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Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women (1987)

| Documentary, Short
An examination of the various sexist elements in modern advertising.


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Credited cast:
Jean Kilbourne ... Self


In this film, Margaret Lazarus demonstrates the role of advertising plays as propaganda against women. To that point, we learn of the predominate belittling of women, unwarrently sexualizing them, and even stooping to depictions of violence and murder of women for the sake of commerce. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>

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Documentary | Short


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[first lines]
Jean Kilbourne: I've been doing research and lecturing on the image of women in advertising since the late 1960s. In 1979 a filmed version of my lecture was made entitled Killing Us Softly. These images are still killing us softly, and by "us" I mean all of us: women, men and children. I think we know by now the image of women is primarily negative. However, just about everyone has the illusion of being personally exempt from the influence of advertising. So wherever I go what I hear more than ...
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Followed by Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising's Image of Women (2010) See more »

User Reviews

Excellent one-stop-shop for understanding advertising
15 October 2002 | by rzajacSee all my reviews

You need to understand that this movie is a filmed live presentation, being given in a dark auditorium by Jean Kilbourne. The movie simply allows you to be present at a particularly strong, evocative, persuasive presentation. It's also punctuated with some footage of Ms. Kilbourne talking one-on-one to an off-camera person.

This movie is an excellent introduction to ideas about the excesses of advertising in U.S. society. It's polemical and ideological, but never soap-boxing or strident. It scores on so many points. While the message is powerful and sometimes indicting, the presentation is often genuinely, warmly humorous, which is always the right way to defuse bad situations; and the one pointed up by Ms. Kilbourne is certainly potentially disastrous.

I was moved by this movie in a number of ways. First of all, I personally don't consume much mass media; I don't watch TV, and don't read the local paper or magazines. This is largely because I've always had a gut revulsion to being so obviously targeted as a potential consumer; it creeps me out in a manner not unlike the feeling of being stalked; looking out the window and seeing someone drive by your house slowly. I'm sure the advertisers would characterize it as "wooing" or "courting", but I'm not convinced or flattered. I refuse to be stalked by a consumption-driven media machine. This movie reaffirms my suspicions. As the old expression goes, you're not paranoid if they really *are* out to get you--and this movie reminds us that they are, and they'll stop at nothing; even borderline child porn; to get your attention.

Secondly, at one point during one of the short close-up bits where Mr. Kilbourne talks privately to an off-camera person, she said something that blew my mind about the deep psychological nature of advertising and our multifarious human natures; something that resonated deep within me and reminded me that there is a vast pool of resources within each of us, and that we need to respect it in its richness and depth; embrace all the attributes of virtue, honor, and love that are desirable and possible. In that statement it almost didn't matter whether the connection to her primary thesis--that advertising is the nemesis of this richness--was made; it was still good to be reminded.

Been meaning to learn a little more about advertising and the media? See this movie. You might also want to see "Manufacturing Consent" as well.

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