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Advertising Rant #1

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Today I decided to just rant off the top of my head about something that struck me on the way in to work this morning as being a good topic to rant about, and I hope that you’ll have seen enough examples on your own to know what I’m referring to.

Advertising — easy target, I know; more specifically, portrayal of the genders in advertising. Any time this topic gets discussed the only area that seems to get any focus is the sexification of women and the subsequent effect on young women and their body issues etc. Anything else relating to how men and women are portrayed in advertising never seems to get mentioned — people have come to accept these other, almost subliminal, gender-related messages as gospel, but to me they have just as much — if not more — of a detrimental effect on gender relations than ‘heroin chic’ does.

First off, let’s start with the men. We only ever seem to get three types of men in ads:

1) David Beckham types wearing sailing gear with polo sweaters draped over their shoulders, cavorting in the Mediterranean somewhere;

2) Fat, balding ‘Dad’ types who tend to show up in commercials for hardware stores, Bar-B-Q’s etc;

3) In-your-face, dumb-ass, slacker teenagers (or their older version: in-your-face, dumb-ass slacker frat boys) who are lauded by their corporate masters for their in-your-faceness, individualist attitude (I say that with extreme sarcasm), joie de vive and their ability to make Juicy Fruit look like the coolest gum ever.

So basically, according to 5th Ave, if a guy’s not rich, not an idiot, not in his early-to-mid 20’s or not mowing his lawn with his paunch hanging out then going inside to watch the football game every weekend, there’s nothing out there for him anywhere. I always hear about how it’s necessary for young women to see ‘positive and more realistic’ representations of women in ads, but why does no one give a shit about the guys? It’s not like we’ve got a great selection to choose from here.

Now for the women. Yes, there are still the GUESS and Diesel ads with the impossibly thin and beautiful models blah blah, but there’s a new trend right now that I find incredibly annoying — that of ‘faux empowerment.’ You know, all those ads (mostly for shampoo and skin cream etc.) where women are portrayed as ‘goddesses’ — like some sort of spiritual re-birth of Diana or Aphrodite or something — ‘put this cream on your face to awaken your inner goddess’. I hate them because I think they’re incredibly facile and hyperbolic and, combined with the ‘men are stupid louts’ ads, offers up a very skewed — and debilitating for men — worldview. Women are Ivory-tower (pun intended) wonderous beings and men either have to be rich or ‘party machines’ to be accepted. It’s all patently ridiculous. Just like big-media advertising in general.

End rant. 03971semaj

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Frenchie permalink
    Wednesday, May 2, 2007 9:07 pm

    HAHAHA, you forgot to mention that type 2 always has an unreasonably attractive wife.

    Here’s a comercial I am half expecting to see some day soon:

    On Screen: A Woman examining her dry, dead ended hair, looks frustrated, fed up.

    “Are you frustrated with you dry damaged hair?”

    On Screen: Woman frowns, nods

    “I’m sure you are! You’d be better off dead than have split ends”

    On Screen: Women pulls out revolver from off camera sticks barel in mouth, finger moves to the triger

    “But wait! There’s hope for you yet! Get new Pantene Pro V – Revirginizing treatment, shampoo and condition and you and your hair can get a second lease on life”

    On Screen: Woman removes gun from mouth, looks to her left where a disembodied hand is giving her a bottle of the product.

    Cut to woman washing hair.

    Cut to woman smiling with beautiful shining hair.

    “If you’re not beautiful, you’re worth nothing. Pantene, giving you a chance to be a happy.”

    Cut to product shot, then back into grey’s anatomy.

  2. Frenchie permalink
    Wednesday, May 2, 2007 9:08 pm

    Holy shit, I have a lot of typos/gramatical errors in that. I should really lern to proof read.

  3. Thursday, May 3, 2007 12:57 am

    You forgot to mention that the shot of the woman washing her hair will either:

    a) show full frontal nudity, or
    b) have her fully dressed in the shower.

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell which way we’re going.

  4. Sarah P permalink
    Thursday, May 3, 2007 9:49 am

    Just throwing this out there to create a stir…

    There is a perception that mens’ self-images are less susceptible to media. I know that is not always true, but it does seem to me that women are *highly* sensitive to judgement and criticism (often latent) in a way that men aren’t. The relatively recent “metrosexual man” phenomenon is likely a creation to define those men that are influenced by the media into self-judgement (hence their realtively modern desire to care so much about appearance, etc., with or without any requirements – such as posh social circles or a job that demands it), but I suspect they are a minority of men (depending on your definition of “metrosexual”).

    I completely agree with the comment that the representation of men in the media is as limited as that of women, but I think the backlash against female imagery became so strong because those advertisements have (in the past) been generated by men. It’s pretty easy to develop a momentous campaign against the patriarchal system that becomes so focused on a single perpetrator, that all others not only pale in comparison, but are actually good – like the mother earth goddess silliness about. As well, I do think you will find women being as derogatory about false female empowerment slogans simply because they ring so false, and seem to be just another form of selling lifestyle. Disingenuous sentiment is as much a turn-off as rediculous and insulting beauty standards imposed by “the man” (and yes I am aware that most of those campaigns are now worked on if not motivated by women).

    All that being said (and coming from a sometime teacher), most of what we’re reacting to can be exposed through proper media education.

  5. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, May 3, 2007 4:59 pm

    ^ Very interesting.

  6. Frenchie permalink
    Friday, May 4, 2007 12:23 am

    This site needs a kudos button. Cuz I would press it for this article, I’m with ou 100% on this one. Although some creative can be great, and reach outside of the usual forumulas, it seems that most of it fall right into the standard cliches, the same way a sitcom would. I will air your grievances with some art directors and copywriters to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

  7. James17930 permalink
    Friday, May 4, 2007 11:18 am

    Sweet — helps to know someone on the inside.

    And, yes, just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to say that ALL advertising is like this — but there seems to be a large portion on it, at least in relation to the products I mention.

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