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John Berger’s Ways of Seeing Episode 4

Berger states that advertising gives consumers something to envy in a time when status is not determined by birth. We live in a society that makes it feel like anyone can be a celebrity with the right tools, and advertising exploits that feeling for a profit. This is important because it puts extra significance on money, which can cause people to “scramble competitively to get more.” Berger also mentions people taking out high interest loans just to keep up the look of a certain lifestyle.

Oil painting and publicity photography both glorify money, but in different ways. Oil paintings show the wealth the subject of the paintings had, while advertising shows the wealth that the consumers want to have. These advertisements send the message that consumers are inadequate, but also offer a solution. If you buy what is being advertised then you will be, or at least feel, more wealthy. This is a false solution, as Berger mentions, because you will only be less rich once you’ve spent your money. It shows that these images reproduce what Western Europeans thought signified wealth, and use that to push the items they are selling in the present.

In the “dream of later tonight” that Berger talks about, the subject of the dream is alcohol. Berger says that everyone is smiling, and everyone is “surrounded by what brings pleasure.” Although you, the consumer, are said to be bringing the “greatest pleasure of all,” nearly every photo shows people with drinks in their hands. These people laugh, pour, clink their glasses, and share intimate looks. The following morning, the consumer’s pleasurable night is again attributed to alcohol. The concept of a “dream” contributes to the idea that advertisements offer something that will enhance the consumer’s life and increase their wealth.