Category Archives: Gillian Rose’s Visual Methodologies

Rose and Misty

In analyzing the meanings conveyed by visual terms, I liked that Rose started off with the acknowledgement that no rendering is ever “innocent”. By the very action of rendering, even those actions as simple as the framing decision in a photograph, the person doing the rendering makes a decision, conscious or not, that filters, adjusts, or in some other way manipulates reality to represent it. What I thought was interesting in the distinction between vision and visuality is that vision, in terms of psychological processes, can be seen in terms of visuality. What we see is constructed, whether we notice it or not, by subconscious processes that filter for patterns, or fill in gaps; for example, our brains filter out what we see in those split seconds when we are moving our eyes from one thing to another, and edits together just what we wanted to focus on. In our daily lives, processes like that help us not go insane; in the world of visual production, such filtering processes construct not the world but a version of the world influenced by the constructer.

I also liked the connection between this manipulation and filtering sort of inherent in producing visual culture and the power it has on our perceptions of society and hierarchy. The potential for enforcing the hierarchies, inequalities, and constructed social categories of colonialism, patriarchy, etc., is all tied up in something as deceptively simple and “innocent” as an image.

As for unpacking Misty with the help of Rose, I see several relevant points to begin an analysis, particularly the considerations laid out for economic agendas, audience, and author point of vies. The comic seems to have been written in the 80’s, and aimed at younger girls, not too many years after the ERA failed to pass. Visually, the comic is littered with huge doe eyes and corseted waistlines, pastel colors, dainty poses, and informational labels on the clothing designers. In not so subtle or academic terms, the first story is pretty freaking sexist. Using tropes hardly modified from the decades where a female’s greatest potential lie in marriage, whichever patronizing, pandering fool wrote this comic seemed to be aiming to write the fluff they thought would sell the most copies to the target audience- a group of females whose major thoughts were occupied with designer dresses, petty inter-female rivalries, and marrying the cutest boy they could find. As for the second story, the entire plot is predicated on the fact that all girls really want to do is shop and all they can think about is clothes. The only way a female could be a super hero is some mistake she makes while on a shopping spree, apparently, in some sort of strange contrast to the female X-Men mentioned by the woman who almost got mugged. Of course, at that point, it was considered, especially by those writing superhero comics, that titles like the New Mutants were going to be read by boys.

Angry ranting aside, reading this comic in light of Rose highlights the ideas around the effects of visual production in society: the stereotypes in this comic, and the goals and behaviors laid out that were clearly expected of girls, would have served to promote and continue those social categories and the tropes associated with them.

Response to Rose

Rose’s analysis of culture, visual art, and the two combined, allows us to think about the boundaries of how we examine and interpret the sensory world around us. I thought it was very interesting how she referred to Berger’s paintings of nude women. Berger considers the audience to have control over what they are viewing, yet Rose also illuminates that Berger’s point of view in creating the painting is equally as important as those who view it. This point of view reminded me of the concept of the “male gaze.” This concept is the idea that women are depicted in the world from a masculine, heterosexual view. This “gaze” gains momentum in that those who view products of the gaze evaluate these depictions as norms and will them further perpetuate these ideas, concepts, images, stereotypes, etc. This endless cycle can be used to look at any kind of stereotype about sex, gender, race, nationality, etc. Although I might be looking at a piece of art from my own perspective, one must remember that through a certain perspective this painting was created and further, the creator’s perspective has been shaped by other perspectives and cultural patterns.

This article reminds me of a research project I did in high school that evaluated an ad from the 1950s. I looked at an Elizabeth Arden makeup ad that very subtly depicted the importance of beauty over knowledge in a college setting. While analyzing the ad, I had to think about the time period, the recent events taking place in America, who designed the ad, who the audience was for the ad, the cultural norms relating to women at the time, the mediums of art of the time, etc. While reading this article, I often thought of this research project and the way in which Rose provides great insight about culture as a more complex definition than we have perceived.

Another really wild thought that Rose brings up is the idea that we are constantly viewing perspectives other than our own and this practice has become a norm. She calls this “simulacrum” and displays how, with time, an object that is being viewed gets more and more unconnected from the “real world.” For example, virtual reality or the simulation of New York in New York. I would question if these kinds of visuals are actually moving away from reality or if the means by which we produce these visuals is getting harder to understand. For example, with this kind of art, it is suddenly harder to pinpoint who created this medium and what the creator intended the audience to see.

 

Reader Response to Gillian Rose

Gillian Rose’s Visual Methodologies was an interesting piece that brought together many different theories on visual culture studies into one succinct text. While I do not study Media studies or art history, I have taken classes in both areas and many ideas from other courses I have taken were incorporated into this piece. Specifically Rose’s discussion of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing  was interesting to think about in the context of our class specifically. I first watched Ways of Seeing in my intro to art history course and applied it to much more classical art pieces. Reading about it in this piece, even though it is not situated specifically in comics, made me want to apply it to the texts we have read so far in this class.

John Berger’s notion of “men act and women appear” I feel is incredibly applicable to this class. This may be stretching the way Berger meant that statement but I thought back to the piece we read for last class on the Nancy comic. The authors of that piece claimed that Nancy was the most universal and enjoyable comic they had ever seen. They broke down this well in the article and situated in specifically in style and structure. After reading Visual Methodologies though, part of me is left wondering if it is somewhat so universally loved because of Nancy being female. She is obviously a young girl and not a woman but she is still the object as described by John Berger.

This same argument can be clearly applied to the Misty comic that we read for the day. While Misty is not nude in the comic, she is often portrayed in a sexual manner, and appeals to very clear western and sexualized standards of beauty. Tying this into the notion of Visual Culture, the way women are portrayed in Misty is clearly reflecting the ways in which women were seen in the time that it was created. Going back to Rose, one must truly deconstruct the social forces behind the images in order to truly understand them. Misty does not have any sort of special talent or powers or anything in the comic, which is in stark contrast to the ads for other comics in the comic, where it is all male superheroes as the other option for comics one could mail in and order.

While Misty is clearly sexualized for the male gaze, I also felt that the comic was geared towards a female audience. Most of the letters to Misty at the end were from women, and most of the names of people who created the outfits were traditionally feminine ways. This signaled to me that even when sources of media or art are aimed towards women the male gaze is ever present. One thing that I really did enjoy about Misty was that she was clearly the protagonist and was never seen as relational to the male characters. Men took up very little of the page space in the comic.

 

The definition of “Ocularcentrism”

As a whole, this piece by Rose explores the way our society’s visual capacity works, and how intertwined vision and visuality are with the cultures of society. The first thing that I appreciated was the immediate distinction on pg. 6, between vision and visuality, the distinction between our eye physically viewing and the true manner in how we are perceiving what our eyes see. After reading something like “How to Read Nancy” and the first few chapters of Scott McCloud, I was able to appreciate the nuances between vision and visuality, but I just didn’t really have a term and definition side by side that “Visual Methodologies” gives.

At first, when “ocularcentrism” is defined on pg. 7, I disagreed with the basis of its definition, that the visual is central to contemporary Western life. (For argument’s sake, and what I believe the author’s intention, I view contemporary Western life as the contemporary consumerist U.S.). While I initially tried to think of one of the other four senses that could be argued to be central, I couldn’t. However, I think it’s possible that consciousness and the essential aspects that are associated with it like memory, emotions, and reasoning could be argued to be more central to Western life. With generally modernity and consumerism being so present in Western life, our thoughts seem to be more immediately important than our sight. People love to ruminate in nostalgia, things like seeing lose out to things like wanting, and we reason with our self more than anyone else. I think that while the visual has an extremely important place, consciousness is more of an apparent centrality in any life, including Western life.

But even as I say  that I listened to a podcast somewhat recently that was testing the limits of being able to visually and audibly fabricate famous or important people saying things they did not say (I believe it is actually the same one that Professor Biz talks about in one of her sample writings on “Visual Methodologies” by Rose). In this era of “fake news” running amok in our present-day lives, current technology that would allow for fabrication like this in the near future is a scary thing if you respect how central the visual is to our Western life. We watch the news and read headlines, and we consider what we see honest, hopefully with a reasonable amount of doubt about what we can’t confirm. But if we can’t even trust that the mouth we are watching move attached to the face we know is really saying what they are saying, it would represent a true compromise of the visual, of which the repercussions might really show how central it is to Western life.

The comic “Misty”, can somewhat represent this centrality of the visual as well. The thing I noticed first was the square text in the bottom corner of some panels, showing the name of the individual who drew the clothes the characters were wearing. This detail stood out to me as a representation of the centrality of the visual in contemporary Western life. Made in 1982 (contemporary for my purposes) and clearly depicting Western life, each fancy item of clothing has the author’s name taking up space, eerily similar to the named types of fancy clothes in current-day Western life (Vitton, Gucci, Prada, etc.). I think after thinking about it and seeing that in Misty, I am much more convinced of Rose’s definition of “ocularcentrism”.

Reader Response to Gillian Rose’s Visual Methodologies

The statement, the visions that Western societies hold is fundamental to the cultural construction of social life, is at first a very confusing statement but after I thought about it for a little bit and I began to decompress it down to simplify the meaning, I found that I agreed with Rose’s reasoning even though I had never thought of Western social construction in this particular way. Images surround us constantly, whether it be through social media, television, textbooks, pictures, art, etc., and these images allow us to look at the world in a graphic sense instead of our brains just processing gobs and gobs of words. I thought that Rose’s interpretation of the statement, “images are never transparent windows on to the world” was cliché but as I kept reading and as it reached the picture of the man and the woman looking through the window into what seems to be a store of some sort, it all began to make sense. The notion of ‘truthful’ photographs relates to this statement because even though the picture of the man and the woman seems to be natural and looks like a picture that I could possibly dissect to look at some instance of reality, the photograph very well could have been entirely staged and nothing about the subject’s expressions, body posture, etc., is natural.

Comparing the photograph of the man and the woman to the Conservative Party election poster, I saw that even though both of these visual images are photographs of humans, the message that they bring across right away is completely different. On the poster, even though the man is the subject of the poster and the poster is about him, my eyes were instantly drawn not to him, but to the large bold letters at the bottom that exclaim “LABOUR SAYS HE’S BLACK. TORIES SAY HE’S BRITISH.” Because the viewer’s eyes are instantly drawn to those two statements, then immediately the man on the poster is put into a category without any precaution.

I thought that it was interesting when Fyfe and Law stated, “It is to note its principles of inclusion and exclusion, to detect the roles that it makes available” and the way that this statement related to Berger’s thoughts on female nude paintings. I did not agree with Berger on the fact that nude art is made for the male spectator. Even though this may be true for some forms of nude art, I do not believe that all artists paint nude women solely for the eyes of men but instead they paint nude bodies because bodies are an amazing work of art all by themselves and they may be attempting to capture that beauty and grace. I also do not agree with him on the fact of “men act and women appear”. I think instead that many women choose to embrace their femininity and do not see themselves as any sort of object.

Audiencing in “Misty”

It occurs to me that these images of “Misty” are really perfect for thinking in terms of audiencing. Few other texts come accompanied by consistent labels indicating how the audience is participating with the story, as well as a write-in section for readers at the end.

What strikes me as interesting in terms of audiencing and “Misty” is the unique way in which “Misty,” as a text, interacts with its audience. The audience doesn’t just read the comic – they play a huge role in producing it, sending in their fashion designs from across the country, and apparently Canada, too. The names of audience members who have participated are printed right in the meat of the text. Then, the audience members are given the opportunity to talk to ‘Misty,’ ask her questions, and ultimately, feel as though they know her personally.

I think the interactive nature of the text falls under the first aspect of audiencing: “the social practices of spectating” (Rose, 27). “Misty” is not just a comic to be passively read – it is a group effort, and to read it is to be invited to participate. I imagine this must be part of why the comic is so influential to the young girls whose comments we read at the end. It is not just that, as Amy Holmes from Waterloo, IA, puts it, “Misty is for girls, it has paper dolls in it,” although I’m sure “Misty’s” rare girl-oriented marketing is certainly part of the appeal. I would argue that part of what makes the text so appealing to young women (or made it so at the time), is the fact that it was theirs. They had a chance to shape it with their own imaginations via their fashion designs.

Of course, I would not necessarily describe the text itself as particularly ‘empowering;’ Spike’s short hair and Misty’s stint as a super hero certainly have a feminist bent and warrant more analysis, but the cattiness of Misty and Darlene in the wedding story, as well as the fact that Misty’s super powers are rooted in shopping, naturally leave the modern reader somewhat dissatisfied from a feminist point of view.

That said, I would argue that if “Misty” was a source of empowerment in its time, then that empowerment lay less in the quality of its content, and more in the fact that it advertised itself in every way as belonging to young women. Uber-feminine main characters and the addition of paper dolls to comic books (which are both ways to bring the so-called ‘feminine’ into a ‘masculine’ medium), and the invitations of audience participation appear to have made “Misty” into a kind of hub for young women’s culture.

With “Misty,” girls could communicate with older women and with each other on the troubles and travails of growing up. They also were able to take “Misty” as a kind of universalized example of womanhood, knowing that other young women across the country were also looking at the comic and aspiring to these standards. This is not to say that the standards were necessarily healthy (consider the commentary on Misty’s waistline …) but I do mean to point out that “Misty’s” function as a cultural hub may well have been a much-desired place of guidance for young women at the time.

 

Reader Response to Rose: The Loaded Image

When Rose went into an analysis of the photograph of the man sneaking a look at a pornographic image captured by Doisneau I was reminded of the loaded messages that can be found while analyzing Eduoard Manet’s painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. Upon first glance, the painting is of a pretty young blonde woman working at a bar in a music hall. Because of her appearance, it is already quite evident that the painting caters to the male gaze as it brings pleasure to the heterosexual man. However, what makes this painting even more pointed and biased is a reflection painted behind the barmaid. In the reflection you see her backside and then you see a male customer. Putting two and two together, it can be assumed that this man represents the spectator of the painting itself. The painting asks the viewer whether male or female, to identify with the man in the reflection and view the barmaid through his eyes. This to me encapsulates Rose’s idea that images and the way we interact with them can lead to issues such as sexism. Additionally, with the consumerist nature of the painting, it may give off the message that the barmaid too is something to be consumed. She is leaning forward towards the spectator with a vacant and non-threatening stare which can be interpreted as her being passive and available. The Folies-Bergere is also a place for the wealthy to gather and there is an implied class dominance that the man in the reflection (the spectator) has over the barmaid. I could go on and on about the many messages that are hidden in such a seemingly simple painting, which is why it was one of the first images that popped into my head while reading Rose’s claim that images are never innocent. At first I didn’t quite connect to her statement that visual could lead to sexism, classism, ableism, and racism, but soon my mind became flooded with images further proving her point, such as this painting. I was also fascinated with the idea that messages can be warped so dramatically depending on where an image is located. For example, I first saw Manet’s painting in an art history class where we spoke critically about the sexist undertones of the painting, but originally it was hung in the Salon where mainly French elite men would see it. I also noticed advertisements using a cropped version of the image that excluded the reflection while going through the tube station in London. Not only was the image slightly altered, but it was located in a fast paced environment where no one has time to stop and analyze it. These three locations and environments of the same image give off vastly different messages and experiences to the viewer interacting with it.

After focusing on such a loaded image, I began to wonder whether an unbiased or “innocent” image could exist. According to Rose there is no such thing, but it is an intriguing thought to ponder. What would an innocent image look like? Where could it be located? How would one interact with it?

 

Reader Response Rose

Gillian Rose’s Visual Methodologies does an excellent job in defining what has become the second component of art history, that of visual culture. Especially as seen through the lens of the female nude and ways of seeing, the John Berger show. In describing the female nude of the classical painting area, Berger explores the idea of just who the spectator is, and how that affects our viewing of the work.

In it, Berger points out that in all of these classical works, there is a fourth wall that exists, as the viewer themselves is never portrayed. As the vast majority of these viewers were male, the nude was there for the pleasure of him. He was the one in control, not the figure itself. It’s a concept known as the Male Gaze, and it’s a concept as old as figure drawing. One has to consider that the people with the money and power to commission such works were A. Male and B. Publically Heterosexual. In doing so, it placed the female figure into an itemized figure, the idealized body presented for viewing like a statue or other such works of art.

This idea is referenced further in the image Rose shows of the two window shoppers on page 18. It is a first glance a simple photograph. Two people who appear to be a couple are standing in front of an art store. The woman appears to be explaining something, an assumption could be made that she is describing how she feels about a particular work of art. Meanwhile the male in our figure is clearly more interested in the nude off to the side. Of note is that while we can see the nude, we cannot see the painting that the woman is interested, and that is significant.

From these two examples, we can see a glimpse at the ways in which Rose points out how artwork as a whole is constructed through various different practices and forms aimed to create something worth seeing. Art History itself is no longer the all or nothing form, the discipline as a whole has needed to incorporate the ideas of Visual Culture, that is that art and other forms have an impact on the world as a whole and that it is not simply art for art’s sake.

But, one might ask, how does this impact comics as a whole? Well, for a long time comics have been seen as lower art or art that was not even worth the time of serious scholars. Despite this, even the penny dreadfuls of old have had an impact on the kinds of things that people have seen. The kids who grew up reading comic books, with all of their bright colors and sharp lines, are the same people who are now allowing Marvel to destroy the box office with every movie. These comics and the more recent graphic novels are integral parts in the story of visual culture. These works, just like the nudes and photographs, force the viewer to be a part of the story, in a much more in-depth and obvious way. There is no escaping the weaving that exists in these forms of art, and Rose’s breakdown of the methodologies allows for a greater look into the ways that Comics fit into this story of art and culture.

Reader Response: Gillian Rose’s Visual Methodologies

Rose’s Visual Methodologies emphasized the importance of visuals and how much information can be gained by only looking at the images, but also, how images can be viewed and interpreted in many different ways. I was fascinated by how excited Misty got when she was told about a scene where her character marries Ricky Martin’s character, as if it were her own, real, wedding. I read this as a commentary on the media’s ability to blur the line between itself and reality. I also was very aware of the social and cultural norms being represented. Before telling her father that the marriage is just for her show, her father is given one line, where he tells Misty that she is too young to get married and that she must finish high school before she can think about getting married. These words accompany a drawing of a nicely dressed man who appears well put-together and responsible. I recognize his response to his daughter as a very traditional and, perhaps, stereotypical “dad thing to say”. Of course, not everybody might see it that way. Different people and different cultures have different standards and expectations for everything. After clarifying to her father that the marriage is for her show, he quiets down. Misty’s aunt Millie, however, disregards the fact that it is all for show and talks about it as if it were real. Aunt Millie, also well dressed and put together with what looks like pearl earrings and necklace.

Misty’s excitement for her ‘big day’ follows her throughout her costume fittings. When Misty is being fitted for her wedding dress, she looks, how I would imagine, like a very stereotypical bride. She is like a barbie; skinny, blonde hair, blue eyes. She reminds me of Cinderella.

When the script changes and Misty is no longer planned to marry Ricky Martin, drama arises among the actors. They begin to argue about who should be the bride. The actors seem to take all of the changes being made so personally, again, as if it were real. Misty mentions that she has a “broken heart”. This further demonstrates the blurred line between media and reality. Throughout the reading, Misty seems to fit very well into every outfit she wears. She looks as if she could play the part. It becomes real to her. She becomes a bride. She becomes a superhero. It seems to be important to Misty that she look the way she feels. When her costume fades in the wash, she loses the ‘powers’ that she got from them. To Misty, it is extremely important how others see her. Similarly to the way visual images are very important in texts like this, in order to achieve certain effects.

Reader Response Essay to Rose… Images and Realness, Scott C.

When Rose talks about, on page 19, the fact that we as observers view photographs as truthful, I am hesitant to view that as true. In the more contemporary view of how society is now, we  seem to view images and immediately take it upon ourselves to see if that image is fabricated or not.

For example, take into account everything that has to do with President Trump and all of the “fake news” that has been going around. People like to assume that everything they see and hear is fake, and sometimes they are correct.

There’s a really good, almost scary, Podcast that focuses on seeing if they could recreate a soundbite of Trump saying “grab her by the pussy”, and it was scary on how easily they could do that. It brings into question everything that we can see or hear, because it can all be fabricated as long as someone has the know-how. (I am not saying that that particular thing was fabricated, it was just an example.)

Another thing that I personally view as inherently fake is magazines, especially when regarding the depiction of women within them. Being decently fluent in Photoshop, it’s scary how easy it is to “fix” images to make them less realistic, but “more beautiful”. This can also tie into the part in which Rose talks about Berger and how women view themselves as being viewed by males. That’s part of the reason why Photoshopping images of women in magazines are so detrimental to society, since people will look at these images and see what the magazine creators think that they should look like, even though that goal is absolutely unrealistic. But that won’t stop people from attempting to get to that weight or look by doing things that are extremely unhealthy.

I also want to bring up the cannonball image, which was a photograph that was taken in 1855 known as “Valley of the Shadow of Death”. That image was actually faked, and people went to large lengths in order to figure this out. You can listen to it more here: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/308563-truth-cannonballs/

And for those of you who are just curious what image I’m talking about, here: