightly coloured lights.
One of the first things that you realise when you look at the image is that the woman is wearing very little and is covered in what we presume is water. This has obvious sexual connotations for viewers of nearly all cultures and backgrounds and is designed to appeal to women by implying that the perfume advertised aids its wearers in being attractive and sexy. On the other hand, to the naïve mind the image could simply connote a woman who has been swimming and is wearing her bikini. However, this is unlikely and not the intended way for the image to be interpreted.
The bright lights reflected in the glass connote that the woman is in a nightclub of some sorts where there are flashing, disco style lights and other people dancing and partying. This adds to the air of excitement that the advertisement intends to convey and implies that the fragrance is fun, young and promiscuous.
The expression on the woman’s face reflected in the glass is lustful and along with the way that she is shown to be proving the ability for her knickers to be removed easily, connotes her sexual desire.
The fact that the perfume is called ‘Addict’ could also connote to some that the woman in the picture is either a sex addict or drug addict, both of which are seen as part of a ‘bad girl’ image, which, to some, may be something that they would want themselves to portray by wearing the advertised fragrance. The implied setting of a nightclub for the image is also important in portraying a ‘bad girl’ image for the fragrance due to the connotations that go hand in hand...
Bibliography: 1) Ferdinand de Saussure, ‘Course in General Linguistics,’ 1916 - compiled by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye and based on notes taken from Saussure 's lectures at the University of Geneva
2) Jonathan Bignell, ‘Media Semiotics: An Introduction,’ 2002 - Manchester University Press
3) Susan Bordo, ‘Hunger as Ideology,’ 1993, essay
4) K. Osbourn, ‘Looking at women’s magazines: Are common and archaic ideals and myths about femininity still being perpetuated through the pages of women’s monthly magazines?’ - 2006 p.23
5) Jonathan Culler, ‘The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction’ 1981, book, Routledge
6) Sarah Franklin, Celia Lury & Jackie Stacey, 'Feminism and Cultural Studies: Pasts, Presents, and Futures’, 1991, Harper Collins/Routledge
7) Dominic Strinati, ‘Structuralism and Semiology,’ from ‘Introduction to the Theories of Popular Culture,’ 1995, Routledge
8) John Fiske, ‘Introduction to Communication Studies,’ 1990, Routledge
9) Roland Barthes, ‘Rhetoric of the Image,’ 1977, essay
By Sam Chapman
Please join StudyMode to read the full document