Author Archives: mreidy

White and Black Contrast in “In the Mood For Love”


Costume design is not simply for appealing aesthetics and creating a nice fashion; it is more than that. Costume design in film is created to be reflective, representative, symbolic and moving. In “In the Mood For Love,” Maggie’s quipaos are representative and also tell a story to further provide interpretation in what is going on in that point that may not be spoken or blatantly laid out for the viewer to understand. It often requires the viewer to look deeper into the purpose of the design of the costume in order to fully comprehend what is going on in the segment. Maggie’s black and white qipao creates contrasting aromas that indulge the viewer to look closer into Maggie and Tony’s relationship, time, and love.

First off, the contrasting black and white colors in this qipao indicate a sharp contrast in Maggie’s life. The black on her dress could be representative of the sadness she faces when she is suspicious of her husband’s fidelity. This blackness could also be representative of loneliness and sadness; a dark time period in Maggie’s life. The white, however, could be representative of a new, clean slate in which the story is untold. This white part of her dress could be the potential new relationship which she is developing with Tony, and it is a canvas or blank page waiting to be written on. White also represents innocence, where there is a part of Maggie that feels that, although she believes her husband is being unfaithful to her, she feels guilty developing feelings for Tony. The innocence could also be representative of a simple, innocent crush to mend her lonely, broken heart. The sharp contrast with the blackness indicates a shift in feelings where Maggie feels happy and excited by her neighbor, but there is still an underlying sadness that she feels in her heart.

Another important thing to notice is that the black and white lines in the dress do not overlap; they are distinct and separate. These two separate entities could either be representative of Maggie and her husband, Maggie and Tony, or Tony and his wife. However, the divides occur and offer a sense of prediction that the viewer can see that there are distinct things that separate two people, no overlapping is able to occur. It is also important to recognize that certain stripes on the dress are thicker and thinner than others. This could mean that at certain periods in time, one specific entity or person may be more significant in Maggie’s life than the other. This could be representative of her husband, being the dark black stripe in her life, bringing darkness, whereas the white stripe could be representative of Tony, a light in her life. The thickness and thinness indicate that one of the two men play a larger role than the other at distinct times in her life and this is important to note because there is also a sharp contrast between the colors, indicating very contrasting ideals and differences between the two men and how Maggie feels for them both.

nice interpretation of color white and black


Exploitation to Make Money

china wordpress

Throughout history, the image and symbolism of the white woman has overwhelmed the contemporary world. Additionally, the political and the sexual have become entangled in the commodity of the white body. The white body also has had an impact on the idea of location in China. Metropolitan bodies value whiteness because of both the exposure of the western world due to social media, consumer advertisements, and influence due to television, movies and other popular culture. Whiteness also was symbolic of wealth and modernity, as the minority culture living in the country side, known as “Duocai,” meaning colorful, has been indicative of a lower socioeconomic class, where darker skin has been represented by working outside in the sun. This image, taken from Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, has multiple meanings and symbolic undertones that ultimately exploit everything involved in the picture, from the man, the woman, and the Eastern world, in order to make gains for the privileged CEO’s of the company.

 select and focus on one of the “multiple meanings”

There are many contrasts in this photo, both exploiting the man and young woman in the picture. The first blatantly obvious difference between the two is their age. The woman is a young, youthful woman who clearly is a lot younger than the man who is next to her. This creates a perverted type image which is intended to sexualize both the man and half-naked woman sitting next to him. The clear age difference shows that femininity is valued for youthfulness by all ages, and that women should strive to be young. Because of this age difference, there is also a connotation of youthfulness representing modernity. This young woman, clearly out of place in rural China on the elderly fisherman’s boat, is a bold contrast to the traditional Chinese culture that this man has lived through. By placing the two next to each other, the woman looks much more modern than the traditional old man, and this contrast is used to sell a product, because the “white woman sells.”

 the idea of “white woman sells” sounds powerful and you may use it as topic sentence, then explain how and why white woman sells

It is important to remember that the people who run Sports Illustrated are there to make a profit, and are likely not concerned with cultural implications that go along with this picture. By using the exploitation of both the man and the woman, there is no concern for how they are viewed. The man, without this woman in the picture, would appear to be innocent and just doing his job and living his life. However, when the woman is placed into the picture, the way the man is viewed changes. It then appears that he craves young, white women, when in reality, the placement of this woman is so bizarre and does not make any sense. There is also a contrast in the socioeconomic statuses between the people who set up the picture and the people in the picture. The man, a traditional fisherman, is likely not making a lot of money, whereas the producers of this picture and the female model in the picture are likely making a lot of money, and the head of Sports Illustrated is making the most money of them all. Ultimately, the placement of the western woman into the eastern world is forcing eastern culture to value western ideals, specifically, the white woman.

I would say displacement of the white woman. good ideas and intentions which nee a better organization. Try to begin and focus on one pair of denotation/connotation before you move to the next


Uniformity in the Economy

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Designer: Liu Wenxi (刘文 西)1975, December

Publisher: Renmin meishu chubanshe (人民美术出版社)

Throughout Mao’s rule in China, he aimed for uniformity and unification throughout the nation. He believed in creating a unified body where individuality was not valued, but rather a group mentality in which his own philosophies and beliefs were the exercised norms. He utilized propaganda, such as this, to encourage people of all genders to contribute to the economy, regardless of their abilities or desires.

The woman: or the female subject This propaganda immediately draws the viewers’ eyes to the woman working heavy machinery, looking very happy. Although it is possible to tell that she is, in fact, a woman, she has very masculine features and her hair is pulled back in the cap. The woman is therefore, stripped of her femininity in order to be most productive in the workplace. This prioritization of male over female features indicates a pro-masculine theory that Mao supported and encouraged. Although this uniform is supposed to be gender neutral, it masculinizes the female, rather than feminizing the male, consequently, leaving the male the same and changing the woman.  This woman was also placed into a field of work in which she biologically is less capable than men. By nature, men are stronger and can handle heavier equipment better than women. By placing a woman into this same exact workplace as a man, she is immediately at a disadvantage trying to keep up and having to work much harder to do the same labor that a man can do with less difficulty, therefore creating inequality in the workplace.

The little red book: The woman in this book has a little red book sitting next to her in her bag. Mao required everyone to carry around his little red book which was all that was learned in schools and taught to children. Growing up on only his philosophies, the people of China were, in a way, brainwashed by his thought. The carrying of the book was enforced, ultimately imposing his philosophies onto everyone so that everyone thought the same way, just as they dressed the same way. Intellectuals were discriminated against as they did not always follow Mao’s theories, and being a part of the working class was viewed as ideal.

the little red book as political rhetoric or education as well as visual element, due to its size and color

The vehicle in which the woman is driving: The woman, herself, appears to be enjoying her time in the vehicle, alone. She is smiling and by herself, and the viewer is able to see her identity and emotions. However, Mao discouraged against individuality and, rather, desired uniformity and homogenous unity. Because this propaganda appears to show that Mao was concerned with individual wellbeing and happiness, the viewer desires this type of work. It is important to recognize though, that this woman’s individuality is not valued. She is wearing the same thing as everyone else working there, and the viewer can see that there are hundreds of other people working at the same place in the background. This propaganda was well thought out in order to promote hard labor to improve the economy, but the vehicle is representative of the woman being only a working part of the internal machine, not the sole operator. machine is the focus but the paragraph seems bit off the focus.

good work, but the organization could be easily revised into: 1) the claim — the female subject/body as the masculinized 2) support the claim in terms of the uniform, the machine, the little red book, and the landscape (titled as modernization of agriculture)



Qipao and Over-Sexualization of Women

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Liu Jianhua: Game Series (image taken from Qipao PowerPoint slides)

This photo, taken from artist Liu Jianua’s “Game Series” shows a woman’s body, dressed in qipao, on a plate. From this image, we can see that the woman is on a plate, with no arms or head. She is only wearing one shoe, and her body language appears to be sexually inviting, but helpless because of her inability to move without a head or arms. Her dress is very revealing and shows the entirety of both of her legs, and she is placed in the middle of the plate. She also appears to be slightly cross legged, however, not in the way one would expect to see a woman sitting cross legged. This image, created by a man, shows how the sexualization of women in qipao can become a disturbing obsession by men, where the focus becomes less about the woman’s identity and more about her body, in order to please men regardless of her will to. 

sound thesis statement

The qipao was representative of the modern woman, the opposite of foot binding, where concealment was the thing most valued. The qipao was much more revealing in that it had slits in the legs, was tight to the body, and was sometimes sheer, showing off women’s bodies, almost as if to tease. This artist, however, takes this sexualized style to an extreme, almost as if he is exploiting the woman, leaving her helpless as if she was attacked. The first thing that leads the observer to think this is the woman’s body position. She is on her back, but without arms and a head there is no way for her to move herself from that position. She also only has one shoe on, which can imply a sign of a struggle. Additionally, she the way she is placed is in a sexual position, very inviting to men who find the feminine body attractive.

Another reason that this image could be indicative of a disturbing, sexual obsession of men is the fact that the woman does not have any distinctive characteristics that show her identity. Her face is not present, which shows that the artist and some of the observers do not necessarily care about the woman, herself, but rather only care about her body. This creates a selfish ideal where the woman is not valued for anything other than the pleasuring of men. The other important part of this image to recognize, as well, is that the artist does not indicate a specific man for whom this woman is to pleasure. She is placed on a plate as if she is food for any man to consume, regardless of if they know her or not. Her legs are also slightly cross-legged, which was usually associated with the modern woman, however, these women’s legs were usually tight together and while a woman was sitting in a chair. This woman’s legs, however, are somewhat crossed, potentially representing the modern, but they are also open and inviting, overly sexualizing her, especially with the way she is laying.

The way that the dress falls on the woman leaves her exposed and helpless in this picture. It appears as though she had been attacked from the way she is laying to the helplessness caused by her immobility and her lacking of one shoe. Although the qipao was a way for women to express themselves sexually and embrace their femininity, it is unfortunate that artists like this take this sexuality that comes from the qipao fashion and disempower women by exploiting them for a man’s pleasure. 

 nice work and could even be stronger should you reorganize the analysis in terms of denotation-connotation structure, focusing on one element at a time. 

Jo Farrell’s Foot Binding Project, Semiotic Analysis

Foot Binding

Source: Farrell, Jo: “Su Xi Rong (i),” 2014.

The image above, taken by Jo Farrell, depicts one of the last remaining women with bound feet, named Su Xi Rong. The black and white photography is clearly focused on the woman’s unbound, bare feet, while the rest of her body and face are blurred out. The image is a part of Jo Farrell’s collection, called the “Living History Project,” where she is documenting the lives of Chinese women who bound their feet and are still alive to tell their stories. She has been working on this personal project for a few years and many of the women she has photographed have died. This leads her to believe that it is imperative to celebrate and photograph the last remaining women because of their historical significance.

There are many important parts of this photograph to take into consideration regarding the construction of the image. The first is the lack of color in the photography, where Jo Farrell decided to use black and white photography. This technique is important to the composition of the photo because it is taking away any distractions that may pull the eye away from the main focus of the photo – the woman’s feet. The second important part of the construction of the photo is the focus on the bound feet, blurring out the rest of the image. These two things together create a focal point on the feet, placing an emphasis on them and their significance.  By using black and white and focusing solely on the feet, the photographer has managed to show the importance of the feet and how this connects to society.

In Chinese society, bound feet were a symbol of high class, marriageability, gender, and sexuality, however, these feet were bound and concealed. When the foot was taken out of its binding, it shows the pain and deformation that women went through in order to achieve all of these things. This image strips away the fabric and binding and focuses on the foot itself. The viewer can see that many parts of the foot are deformed and broken. This significantly impacted the way the women moved and limited their mobility, representative of dependence on her family and her husband. This may be suggestive of why she is sitting down in the photograph.

The other interesting part of this photograph is the fact that the woman’s face is blurred out of the picture. This is representative of how the appearance of the woman’s feet were more significant than her true identity. The length of the feet determined her value, rather than her intellect or personality. This emphasis on outward appearance in order to impress men and find a husband ultimately stripped away many women’s identities, placing their value solely on their feet. She would hide her real body in bindings and fabric, deforming it in order to please men.

Although many women did not feel that they were forced to alter their bodies, they grew up in a  society society dominated by males and were taught to bind their feet by their mothers. The seemingly simple nature of this photo is actually incorrect. Although the idea of foot binding seems like a simple act of fashion, it ultimately has many more meanings and truths behind it, that are not simply black and white or blurred out, just like the background of this photo.

a thoughtful analysis