There are many ways to view an image. Every individual holds different perspectives, values and morals all of which greatly contribute to their personal ideas derived from a photo. Often the ‘denotation’ of an image is perceived commonly among individuals as it may be quite literal and obvious. However, when analysing the connotation of an image a ray of views can be produced.
A great example of an image with differing denotation and connotation views is Lady Gaga’s meat dress at the 2010 VMA awards.
What can we see in the image and what are my initial thoughts?
What can we see? A meat dress, meat heels, a meet clutch, a meat head piece- lots of red. Thoughts? Firstly, my question was why?! Why would anyone take an extreme leap out of the norms of society and wear a meat dress, especially at an event like the VMA’s? I was confused, it didn’t make sense. Meat is meant to be consumed not worn isn’t it…
Other words that popped to mind… crazy, physco, attention seeker and weird. It wasn’t only the dress but a clutch and head piece too. Extremely over the top I thought.
When I asked friends and family, all their thoughts were along the same path. From an idiot, to wouldn’t that smell- they weren’t impressed. To a few it was obvious she was trying to prove a point… but what this point was isn’t clear.
What is really meant by the image?
Being extremely interested in the mentality behind such an outfit, I conducted some research. Happily, I found out that this outrageous fashion moment held a deeper meaning.
Firstly, I was surprised to have learnt that the dress was made out of real meat! The Los Angeles based designer Franc Fernandez states “The dress is indeed real meat from my family butcher” admitting he bought more than “50 pounds of meat”.
But why meat? From head to toe, Lady Gaga was clearly attempting to bring about a symbolic concept, which she informed Ellen Degeneres of in an interview on the following. She admitted it has “many interpretations” but stated “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat.”
Further, Lady Gaga justifies her outfit ” it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgment-free human being on the earth. However, it has many interpretations, but for me this evening …”
After reading this interpretation and realising her true aim of such a statement I understood her extreme measures. She believed so deeply in standing up for personal beliefs and successfully brought attention to this concept by turning heads across the world. I came to respect her fashion statement.
So therefore, I believe this image is a true justification of connotations within an image. I do admire her confidence and individuality.
Mapes, J 2010, ‘Lady Gaga Explains Her Meat Dress: “It’s No Disrespect” ‘ , Billboard, viewed 10 April 2015, http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/956399/lady-gaga-explains-her-meat-dress-its-no-disrespect
Clott, S 2010, ‘Everything You Wanted To Know About Lady Gaga’s VMA Meat Dress!’, MTV Style, viewed 10 April 2015, http://style.mtv.com/2010/09/13/2010-vmas-lady-gaga-meat-dress-real/
Clott, S 2010, ‘Was Lady Gaga’s VMA Meat Dress Real?’, MTV Style, viewed 10 April 2015, http://style.mtv.com/2010/09/13/2010-vmas-was-lady-gagas-meat-dress-real/
Winterman D, Kelly J 2010, ‘Five interpretations of Lady Gaga’s meat dress’ BBC News, viewed 10 April 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-11297832