Date of Award

5-1-2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Lowry, Dennis

Abstract

In the context of globalization, commercialization, and the increasing presence of Western images (Western models, Western languages, and Western settings) in Chinese society, this study examines how these images are constructed in Chinese magazine advertising. It utilizes quantitative content analysis, facilitated by semiotic analysis to approach issues of race, gender and power reflected in the images of the West. Methodologically, this study sees quantitative content analysis and semiotics as two complementary methods in the study of contemporary visually dominant print advertising. Theories in both social sciences and humanities were reviewed and brought into the analysis of data. Based on advertisements (N=2,882) from a stratified random sample of four months in 2009 in 19 Chinese consumer magazines (men's, women's and general interest), results of the study showed that images of the West are primarily represented by Western models, and White female models in particular. Focusing on advertisements for Chinese products and services, Western models in Chinese magazine advertising were found differently portrayed from their Chinese counterparts, in their frequency, the type of magazines they appear in, product/service categories they feature in, occupational status, the extent of nudity, and relation to product. When Western models were chosen for an ad, they served different roles than Chinese models. Close examination of individual advertisements from a semiotic perspective showed that Western female models were eroticized, while at the same time representing universal beauty; both Western male and female models were signs that signify quality, social status, luxury and enjoyment of good life; China's relation to the West is also complicated by the fact that China sees itself as a collaborator with the West in the economic domain, and at the same time, accepts the power of the West by romanticizing the colonial past. Overall, this study showed that images of the West in the Chinese context are multifaceted: they have different significations in different domains.

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