Jean Kilbourne’s accomplishments are pretty amazing. Before she started her Killing Us Softly series of documentaries in the late 1970s, the idea that advertisements should be taken seriously as reflections and even shifters of cultural values was not altogether common. While the images used to sell products like tobacco, alcohol, clothing and cosmetics has always been provocative, they weren’t typically examined as reflections about how we feel about other people and ourselves, unless you happened to work in advertising. And those images and messages certainly weren’t worth railing against for being overtly sexist, racist, ageist or anything else; after all, they’re only ads! Nobody really takes them to heart, do they?
Jean opened doors to show us that yes, we do actually take them to heart, even if we’re not totally aware of it. Living in a world populated by pictures of impossibly beautiful women held up on pedestals of fame, referred to as ‘models’ as though they are the medians of size, color and shape, and whose images are deemed worthy of being reprinted and redistributed throughout the world–it does take a toll. Many people wish they were (or perhaps imagine that they are) immune to these messages, but when we look closely at ourselves, even the most secure and confidant people among us have a reaction to ads. And that reaction is worth paying attention to, the messages are worth criticizing, and working to reform an industry and culture that invites such mediocrity and deception is imperative. Watch the video below to hear it straight from Jean:
Thanks to Jean and her work, these convictions are increasingly embraced by the mainstream. Jean’s compassionate and engaging style of teaching draws people in and perfectly demonstrates the real-world applications of critical media literacy while spreading a message of hope, empowerment and positivity. Join us on Monday when we honor a true artist, visionary and educator. We promise a night of inspiration you won’t soon forget.