Tag Archives: Women

Manhood=Beer. Women, take note.

7 Sep

In the discourse over the nature of men and women there emerges a popular theme: Men and women are two different creatures.

We have various forms of media and social vehicles telling us this; movies , books (“Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”), our friends (“ugh, men” and “women, who needs um?”), music, and of course, commercials. Commercials are great (from an analysist point of view) because they’re meant to convey a lot in a short time frame. They often employ social short-hand to this end that tells a sociological observer a lot about the target audience.

For me, there are few things as reflective of men’s cultural identity than beer commercials. Beer commercials reflect and reinforce men’s identity as men, their relationship to women, to other men and to the world around them. In this instance I’m talking about straight men as the assumedĀ epitomeĀ of manhood but I believe that gay men are also influenced greatly by these images.

The fact that these beer commercials are almost all marketed to men reveals a certain sociological awareness on the part of beer marketing companies: they must realize the phallocentric lens women see themselves through and therefore market to men knowing that it will reach women as well. That is, they’re aware that women are taught to see themselves and other women through the eyes of men. Furthermore, the superior value attached to “manhood” rather than “femininity” in this culture results in a constant attempt to “be one of the guys”, to be “the cool girl” (the one that plays video games, watches football and drinks beer yet remains a “woman” in certain ways).

For example, in the following Miller Lite video women are warned not to be the party poopers who look down on objectification but to, taking a cue from Pam Anderson, join in on the bikini-clad pillow fight of life (for the sexual gaze of men, of course).

Then we have the “Man Up” commercials in which, in a rarely seen twist, women are policing men’s gender performance, encouraging them to reject signs of femininity and embrace their man-ness (the ideal) with beer and pants:

In this example we have a clear distinction between the joys/worlds of men and women (also notice the skin tones of those in the commercial)

(Edit: I read a comment about my post on a forum pointing out that the ad is not an American one and therefore should not have to reflect American demographics. This is fair and true. And I was sloppy in my analysis of this ad. But I do retain the same criticism for American ads that feature entirely white characters):

This one I found incredibly offensive.

I only sleep with someone if they claim to like Celine Dion, not Peter Cetera. Who the hell is Peter Cetera?

This commercial not only offends my musical tastes (as a ticket-to-Lillith-Fair-carrying woman, of course) but also marks women as trophies to be collected (or displayed demurely on someone’s wall) and as the ultimate object to obtain in order to be a true man or “the man”.

And finally this one is my favorite. How dare Heineken imply that women do not also have a telepathic connection to quality beer.

Throughout all the commercials you may notice that the racial make up of the majority of them are white. The few exceptions involve black men (perhaps referencing conceptions of black men as sexually potent) but never a woman of color as the sexual object. White, relatively skinny but large breasted women remain the ideal and white men remain the normative eyes through which we see the (commercial) world.

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Alternative Images

16 May

So in all my criticism of media and society, the response to much of my ranting ends up being: then what is a “good” image? And/or “how can an image be entertaining if it doesn’t reference or mock “the way things are”?

So for a long time I’ve been really watchful for images that I think are “better” than the blatantly racist, gender reinforcing, ageist, (etc.) media we see all the time, mostly just to convince my friends that “better” images can exist (though I’m doubtful about actual “good” images…after all, they’re being used to sell something).

On the subway in New York City, during the winter, Halls put up what I thought was a brilliant, witty and less socially repugnant advertisement campaign to market it’s lozenges. The models included a South Asian man and one female model with different hair cuts as different women. There was also a white man in one. The models, were not wearing particularly “beauty”-enhancing makeup. Instead, they are all made to look sick and war-torn from their ailments.

I loved these ads because they captured in a look how I feel when I’m sick.

They also utilized a person of color in a non-stereotypical way. Nothing in the depiction of the South Asian man is on display in a way that separates him from the other models. There are none of the cultural cues that American media often utilize in depicting a South Asian man (such as a turban, a long beard, a desert background, a taxi, etc.). In fact, there are no cultural cues of any sort in any of the photos.

Also, the women in these ads are depicted, in my opinion, in far less sexualized, objectifying ways than women are normally depicted. They are not disembodied (like so many lipstick ads that just show lips), they are not “scantily clad” in “cleavage” revealing shirts or leg revealing skirts. And the illness make up strikes me as particularly rare to see on women when I’m so used to the heavy make up and photo-shopped faces of “flawless” women.

It seems that the ads are set in the 1960’s-1970’s and the captions feature “knightly” encouragements. I can see no reason to set them in another time period and the combination of this theme with the captions makes for a bizarre set of ads that are obnoxiously kitschy. And yet, I adore them.

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