Complex Imagery

Tyler Shields, (2011), Heather Morris [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 5 March 2017].
Former ‘Glee’ star Heather Morris appears to be starring in some form of feministic photoshoot. When we really examine this image closely, it becomes apparent that the intended message here has the potential for misconception.

The denotations portray the star dressed in a black and white polka dot dress (perhaps representative of the stay at home mum or even a maid) with her hands tied together by a piece of black fabric to arouse the idea that she has been objectified. Her teeth are tightly clenching an electrical cord from an iron which appears to be being pulled across her by another individual (supposedly a male) which is perhaps symbolic of a leash. The prominent bruised area around her eye suggests that she has been beaten or abused by her male counterpart, yet interestingly, she does not appear to be in a state of discomfort (insinuated by the smile and mischievous gaze of the eyes).

Could these connotations suggest that she is unfazed by her situation? Could this actually be an attempt by the photographer to glorify the concept of domestic abuse? Or are the signifiers that suggest this simply too subtle to draw a conclusion?


Could the real message behind this image be less violent than we think? Photographed by an extremist? It’s possible.

The iron itself as a household item commonly associated with women could conceivably be representative of the TV star being consumed by her roles and responsibilities as a woman. Maybe the underlying message is that perhaps it is time for men to adopt these practices in a time where the female demographic is rapidly becoming increasingly involved in the workforce? To completely flip this concept on its head, could Heather Morris actually be resisting this change? The male (representative of society?) could be attempting to strip her of her womanly connotations. She fights back, gritting her teeth and drawing away from the force with a smirk on her lips to show determination and control. Is this a representation of how the female demographic, when confronted by the opposite sex, can exhibit strength and willpower? There are many questions here to consider.

I feel as though the real answer is not entirely clear, and the more I studied this image, the more possible interpretations flooded to mind. Perhaps it is simple, and I have dug too deep. However, if I have learned anything from attempting to make sense of this image, it is that the nature in which images and stories are portrayed in the media can be susceptible to misinterpretation, allowing the possibility for controversy to arise.

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