Seeing Nature Through Our Own Eyes

Seeing Nature Through Our Own Eyes
Cultural signs and messages can be seen everywhere. Advertisements are one example of these signs and messages. All of these advertisements are made depending on what our society wants and how we view things. For example, many ads try to attract a busy, stressed out, urbanized man to a more peaceful and calm scenario by making a connection of their product to a peaceful part of nature. Since we believe that nature is peaceful and calm, we believe these products will bring us these qualities through nature. If nature were labeled as disturbing and unbearable, then these ads, which try to connect nature with their product, would not attract us. Oscar Wilde also agrees with this when he points out ìThings are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced usî(Oates 465). A careful analysis of a few ads can help exemplify this belief. Everything we see, including these advertisements of nature, is interpreted differently depending on our background and experiences that has influenced us.
All advertisements fall into one or more of three categories defined by Merchant. These categories are hierarchy, dialectics, or pastoral. The hierarchy category includes masculine aspects such as activeness, dominance, and adventure. On the other hand, the pastoral category is the opposite of the hierarchy category and includes more feminine ideas such as passiveness, peacefulness, and motherhood. The remaining dialectic category is one that is hard to define because it is neither active nor passive. This category falls in between hierarchy and pastoral because it contains ads that contain ideas that are neither feminine nor masculine. The following descriptions of the three ads fall into one or more of these categories.

The first advertisement of a Nissan Xterra suv gives you a ëreference domainí of strength, comfort, and power. The ad tries to convince us to buy this suv, which can be used to conquer nature comfortably. The ads has in big bold letters ìCouch for Sale,î as it tells us that this suv can be taken to ìthe mountains, the rivers, the oceans, whereverî and we can still be comfortable with this new type of ìcouch.î The ad tries to make our couch at home seem boring and this suv not only comfortable but also more fun by telling us ìrid [ourselves] of the soft, fluffy cushions and venture to where the fun is.î We can see a masculine connection to nature through the suv with mud on it and the man ëconqueringí nature. This advertisement falls straight into Merchantís hierarchy category because the suv can be used to conquer nature, which shows us an aspect of dominance and masculinity.

The next advertisement is not using nature to sell a product but actually advertising nature itself in a calendar. This gives you more of a natural, pure, and peaceful ëreference domainí when you look at it. This picture is for the month July that tells you to enjoy this month. This offers the people with this calendar a chance to escape the busy life to a more pure and peaceful environment and motivate them to get out and enjoy nature. In this ad we see a feminine connection to nature from the water flowing smoothly and the color green almost everywhere. This ad definitely falls into Merchantís pastoral category because of the pictureís calm and nurturing qualities.

The last advertisement is for spring break. At first glance, it gives you a free and relaxing ëreference domainí with the peaceful palm trees. However, when we read the statement ìadventurous travel,î it gives us a feeling of it being more of an exploratory trip than a relaxing one. The ad tells us that we can have an adventurous and relaxing time in nature if we go on this trip. Reading the different places it offers such as Cancun, Jamaica, London, Paris and a Party Cruise would make you think of this trip as relaxing. We see the calm palm trees in a scenario resembling a beach, which gives us a feminine connection to nature. This would make it fall in Merchantís pastoral category, but this is not the only category this ad could fall in. This ad also reads out adventure, which would place it under the hierarchy category.

Once the ads have been described, they can be analyzed according to our backgrounds and experiences. For example, a ënatural linkí to me is something thatís obviously linked, not something that is forced to link. My ënaturalí has been influenced by my background and the experiences I have had throughout my life. Whenever I have gone on a vacation, I have gone to relax and relieve stress, but others might take a vacation to do something more wild and adventurous. Also, our society tends to relate objects such as flowers, birds, and butterflies as feminine, and objects such as rocks, mud, dirt, and bears as masculine. If the ad is more aggressive, it points towards being masculine. On the other hand, if itís really passive, it points toward being feminine. Many advertisement force a link between the product and nature, when in fact, many of these links are not natural at all. For example, the spring break advertisement does have a feminine ënatural linkí to freedom and relaxing, but the other link with adventure is not natural. I think this masculine adventure link is forced so they can also appeal towards the other portion of society, which prefer adventure. The Nissan suv ad, I also think, is a masculine ënatural linkí, because it assumes that this suv can help you conquer nature. This link is natural because the suv does let you do things that other vehicles canít in places like ìthe mountains, the rivers, the oceans, wherever.î The calendar, I believe, is also a feminine ënatural linkí because looking at a peaceful scenario like the one shown would make you want to be in such a place. In this way, the perception of the ads is changed according to oneís background.

Nature can be linked to objects in order to tempt us to purchase them. We only buy objects that represent what we want. As Joyce Carol Oates claims that representations ìcreateî objects, we can see that ads make objects represent what we want in order to make us purchase them. Oates says that we romanticize nature to sell products. This means the ads make the bad aspects of nature look good in order to sell products. Since we have grown up, we have always tried making things that arenít good, look good so that they satisfy us. Values found in nature such as peace and serenity make those of us, who are busy, want to feel that way. Another example is when values of rough and tough nature might make those of us who want a challenge in a life to actually try to conquer nature. These different values can make us accept the offer presented by the ad if we want what nature supposedly represents.

There is more to every ad than simply viewing it. ìSeeingî something is a completely different experience than ìlooking atî something, according to Wilde. ìSeeingî involves glancing at the object, but to actually be ìlooking atî it is to interpret what you see. The ìarts that have influenced usî in the instance of ìseeingî include our background and experiences. The ads make us ìlook atî or interpret things completely differently depending on how we have been influenced. One man may see a jeep as a means of transportation from one place to another, while a more adventurous man may see it as a vehicle used for traveling in rough places like the wilderness. Another example would be a green field. A person with an athletic background may see it as a remarkable place to play some sport, but on the other hand somebody else might just see it as a beautiful place to relax in. As Redclift and Woodgate imply, we will never see what nature really is. They suggest that we have altered nature into many things in order to satisfy what we want it to be. Therefore, everyone is ìlooking atî nature differently because of the various backgrounds that have affected us. They also suggest that ënaturalí is really hard to define because of the many altered parts of nature. These many altered parts of nature have occurred because different people ìlook atî nature differently. This becomes an important consideration when ìlooking atî an ad.

ìNaturalî qualities can be seen in both managed and untouched environments in one way or another according to Redclift and Woodgate. I think that ënatural qualities can be found but the degree of how ënaturalí a scenario is different everywhere. I believe this because of my experiences that have influenced up what I see ënaturalí as. Many areas are protected, preserved, or kept in good condition by altering elements in the environment but they still have ënaturalí aspects to them. Redclift and Woodgate also mention that there is no dividing line that can be drawn to say what is ënaturalí and what its not. Everyone, based on how they grew up, may draw their own line depending on their standards, but nature and culture are so closely related that there can be no line set without having one or the other. ëNaturalí may be defined by nature, but culture today always somehow leaks into nature. To determine how ënaturalí something is, is to measure how much culture has crept into this ënaturalí nature. According to the way we have been raised our thoughts will always be affected by culture, so nature will always be interpreted differently. Culture influences nature, just as nature influences culture. This can be seen from the natural links of the advertisement, on how nature has spread onto culture. As William Cronan talks of nature and culture, he points out ìWe can only take them together and, in making the journey between them, find a way of life that does justice to them both.î As can be seen by the analysis of the ads discussed, definitions of ìnaturalî will always be greatly influenced by our cultural and background experiences.

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