"Come On and Zum Zum, Zum-ah Zum!"

--From the t.v. theme of "Zoom"

Ooh baby, oh baby. 'Do do that voodoo that you do so well' (Cole Porter, "You Do Something To Me").

"Men act and women appear," writes John Berger about the history of pictorial representation in Western societies.

Zum Zum has created in their advertisement an appearance for two women that exists solely for an absent man (Mademoiselle, November 1992). They perch voluptuously on a pillow placed on piano. Their sensual passions simmer seductively just under the surface, brimming just on the edge of overflowing their dresses and their control, requiring the piano to steady their balance and reign in their desire. Berger would claim their sexual passion is minimized allowing the spectator to maintain a monopoly on this passion (p. 55). The text indicates the object of their fixation is "the singer." What a lucky (absent) man whose slight presence, unconscious and unconcerned as he performs somewhere off the page, causes such titillation in these two women. "Shana and Julie falling for the singer, 9:14 p.m."

From their pose to their dress, Julie and Shana exist solely to be seen, to be surveyed, to be objects of the male gaze. A woman would not dress this way for herself nor another woman (assuming she is straight). Her desire to be beautiful is only satisfied if it is appreciated by another (here a man). The dresses call out, "Look at me! Don't you want to take these off." The women adorn the piano as they adorn the page. The summation and end to their posture and positioning rests on the hope that the singer will turn his male gaze in their direction and notice them. His recognition even, dare we hope, his acknowledgement supplies meaning to their lives.

The singer acts as the absent spectator-owner. He is included in the ad not as a physical/visible presence but rather as an idea or construct provided by the text. His appearance, physique, and personality are clearly not factors of his worth. They do not need to be made explicit. What he does, his singing/actions are what account for his identity. We understand implicitly from the models' reactions, the act "falling for," that his possible attention is valuable. This potential refers to Berger's concept that the male personifies the "promise of power." This power manifests itself in the affirmation of ownership of one or even both (how kinky) of these buxom beauties.

The position of the advertisement's viewer differs from the spectator-owner. Remember this advertisement placed in a fashion magazine speaks to a female audience. How is a woman to comprehend the meaning expressed on this glossy page? She might have so internalized the male gaze that she might, before she catches herself, scrutinize their appearance and calculate whether they are worthy of arresting "his" gaze. Oddly, the female viewer also looks at he exterior of women as an "object of vision." She surveys their appearance as she does her own, through the eyes of a man. The ad plays on this culturally-invoked desire, positioning our female viewer to imaginatively insert herself (try on the possibility of looking like the model) so that she assumes the role of the models and becomes the surveyed. The female viewer thus takes the role of the spectator-buyer. She sees an image of herself not as she is, but as she could be (Berger, p. 132). She understands her well-being pivots on her visual desirability to men, and by the time she has seen this ad she has learned to survey all her own inadequacies, creating anxiety and dissatisfaction. This may be alleviated and her image enhanced through the purchase of the product. Conveniently the back page of this ad supplies a list of stores providing women with a chance to immediately dash down to the mall, don a dress and nab a dude. No woman is complete without one.

Julia Reid

For Men
Narrative Twist
Absent Spectator
Gaze on Men