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October 2021

The animal text: Message and meaning in television advertisements

Author(s): Kalof, L.

Journal/Book: Sociol Quart. 1999; 40: Journals Dept 2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. Univ Calif Press. 565-586.

Abstract: We studied the dominant messages about animals in television commercials and the ways these messages might be subject to alternative readings. Six primary themes captured the portrayal of animals in the advertisements: animals as loved ones (e.g., a member of a family), as symbols (representation of logos or ideas), as tools (using animals for human use or consumption), as allegories, as nuisances, and animals in nature. Many of the commercials had multiple themes, indicating the varied, multilayered messages about animals in advertising and the different value and use categories that humans assign to different nonhuman animal species, upholding the ideology of the U.S. Political economy. Finally, most of the animal portrayals were not anthropomorphized; those that were given human characteristics were typically part of a multithemed message that portrayed animals as allegories. Many of the animal images reinforced human gender and racial boundaries. This research establishes the importance of incorporating the study of nonhuman animals in sociological theory and research, particularly the animal image in popular culture and its connection to the portrayal of other outgroups, such as women and racial minorities.

Note: Article Kalof L, George Mason Univ, Dept Sociol & Anthropol, Fairfax,VA 22030 USA

Keyword(s): CONSUMPTION; NARRATIVES; CHILDREN; CULTURE; MEDIA; PRESS


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