Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bad ads at Ridgemont High

The Dr. Pepper Ten ad that briefly set the internet on fire last week - including this very blog - was roundly denounced as being sexist. But I don't think that everyone caught that the ad was, really, just as sexist against men as it was against women. Women, in fact, got off pretty easy - all they were told was that Dr. Pepper Ten was not "for" them. (Oh no!) Men, by comparison, were told that they were more or less obligated to like action movies, hate romantic comedies, and refuse to pick up any soda with "diet" in the name - or they simply were not real men.

Well, welcome to Ad World. As many ads as are sexist against women, there are just as many that negatively stereotype the hell out of men. For instance: men cannot cook! No, seriously, men cannot fucking cook. Men are romantically incompetent. Men are total douchebags. Men are slavering pigs who lose control at the sight of an attractive woman. Etc.

The irony, of course, is that while most commercials that are actively sexist against women are marketed towards men, most of the commercials that are actively sexist against men are ALSO marketed towards men. For proof, let's just look at the latest example of this phenomenon, from JC Penney:

I didn't look very closely, but it seems like there's some discussion in the YouTube comments over whether the ad objectifies women.

Yes. It does. I mean, of course it does. How could you even dispute this? In case you don't know, in the film from which the clip is taken, Fast Times at Ridgemont High - by the way, this film is nearly 30 years old, so way to stay relevant there, JC Penney - Phoebe Cates actually opens her bikini for a topless scene which is taking place in the imagination of the main male character, played by Judge Reinhold. For him, she is absolutely a lust object and little more. In the film, however, Reinhold gets his comeuppance when Cates walks in on him masturbating to this fantasy. Nothing like that happens in this ad, nor really could it. So, yes, it's obviously objectification, or at any rate the male viewer is invited to objectify Phoebe Cates.

But - and I'm sure you already guessed that I was going here - the ad is in many ways at least as offensive to men.

Kenny Mayne: "JC Penney understands that you don't like advertising for clothes."

I... I don't? I must admit, this is a new stereotype of men to my ears. Men hate advertising for clothes? They're just making stuff up now, aren't they? "JC Penney understands that you hate oak trees! I mean, fucking acorns, right?"

Mayne: "Who does?"

Honestly, who likes advertising of any kind? Why do you think people get so excited about DVRs and internet browsers with ad-block functions? But really, who thinks enough about advertising for clothes not to like it? There have been about 380 posts in this site's history and I think three of them talk about an ad for any kind of clothing.

Mayne: "Tell you what, though - if you look at these smart fashion choices from Van Heusen, we're gonna show you this. That way everybody wins."

Nine seconds into the spot and out comes the Fast Times footage. Here's the thing, guys: if the expectation is that men will be looking at the footage on the left, that means NO ONE IS LOOKING AT THE FOOTAGE ON THE RIGHT. You really can't focus on two things at once, and if it was true that men hated clothing ads, why would they even bother trying to look back and forth between them? And especially consider that Phoebe Cates is wearing a bright red bikini, whereas the clothes on the right are in fairly nondescript colors and the prices are in white text on a white background! You couldn't sufficiently check out the clothes offered in this ad if you wanted to.

So, sure, it's kind of a sexist ad. But maybe the real problem is not just that it's sexist but that it is so exquisitely committed to being sexist at the expense of even trying to sell the product. There are eight million ways you could make a commercial for men's clothing that featured a hot female sex object, and literally all 7,999,999 others would do less to completely distract the attention away from any and all information about the men's clothing that was ostensibly the point of the spot than this one does.

And that's really where you get into the area of "reverse sexism." Hey, men - you don't care about clothes, right? You'll probably just wear whatever your wife buys you or something. So, we're going to pretend we're running an ad for clothes you might wear - but we both know that's ridiculous. So check out these sweet tits! Don't get me wrong, I like that sort of thing as much as the next (straight) guy, but I know when I'm being pandered to. This ad isn't going to endear me to JC Penney and it does nothing to sell the product in question. And as it turns out, the only thing it was effective at was being quickly pulled from the airwaves due to complaints of sexism.

Mayne: "JC Penney: It is seriously hot in here."

"JC Penney: You are seriously dumb in here."

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