Connotations of Controversial Images in the Media

Disclaimer: If you are not ok with images depicting violence or gruesome injuries, take care with reading this post.

This image depicts a black background with the bust of a woman to the right of the frame and writing to the left saying ‘Victim of Beauty’. The woman is wearing heavy but well done makeup and a lacy red top is visible. However, the woman is also sporting a black eye. Controversial images appear in our media for a number of purposes. This is often to grab the attention of audiences though this can have positive or negative effects. This image is the first of a fashion spread in Belgium magazine 12. The images continue to show beautiful women with violent injuries ranging from ripped piercing to a slashed throat. At first look, the images appear to be part of a campaign for violence against women.

Published in June 2012, the images soon gained international attention for glamourizing violence. A few months after the spread, 12 posted this video of the special effects makeup artist Daniela Avramova making up the models for the shoot and talking about her work in special effects and prosthetics. This appears to be an attempt to show the world that the images do not glamourize violence but show the talents and creativity of the artist. I see this as dangerous as it is leaning far too closely to the idea of blaming the victim for violence that is unwilling forced upon them. Even the words ‘Victim of Beauty’ implies that the women have been victimised for the way they look. This is further enforced by the women being attractive, and seductively dressed.

The controversial nature of the photos gained international recognition on blogs such as Perez Hilton and Jezebel. The magazine has its own ideas about creativity and depicting the power of women, and was obviously successful in gaining plenty of media attention; however, this cannot be seen as a positive thing due to the negative connotations of the images. The danger of these connotations is that they encourage the ideology of victim blaming and so I believe that the magazine was wrong in presenting such a demeaning view of women.

Media or Society?

Why do people still assume that the effects model is an accurate and effective way to understand media and its potential influence? I will attempt to answer this by looking at two of Gauntlett’s Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’.

Firstly, within the effects model, violence depicted in news, current affairs and ‘serious’ factual programs are not counted among those that will have an adverse influence on the general public. It is not explained why this is though it seems very untoward given that in fiction there are almost always consequences for violent behaviour whereas this is not the case in real life events. Real life events have serious consequences for victims though less often do the perpetrators face consequences. So would it not make more sense to assume that witnessing real life violent acts on news and current affairs would be more likely to induce antisocial behaviour? This is not taken into consideration in the effects model.

Secondly, the effects model takes a stance of superiority, never considering that the media that they believe will dangerously influence others will ever affect themselves (Gauntlett, 1998). Children, youth, the ‘uneducated’ and women are all believed to be at risk, while psychologists who are conducting tests and are ‘exposed’ to the supposedly corrupting material are convinced they will not be affected.

The effects model is not an accurate or effective way to understand the media and its potential influences on the general public. While studies are focusing on the effects of media on the public, they are not considering that the public influences each other. Society can fail an individual, for example, in the case of Jamie Bulger’s murder, a number of societal factors (such as poverty, alcoholism, and bullying) all combined to result in two young children committing violence on another child. Media displays what society wants, and if that is to watch violence then perhaps the media is saying something about society rather than the other way around.

Welcome to my Blog


My name is Paris Bridge and I a second year student at the University of Wollongong. I am studying Communication and Media Studies looking to major in International Media and Communication. I began last year studying an Arts degree  with a plan to major in French. However, French was definitely not the language for me so I transferred into BCM half way through 2012.

I am currently living in Wollongong on Campus which is great and has led to meeting awesome people from all over the place. I’m originally from the South Coast/Shoalhaven area which is very beautiful and I miss it quite a bit. But Wollongong is also lovely and home is only an hour away.

In five years’ time I hope to be finished university (though with my general indecision that is questionable) and finding my feet in a workplace that is as yet completely unknown. I hope to figure out what I want to do in the next year or two.

My current media habits include an addiction to twitter as it is the best way for me to keep up to date on all the happenings in the Cycling World Tour (mostly held throughout Europe) which is my obsession. I am also spending some time attempting to understand Australian politics because I recently realised that I have to vote later and the year and I want my vote to actually mean something.

That’s about it, I guess. I look forward to checking out everyone’s blogs in the next few weeks!