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Killing Us Softly 4

Advertising's Image of Women

Killing Us Softly 4

Now with Spanish Subtitles!
Duration: 45 min
ISBN: 1-932869-44-1
Date Produced: 2010
Subtitles: English & Spanish

Filmmaker Info
Study Guide
Press Room
Film Festivals
Praise for the Film

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Killing Us Softly 4
Advertising's Image of Women

Do you want to teach about portrayals of women in the media?

This highly anticipated update of Jean Kilbourne's influential and award-winning Killing Us Softly series, the first in more than a decade, takes a fresh look at American advertising and discovers that the more things have changed, the more they've stayed the same. Breaking down a staggering range of more than 160 print and television ads, Kilbourne uncovers a steady stream of sexist and misogynistic images and messages, laying bare a world of frighteningly thin women in positions of passivity, and a restrictive code of femininity that works to undermine girls and women in the real world. At once provocative and inspiring, Killing Us Softly 4 stands to challenge yet another generation of students to take advertising seriously, and to think critically about its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, gender violence, and contemporary politics.

Sections: Introduction | Ads Everywhere | A Constructed Beauty | Objectification | Judged by Looks Alone | Thinness | Dieting | Eating & Morality | Global Impact | Infantilization & Powerlessness | Advertising & Sex | Experienced Virgins | Consumerism & Sexualizing Products | Masculinity | Violence | What to do?

Jean Kilbourne

Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and for her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. In the late 1960s she began her exploration of the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction, and launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems. A radical and original idea at the time, this approach is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs. Her films, lectures and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. Kilbourne was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses. She is the creator of the renowned Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women film series and the author of the award-winning book Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and co-author of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.

Jean Kilbourne's website -- -- contains a host of information, including:
How to schedule a lecture with Jean Kilbourne at your school or organization
Information on her books
An extensive list of resources for change

Filmmaker Info

Created & Written By: Jean Kilbourne
Directed By: Sut Jhally
Edited By: Sut Jhally & Andrew Killoy
Media Research: Loretta Alper

Film Festivals

2010 Toronto International Body Image Film Festival

Recent & Upcoming Screenings

American Sociological Association meeting | Las Vegas | August 20-23, 2011
Eastern Communication Association| Arlington, VA | April 14, 2011
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference | New Orleans | March 10 - 13, 2011


Academy for Eating Disorders, Special Recognition Award, 2002
Action Coalition for Media Education Media Activist National Award, 2006
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, WIN (Women's Image Now) Award, 1995
Association for Women in Psychology, Distinguished Publication Award, 2000 (For Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think & Feel)
Boston University School of Education, Ida M. Johnston Award
Educational Foundation of America, 1980 (Grant for a study of gender stereotypes in television commercials)
Entertainment Industries Council, Special Commendation, 1990
Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975 (Profiled in the book)
Germaine Lawrence, Inc., Woman of Excellence Award, 2005
Governor's Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence, Massachusetts, 2003-2005
Kansas City, Kansas, 2004 (Given keys to the city by Mayor Kay Barnes)
MEDA (Multiservice Eating Disorders Association), Annual Award, 2007
Miss Hall's School, Woman of Distinction Award, 2007
Myra Sadker Equity Award, 2005
National Association for Campus Activities, Lecturer of the Year Award (1988 and 1989)
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Marty Mann Founder's Award, 1998
National Organization for Women, Boston chapter, Woman of the Year, 1982
Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Canada, Award of Merit, 1993
PCAR (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape) / NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), Lifetime Television's Times Square Project Award
Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, Hilda Crosby Standish Leadership Award, 2005
Reclaim the Media, 2008 (Included as one of twenty-one journalists, media activists, and educators in their "Media Heroes" deck of trading cards)
Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco (STAT), Annual Award
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Advisory Council on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, 1993-1996
Wellesley Centers for Women, Senior Scholar (2008-present); Visiting Research Scholar, 1984-2008)
Westfield State College, Honorary Doctorate, 2004
Womanspace, Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award, 2008
Women's Action Alliance, Leadership in Action Award, 1995

Press Reviews

Praise for the Film

"A piece of art crafted over four decades, this film will change, and perhaps even save, lives. A must-have, even if your library owns previous releases."
- School Library Journal

"When I was a freshman in college, I saw Jean Kilbourne speak in support of her documentary Killing Us Softly -- and it quite literally changed my life. It illuminated so much about how the media work and the impact of ads on our collective psyche when it comes to self-esteem, body image and women. I am not exaggerating when I say that it put me on the path to becoming whatever it is I am today (girl advocate, body image activist, and feminist writer). Well, now an updated version of Killing Us Softly is out... and if you have never seen any of Jean's work, now is the time."
- Audrey Brashich | Author of All Made Up: A Girl's Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty

"Jean Kilbourne's work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture -- advertising. We owe her a great debt."
- Susan Faludi | Author, Backlash and Stiffed

"In today's hypercommercialized media climate, Kilbourne's main point -- that advertising creates a toxic cultural environment in which sexual objectification, physical subjugation and intellectual trivialization of women has deep psychological and political resonance -- is more compelling than ever."
- Jennifer L. Pozner | Executive Director of Women in Media & News | Author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV

"Every semester, my new crop of students continue to be shocked awake by this film."
- Melanie Klein |

"The response from the students was simply amazing. They clapped when the video ended! That is a first in my 37+ years of college teaching. One of my students came up after class and said: 'This video just changed my life.' Jean Kilbourne's impact on our students is simply awesome."
- Tom Proietti | Professor of Communication | Monroe Community College | Rochester, NY

"As timely and important as ever... A must for everyone who cares about media literacy and gender equity."
- Susan Douglas | Author, Where the Girls Are: Growing Up With the Mass Media

"Sex sells, and this update of author and lecturer Jean Kilbourne's Killing Us Softly film series examines how advertising tactics and images in popular culture reinforce unrealistic viewpoints about "beauty, perception, and identity." Speaking before an appreciative audience, with accompanying visuals (advertising and print-media stills, television clips, and commercials) smoothly intercutting the lecture, Kilbourne clearly relays statistics, anecdotes, and quotes. Many of the clips show impossibly glamorous, thin women (sometimes digitally enhanced or a composite), and according to Kilbourne, girls and women often try to conform to these images, resulting in widespread eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. She believes some contemporary ads border on pornography, and females are objectified, and products (from burritos to beer) are sexualized. Men fare better, but masculine portrayals are often linked with violence. Kilbourne urges viewers to change their attitudes and become "citizens," not consumers. Promises to promote discussion in women's studies groups and mass-media classes."
- Booklist

"I just saw Killing Us Softly 3 in my sociology class and was absolutely amazed, inspired and outraged!"
- Leigh Ann | Student

"Jean Kilbourne's work is profoundly important. She's one of those people who makes a difference in how we see the world."
- Arlie Hochschild | Director of the Center for Working Families | University of California, Berkeley

"Killing Us Softly 4 is an important, updated critique of the pernicious influence advertising has on women and men."
- Anthropology Review Database

"Hearing Jean Kilbourne is a profound experience. Audiences leave her feeling she teaches them to see themselves and their world differently."
- Carole Beebe Tarantelli | Member of Italian Parliament

"Jean Kilbourne is a prophet calling out in the wilderness for fundamental change in the way we communicate publicly with one another."
- Adweek

"Jean Kilbourne's arguments are as focused and unassailable as those of a good prosecutor. Piece by piece she builds a case for an America deeply corrupted by advertisers."
- Mary Pipher | Author, Reviving Ophelia

" continue to teach men contempt for women and the feminine side of themselves. All encourage people to think that life's problems are best solved with products... With skill, humor and acuteness, Kilbourne encourages action against these society -- weakening images. Never shrill, her indictment is, if anything, understated."
- Jay Carr | The Boston Globe

"A must-have for classroom discussions and women's conferences."
- Urbanette magazine

"Jean Kilbourne is opening the public's eyes to the subtle way ads demean or exploit us. Her writing and research have made her a recognized expert in the field."
- Christine Madsen | The Christian Science Monitor

"Advertisements have undergone sociological scrutiny before... but rarely with such humanistic conviction. Jean Kilbourne's gift for metaphor threads her presentation together. As each theme is stated and documented, her audiences are moved to laughter, anger, and, in some cases, no doubt, action."
- James Morrow | Media and Methods

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