Taking inspiration from Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, this major research paper examines the ways in which strength and beauty are constructed in female and male sports commercials. Building off of themes such as the sport-media complex, encoding and decoding models of communication, media representations of women and post-feminism, this paper is concerned with exposing the disparities between media representations of female and male athletes. Using the Women’s Tennis Association’s “Strong is Beautiful” ad campaign in tandem with AT&T’s
“Paul George Strong” ad, the questions that guide this major research paper are:
• How does strength act as a reductive concept?
• How is the word “beautiful” encoded in the “Strong is Beautiful” ad campaign?
• At what level (i.e. connotative or denotative) do the words “strong” and “beautiful” operate in the “Strong is Beautiful” television commercial?
• At what level does the word “strong” operate in the “Paul George Strong” television commercial? And finally, what does the “Strong is Beautiful” television commercial and the “Paul George Strong” television commercial communicate about the beauty myth in sport? What do these commercials say about post-feminism in sport?
Employing social semiotic theory and multimodal analysis, this paper concludes that strength is applied universally to the female athletes in the “Strong is Beautiful” commercial which solidifies the term as a male standard. As a result, the term has an oppressive connotation when used to describe female athletes thereby contradicting the very notion of what a female athlete should be: empowered.