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)


August 15, 2008

Must-read posts about Olympic uniforms and photography

Posted in double standards, sexual politics, sports, television at 12:00 pm by LB

Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town has a superb post about Olympic uniforms, with side by side comparisons of male and female uniforms, showing the stark differences for which there is no rational justification except that more and more women are only worthy of attention when they’re sexualized too. Now I feel like I don’t need to write one myself!

Tigtog said it before, but I’ll say it again: minute increases in performance cannot account for this difference, otherwise the men would be in skintight clothing also.

No. It’s not about faster, higher, stronger. Women in sports are promoted as sexualised bodies for ogling; men are promoted as performers.

And don’t miss this post from AfterEllen about gratuitous women’s butt shots. Another excellent side-by-side photo comparison.

Women were overwhelmingly more likely to be cropped so they were rendered faceless and in many cases totally headless. I’ve posted all these photos, un-manipulated (other than sizing) and framed as the photographer submitted them, to show how aesthetic dismemberment is commonplace when it comes to women […]

But when looking for comparable headless shots of male players I came up with only three, yes, three: two of hands and one of feet.

July 14, 2008

MTV takes a “shot” at bisexuality

Posted in heteronormative, lesbian, queer, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, television at 12:00 pm by LB

Wow. So the other night I was just mindlessly watching “The Soup” on E! as I got ready to go out, and let me tell you, I needed a drink after that. Can I just say that I saw this coming long ago when my women’s studies students informed me there’d be a new romance reality show featuring a bisexual woman, and thus, both male and female contestants. (First aside, this show could have never happened with a male bisexual, which is so unacceptable in our culture.) Yes, I’m talking about Tila Tequila’s “A Shot at Love.”

And yes, I realize I’m actually spending time discussing the Myspace queen who stupidly takes credit for making gay marriage acceptable.

Now I didn’t see the whole show in question but I looked it up later to watch the relevant snippets. “The Soup” reported that the final episode of “A Shot at Love” had Tequila choosing between a woman and a man, and during the episode the woman has some sort of breakdown. Apparently, being chosen by Tequila must be a huge commitment because she is SOO torn over…wait for it…if she “wants a man or a woman.” (follow this link for the clip of the actual episode-the scene in question is at 1:05 remaining on the clip). As the host Joel McHale rightly comments, “I thought that was sort of implied when you said you were a bisexual.” Of course, Tequila chooses the woman, and, on cue, the woman declines.

“The Soup” posits that this was done to have a 3rd season of the show, which is very likely, but it also conveniently qualms our fears about the threat of lesbian sexuality and reiterates stereotypes about bisexuality to make it less threatening, more hetero-affirmative, and indeed co-opts it for male heterosexual desire. Tequila just couldn’t choose a woman and live happily ever after. The show being comprised of both guy-girl and girl-girl action was likely primarily intended to titilate the hetero male mind, not to actually show a loving caring relationship between two women external to any male pleasure. I mean, everyone knows that lesbians can only be seen if they’re heterosexually-validated as “hot”…and if we can watch. And bisexuality? That’s really just for bar games and threesomes. So of course, any serious attempt at an intimate relationship between two women must be thwarted.

(I do realize that I’m trying to ascribe a serious relationship to reality show couples, and how much that just seems goofy. But if they’re trying to make us think this is serious love, I’m going to treat it as such.) 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 »

June 17, 2008

The recession hits Beverly Hills: brilliant Daily Show clip

Posted in beauty culture, television at 10:11 pm by LB


Click here to view video. (apologies for technical difficulties).

May 9, 2008

Sex educator Sue Johanson quitting “Talk Sex”

Posted in news, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, television at 2:30 pm by LB

This makes me sad. Sue Johanson is calling her show quits. I always loved Sue Johanson’s “Talk Sex.” She is blunt and humorous, she encourages callers and viewers to not buy into representations and stereotypes around sex and encourages sexual communication among lovers. She speaks loud about the importance of safer sex practices and calls bullshit in callers’ unrealistic porn-and-media influenced expectations about sex. One of my favorites was when she called a caller out on the real reason he demands (yes, demands!) that his partner shaves her ladyparts. And she’s Canadian! All coming from a 77 year old awesome lady.

I first saw her when I was an undergrad at the University of Toronto 8 years ago, when I had no clue who she was. After that experience, I adored her! But alas, she’s retiring.


“I’m going to miss it terribly,” Johanson told The Associated Press. “It’s been part of my life and I just love it. I’m going to miss writing scripts. I’m going to miss having to read books. I’m going to miss playing with sex toys.”

Her final show will count down the year’s top 10 sex toys.

Check her site out on my blogroll.