Interactive Meaning Potentials in Weight-loss Web-advertising: The Female Body in Crisis

Emily Lau Kui Ling


The common saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is no longer questioned in the twenty-first century where information is extensively rendered in visual terms. The rise of digital capture devices and online social media presumes that visual culture is heading towards greater influence in every aspect of life. This paper explores the ways visual representations attract the viewer’s attention, and based on Jewitt and Oyama’s analytical framework of visual social semiotics seeks to understand the meaning-making potentials of weight-loss advertising. Three key factors: distance, contact, and point of view are shown to be crucial in creating complex and subtle relations between the represented and the viewer. I examine several images from a weight-loss website advertisement ( to demonstrate how the semiotic resources of meaning making are comprehended, and more importantly, to expose the flawed gender message that only a slim, shapely, beautiful woman is attractive and succeeds in a heterosexual relationship. 


advertisements; semiotics resources; slimming; visual culture; website

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