I like the conversations American Apparel inevitably starts whenever it comes out with a new advertising campaign. I'm not being snarky—some of the most radical (meaning at the root of) discussions about feminism I enter into start because American Apparel can't seem to stop. Well (and here comes the snark), guess what? AA still can't let go of its naked-ladies-trying-to-sell-me-the-clothes-they-used-to-be-wearing style, and new campaigns (banned in the US so far) are adding pubic hair to the already fraught mix of issues involved in these ads. So let's get to talkin'. (Assume that pictures and some links in this post, including those after the jump, will be NSFW.)
I recently watched afternoon cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and I was shocked to find a flood of highly gendered toy commercials. These ads not only market toys to children but they also promote and encourage gender-specific values that are very limiting to boys and girls in different ways. The values and skills promoted in these commercials can play a critical role in the socalization of youth and their development of emotional expression, conflict resolution, the confidence to pursue various careers and the ability to maintain healthy relationships as adults.
As many of you know, we've been hosting Mad World here on the Bitch blogs (and around town) since March, and we've had a great time discussing advertising, gender, and identity as a part of this series. However, as Johnny so eloquently said to Pony Boy, "nothing gold can stay." (OK, so he was quoting Robert Frost, but the cuteness of the young Ralph Macchio means we're going with the remediated version.) Our Mad World series is coming to a close, but that doesn't mean we're going to stop with analyzing ads. We'd never do that—it's our mission to bring you a feminist response to pop culture!
Last week, Consumerist posted the results to their Worst Ad in America poll. Winners (well, losers) include the McDonald's "not until I've had my coffee" guy and Jimmy the Extenze spokesperson—no surprise there, since those ads are super annoying. But, with all of the excellent categories created by Consumerist (Creepiest Commercial, Most Grating Performance By a Human, etc.) there is one category left to vote on: The Most Sexist Ad in America.
Marketers are increasingly using Retro Sexism to sell products. This form of advertising uses irony and humour as a way to distance itself from the sexist and/or racist representations and stereotypes they perpetuate.
Retro Sexism (n.): Modern attitudes and behaviors that mimic or glorify sexist aspects of the past, often in an ironic way.
Maybe it's because I've been watching too many episodes of Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch lately and therefore keep seeing the same online ads, but this Dove Clinical Strength commercial is everywhere I look and I want it to go away, and take its only-pretty-girls-are-strong-and-deserve-deodorant message with it. Behold:
From PBR to Pampers, Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp of the blog Sociological Images look at the cultural significance of the graphs, cartoons, and advertisements we usually take for granted. I spoke with Lisa and Gwen for our Mad World podcast about how the blog got started, how to "pull back the curtain" on advertisers, and why exactly the "mediocre male" is such a prevalent trope found today.
Jean Kilbourne made the first Killing Us Softly film in 1979. Now with several books under her belt and Killing Us Softly 4 out this spring, Kilbourne obviously hasn't stopped her activism in media criticism--whether it's following the increased sexualization of children in ads or calling out the alcohol and tobacco industry. Kelsey Wallace spoke to Kilbourne, a member of Bitch Media's National Advisory Board, on the phone about trends in advertising and gender, the state of media criticism today, and Kilbourne's future plans. You can order Killing Us Softly 4 at the Media Education Foundation. This interview is part of our Mad World podcast on gender, advertising, and identity in a mediated world.
Subscribe on iTunes. Download at archive.org. Transcription available here (.doc).
Verizon doesn't exactly have a reputation for being an organization that's empowering its users. After all, it is Verizon that's leading the fight against net neutrality, which would amount to an Internet that is basically the opposite of user-friendly. Perhaps that's why they've launched a new ad campaign designed to convince us that, through powerful transmitters, Verizon is on our side in the fight against prejudice. (I know, right?)
When a conversation turns to branding (and don't all of your conversations turn to branding?) the efforts of Absolut Vodka, the little alcohol company that could, are inevitably evoked. There's good reason behind this, too. Although ads for alcohol are extremely problematic, Absolut has certainly made a name for itself with a distinct brand. In fact, I'd bet that most of you can conjure up an Absolut ad, complete with their unique typeface and slogans, without even having to consult your Google image search.
That's why I've been a little surprised lately to see Absolut eschew their brand for an over-the-top cinematic spot (one loaded with messages about gender, of course). Behold: