Semiotics Of A Good Girl Gone Bad


What do you see in this picture? What do you know about the person in this picture? What do you know about the context surrounding this picture? What’s your own context?

Your answers to those four questions will surely shape the way you answer this last question – how does this picture make you feel?

So let’s start from the beginning.

Question 1: What do you see?

Most people (if not all) see an attractive young woman wearing a very revealing crystal-laced dress while on the red carpet of a show or ceremony. That’s the simple denotation of this picture.

Question 2: What do you know about this person?

Again most people will know who this woman is. It’s Rihanna; one of the biggest recording artists in the world, a fashion icon, and an actress (not a good one, but still an actress). She’s known for her powerful vocals, risqué performances, controversial music video content, and her daring and unique style.

Question 3: What do you know about the context?

Before Rihanna stepped onto the red carpet in that dress back in June 2014, certain things were going on in society that may or may not have contributed to her choice of outfit. “Free The Nipple” is an online campaign aimed at “…empower[ing] women… [and] stand[ing] against female oppression and censorship..”, and has been endorsed by many celebrities including Rihanna.  At that time it was a hot topic in the media (still is really) and Rihanna was receiving publicity over her own experiences of censorship. On the 29th of April 2014, Rihanna used Instagram to promote her appearance on the cover of French magazine LUI, where she just happened to be exposing her nipples. Instagram were quick to suspend Rihanna’s account until the photo was removed, claiming that the photo was in “…violation of their terms of service.” Perhaps the dress was a stand against such censorship or maybe it was just a coincidence.

It’s also important to note that Rihanna wore this dress to the CFDA Fashion Awards where she was receiving the Fashion Icon award.

Question 4: What’s your own context?

Our own context plays the most significant part in the forming of our view. We can know everything we want about a picture but the way we interpret that information relies on our own characteristics, beliefs and experiences. It can come down to something as simple as your gender or your age. Then there’s religion, socio-economic standing, health, and groups that you identify with (in this case you could be a feminist or anti-feminist) that all play a part too.

And finally…

Question 5: How does it make you feel?

That’s something you’ll need to answer by commenting or sending me a tweet at @braydenpalmer01.

Personally I think the dress is better suited for someone else…



(Peter Griffin image via


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