November 25, 2008

Commercial Critique: Guitar Hero World Tour

Posted in advertising, body politics, Commercial Critique, double standards, gaming, gender, objectification, representation, sexism, television at 10:00 am by LB

I was originally pretty pleased at the Guitar Hero World Tour commercials. I liked that the first one, at least, showed a group of guys hanging out in comfy, even kinda sexy, clothing, rocking out like dorks. Typically representations of masculinity perform “boundary maintenance” (see “Fraternal Bonding”, which interestingly enough specifically talks about athletes), which is about displaying masculinity through sexism and homophobia; so often in commercials, the “cool guys” are the womanizing-objectifying type (not that the first GH didn’t have at least one of those in there), not the male bonding through semi-sexy fun type. So the initial commercial, at least, thwarted my expectation by not giving into the the sexist-homophobic construction of masculinity typically seen. The first one featured several male athletes (Plelps, A-Rod, Tony Hawk, Kobe Bryant) rocking it out in someone’s living room a la Risky Business, and several more have followed including American Idol stars David Archuleta and David Cook, High School Musical actor/singer Corbin Blue, and most recently model Heidi Klum. Except they’re not really a la Risky Business.

In Risky Business, Cruise dances around the living room in a long-sleeved button-down t-shirt, barely long enough to cover his ass, and nothing else is visible until the end when you see he has skimpy tighty whities on. In the GH commercials, the guys are dancing around in replica dress shirts and long, white boxers. Not 100% authentic, but I didn’t think anything of it because it’s a daytime commercial, and I figured they probably didn’t want it too seductive. That logic only held until I saw the Klum ad, where she wears (big surprise!) only the barely long enough dress shirt–no white shorts.

Why the discrepancy? Does this go back to the idea that sexualizing women’s bodies is acceptable for general consumption, but men’s bodies are (generally) off limits? What’s especially interesting to me here is that the original context of the parody was the sexual one–it’s not like they changed the commercial to make the one with the woman more sexual; rather they specifically desexualized the men’s commercials, and in doing so, deviated from its original context. It doesn’t bother me that they deviated; it’s that they deviated from, and desexualized, only the ones with the men.

But wait–it gets better. Because they actually did make the women’s one more sexual. The version of Klum’s commercial aired during Monday Night Football featured Klum with the button-down shirt unbuttoned, displaying black lingerie underneath. During her GH “performance”, she strips her shirt off, gyrating around, shakes her boobs while leaning back–all very stripper-like moves; again, this version is way off from the original they are supposed to be parodying. Celebrity Smack has this characterization of the commercial:

Close-ups of her ass and her boobs come next, followed by Heidi jumping down on the couch and holding the guitar between her legs as though it were a 2-foot long sex toy.

It is indeed a very sexualized commercial, Klum is turned into a quasi-porn star and the guitar seems more like a phallus than a fake guitar. This still is particularly telling:

Before anyone points out that “it’s not that bad”, the point is that for a series of commercials that are supposed to be citing a famous film scene, the ad makers go out of their way to increase the sexualization of the one commercial featuring a woman, and decrease the sexualization of the many commercials featuring a man or men. The only ad they made that is an accurate representation of the film is the “family-friendly” Klum ad. And until now, I haven’t even pointed out the 3:1 male:female ratio of the ads, nor the vocations of the genders represented (athletes and musicians: supermodel, how original!).

Let me point out, that there have been more “successful” replications of the Risky Business scene. Exhibit A: one of my favorite shows, Scrubs, had a JD fantasy sequence with the guys imitating Cruise. Now they don’t go through and dance–the fantasy is cut short–and the scene is much more goofy than sexy, but there we had 4 guys on non-cable TV early prime-time (and syndicated now during the day) with the same shirt some Cruise-like much skimpier undies. No reason GH couldn’t follow suit.

But maybe our only women’s-bodies-should-be-objectified/men-looking-at-men’s-bodies-makes-you-gay society can’t handle the swooning that would ensue if we were able to see as much of A-Rod, Phelps, and Kobe’s athletic physiques as we see of JD, Turk, Dr. Cox, and The Todd. For a game that appeals quite equally to female as well as male players, GH sure didn’t aim to give men and women equal ad time and representation.

(For other posts in this series, click here)


July 10, 2008

Eat your gender: commercial critique part 2

Posted in advertising, Commercial Critique, double standards, food politics, gender at 12:00 pm by LB

I like the multiple entendre of this title…but unfortunately this post isn’t about one of the awesome interpretations. It’s about gendered eating in recent advertising.

I’m a bit late on some of these commercials, but they go better together in one post anyways.

Unapologetically Female and Feminocracy both have great assessments of Adam Corrolla’s (yeah, of the Man Show, known for it’s sexism, which clearly makes him the ideal spokesperson for what men like) ad for Taco Bell and his insistence to “eat like a man.”

“You deserve a meal made for men.” Let’s break this down. Read the rest of this entry »

July 3, 2008

AT & T and gender: commercial critique part 1

Posted in advertising, beauty culture, Commercial Critique, gender roles, gender stereotypes, kyriarchy, representation, television at 11:09 pm by LB

Is anyone besides me really annoyed by the latest AT & T Wireless commercial campaign? They sure say a lot about gender expectations and values vis-a-vis gender and behavior.

The “alter ego” commercials (or so they are dubbed on youTube) have one version of the commercial’s subject talking to the camera and one acting out a scene in the background. The person talking to the camera is saying how someone doesn’t have AT &T, therefore they have no reception, therefore something awful is happening to them, represented by the storyline being acted out in the background.

“Kelly’s Dad” was the first one I saw that I really didn’t like. Like most other annoying representation of stereotyped assumptions, I rolled my eyes and said “great.” But after several more commercials from AT & T that feed unhealthy gender assumptions and values, a pattern has emerged. Read the rest of this entry »

May 9, 2008

Petition against Dairy Queen for sick and offensive commercial

Posted in advertising, gender, gender stereotypes, sexualizing youth at 12:30 pm by LB

Thanks to commenter Lee Phillips for alerting me to this petition against this Dairy Queen commercial. even though I spoke more to the gender assumptions rather than the sexualization of kids (a critique to which I say a loud “I agree! of course!” to). From the petition:

The Diary Queen Corporation has just started a new television ad which encourages adults to see young children as sexually seductive. In this commercial, a young girl (about age 8 or 9) decides to intentionally flirt with, and seduce a young boy (about the same age) into buying her a sundae (in the same manner that a man would buy a drink for a romantic interest at a singles bar.) Once the little girl has won the sundae (compliments of the smitten boy) via making “goo goo” eyes at him, she then turns to her mother and says, precociously, “It’s just like shooting fish in a barrel.” In this commercial Dairy Queen cynically seeks to exploit and sexualize young children, in order to sell ice cream.

Dairy Queen seems to have no awareness, or no concern, that our society increasingly sexualizes young children. One only need consider children’s increasing preference for seductive dress, the increasing incidence of pre-teenage anorexia, and body distortion problems, and events like the Joan Benet-Ramsey case to get a sense that our children’s innocence is under attack. Sexualizing children not only puts unhealthy pressure on them and compromises the quality and joy of their childhood, but it also arouses the pruriant interest of pedophiles. Such messages suggest that “permission” is given, and that children welcome sexual encounters.

May 6, 2008

What’s up with the new Dairy Queen commercial?

Posted in advertising, Commercial Critique, gender stereotypes, sexual politics at 10:00 am by LB

I just had to write about this.

Anyone else besides me think this new Dairy Queen commercial is pretty fucked up?

Coming from a young child: flirting with a little boy to get free stuff is “like shooting fish in a barrel.” Great. We’re back to unabashedly encouraging girls (and women) to use their femininity to take advantage of men’s apparent “natural weakness” for women. And this manipulative ability and tendency inevitably comes naturally for women–hell, a girl doesn’t even need to learn this. Hear that? It’s easy–just part of who we are, apparently. Talk about valorizing and naturalizing benevolent sexism.

How many awful, reprehensible gender stereotypes does the whole idea of this commercial reinforce?

To me, it’s flat-out anti-feminist.

Any thoughts out there?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

April 25, 2008

Sexualized Ads Become "Obscene" When Guys are the Objects

Posted in advertising, ideology, mass media, objectification, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources at 10:39 am by LB

So this video and news issue is a wee bit old, but the idea it raises isn’t at all.

Apparently an in-store Abercrombie ad campaign (see video below) received complaints for being too sexual/obscene. Abercrombie has been doing this for years, for example, depicting cartoons of topless girls (yeah, they looked awful young) in pools and having threesomes in their catalog back when I worked in the mall 10 years ago. And in this day and age of hypersexualization of women’s bodies and the general pornification of everyday life, you would think these ads must be awfully revealing to be so scandalous.

The thing is, the ads aren’t that revealing. Not by far, and especially not compared to most ads we see everywhere. we. look.

Except that most sexualized ads we see are of women’s bodies (I said most-I am well aware of the sexual and homoerotic tones of several cologne ads). However, the Abercrombie campaign includes some sexy images…of guys. And the marketing target is upper-middle class, heterosexual teens, both female and male.


This is the part that struck me most:

“there’s half naked guys running around–it’s obscenity–is Playboy able to hang naked pictures in their store?”

Um, sorry dude, but the half naked men shown in Abercrombie ads is not the same as fully naked Playboy pictures. Like, at all. It’s more like Victoria’s Secret ads (and even then not quite the same there either)…and oh yeah, they are able to show those, and not only in their stores, but on billboards, the sides of buses, every f*cking magazine you pick up, not to mention, the goddamn TV!! Read the rest of this entry »

April 6, 2008

The More Things Change…

Posted in advertising, gender roles, gender stereotypes, sexual politics at 8:09 am by LB

The more they stay the same…

Check out these advice nuggets from 1950’s mags. Sound familiar? Via Food, Fat, Feminism.

And here’s a snippet from Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Me Softly 3 that I found on Youtube. She’s been doing research about media imagery and women’s sexuality and identity for 30 years. And it’s pathetic how much things don’t change. I recommend checking out her film (in lots of libraries!) and her book, Can’t Buy My Love (in my Amazon book picks).

(NOTE: nothing more after the jump)

March 26, 2008

Taco Bell Promo: Problematic? Yes. Misogynistic. Not Really.

Posted in advertising, body politics, gender, heteronormative, sports at 11:10 pm by LB

Feministing recently posted about a new Taco Bell Promo, calling it “misogynistic.” Since then I’ve seen a bit in the anti-feminism segment of the blogosphere, up in arms because “the feminists are at it again!” bitching over nothing because our abundant gender equality makes it so we have nothing else to complain about.

To be honest, I didn’t think the ad was misogynist (as in perpetuating woman-hate), and I just moved on to reading the next feministing story. But me not classifying it as misogynistic doesn’t mean it isn’t deeply problematic.

The whole promo is this: you can “pretend” you are a fashion photographer by taking still images from digital video footage of a model on location (who happens to be in the current SI swimsuit issue, to be discussed further down). Yes, you read it right. It’s really that stupid.

But, it’s also problematic.

This report from MarketingVox hits the nail on the head:

SI and Taco Bell promoted the site with online ads on and, as well as other sites with a large male audience.

  • Whether or not men are the largest consumer “category” of Taco Bell (thereby justifying addressing its advertising to men) is inconsequential. Promos like these that directly and unapologetically target and reward heterosexual men treat all other customers as irrelevant. That there are more customers from one demographic group than another does not justify acting like the others don’t exist.
  • It also assumes that women’s bodies are generically understood as THE body that should be objectified-that women’s bodies do and should operate as desirable objects for heterosexual men and women alike. The creators might indeed respond by claiming that many women (lesbians too?) will enjoy the interactive site. But this begs the question, if it really is a both-gender activity, then why the heavy promotion on sites with large male audiences? If it is really seen as a gender-neutral activity, then why tailor the advertising of the promo to men as well?
  • And it’s insulting to and generalizes men as well. It’s clear to me that this was thought to be a reward for heterosexual men-something that they would want to spend time doing in the evening, and also taking in the advertising for the new Taco Bell products. This a pretty shallow assumption of how men ideally spend their time and what they find compelling and valuable. And did I say yet that it’s pretty dumb?
  • Even more blatant, yet also often forgotten, there is an enormous amount of heteronormativity going on here. For even if the justification for the promo is that the Taco Bell audience is mostly male, there is the underlying assumption of the heterosexuality of those men. How else do you explain a promo targeted at men that rewards them with being able to “direct” (yes, the promo is called “Directing Danielle,” which is kinda icky) the photographing of a swimsuit model?

Why don’t they allow the winner to have a choice of model?, you ask. That would make sense to me. But that would presume that the promo is actually about the interactive activity on the website. But it’s about corporate sponsorship. The problem is that the promo is sponsored by none other than Sports Illustrated, who invests more money and energy in promoting (non-athletic) women’s bodies for visual consumption than in proper news coverage for female athletes. The mere existence of the swimsuit issue from a sports magazine (!) reminds us that the appropriate culturally-sanctioned use of women’s bodies is not athletics, not strength, not aggression, not speed, not size, not bulk, but is being a sexually desirable object, that’s small, that doesn’t take up too much space, that is passively sprawled out for display, and one that is always, always available

But the Taco Bell promo is not about being able to photograph a model. It’s about sponsorship revenue from a “Sports” news magazine that can’t seem to realize that strongly advocating women as sex objects for the heterosexual male viewer, the consumer of choice, has no place in a magazine that is
supposed to be about sports-women’s and men’s sports, with readers who are female and male, heterosexual and queer, white and people of color.

No one needs to apologize for finding women attractive, and this criticism does not suggest that finding a person attractive is wrong. But the problem here is the assumption that (straight men) are the center of the world and that women’s bodies alone are the ubiquitous symbol of sexuality and beauty. And that’s what needs apologizing for.