Posted by: lizzyspain915 | December 19, 2011

1950s Advertisements

While working on my Victorian Visual Culture paper on advertising, I’ve come across a lot of very interesting and sometimes bizarre advertisements that have existed over time. Usually, I love to look at old advertisements, because as Lori Anne Loeb says in “Consuming Angels”, advertisements can be really great cultural commentary of a specific time in history. Older print ads, from the 1920’s and 1950’s, can be fascinating. It’s funny to see the novelty and excitement an advertisement expresses when promoting a product we are so used to using in our everyday lives (a washing machine! Ponds cold cream! Well, I don’t use Ponds, but it just seems so old-fashioned, it’s hard to think that there ever existed a time where Ponds was new and exciting). Anyway, in my research I also came across some extremely disturbing ads. I was looking at an article on entitled “10 Most Sexist Print Ads from the 1950s” and found this:

The article supplied a quote underneath that said: “There’s a lot to be said for domestic violence. Sure, it ruins lives and tears families apart, but at least you can be certain your coffee is fresh! The mere suggestion today of an ad such as this would be enough to have you sacked from most major ad agencies. What were they thinking? The more you look at this ad, the sadder it gets”.


It’s true, this is an awful ad. But I can’t help but think about some of the advertisements we have access to today. While few to none are as blatantly violent as this one, it’s clear to me that the degradation of women in our advertisements today is still painfully prevalent.

This is still pretty provocative if you ask me:



  1. It’s interesting in these two examples how the notions of taboo and shock are two forms of control and appeal advertising agencies employ to market their products. I guess this rift along acceptable vs. unacceptable, normal vs. weird, helps notch the spectrum of human action and circumscribe what is acceptable. However, i think it is so internesting that people, while they like to operate in the norm and tend to (try to) steer clear from acting/living in extreme ways, are still drawn to the extremes in the media and advertising we enjoy. By the time these images circle back into our public consciousness, their social values seem outdated.

    Thinking back to the Victorian advertisements, however, they do seem to enforce the cultural norms, rather than the extremes. I think of the soap advertisement with the giant bar of soap in the middle of the image and the promise of propor favor from the Queen, and it seems that those advertisements offered a reinforcement of norms. However, then they are still important because they reinforce the differences between their norms and ours, as well as reasserting their cultural values. But it seems the cultural sensibility was drawn to the stable and normal, rather than our delight in the perverse and obscene!

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