Killing Us Softly is a series of documentaries about the power of images in the media, and how they contribute to current public health problems, such as eating disorders and violence. The documentaries stress the importance of media literacy as a way to prevent problems that originate from mass media advertising campaigns.

Killing Us Softly 4 (2010)

Killing Us Softly 3 (2000)

Kilbourne found that Americans are bombarded with an average of 3,000 advertisements per day and that the average human being will spend three years of their life watching advertisements. With these staggering statistics, it is hard to believe that people still feel personally exempt from the influence of advertisement. The Foundation of Mass Media says that advertisements sell products, images and concepts of normalcy. They tell us who we should be.

Kilbourne argues that advertisements can demean women through three distinct portrayals. One view is that women are depicted as objects. Their bodies lose value and can become equal to something as meaningless as a pair of scissors. Another view shows women depicted as animals, especially women of color. Because of this, they are seen as inferior human beings and thus reinforcing the concept of “otherness”. A final view is that women are depicted as suitable subjects for male violence.

Kilbourne’s research points to the fact that American culture and society needs to recognize that no one is personally exempt from the influence of advertisements. She also calls attention to the fact that advertisement’s depiction of women are dangerous to female perceptions and self-esteem. Killing Us Softly III, covers advertisement’s portrayal of women and calls for individuals to recognize the perils of the current state of negative portrayals of women in advertisements.

Still Killing Us Softly (1987)

Killing Us Softly (1979)