This ad by Axe for their new body spray “Apollo” depicts a helpless woman drowning in the ocean. A handsome, muscular lifeguard rushes into the water to save her, wrestling and punching a shark in the process (gender roles at their finest). After bringing the woman to safety, the woman looks as if she is about to kiss the man who just rescued her – but then she runs off into the arms of an astronaut, a smaller, somewhat “geeky” looking man.
Gender stereotypes are at play all throughout this commercial, depicting both women and men in a flawed manner. The woman, of course, is depicted as beautiful but weak, which is contrasted with the strength of the man who saves her. The disparity is particularly evident in the shot from behind of the man carrying the limp, frail-looking body of the woman. The male lifeguard is also objectified, as he represents the “ideal” man – strong, courageous, attractive. The commercial perpetuates the typical feminine gender role of the “submissive woman” (de Beauvoir 36). The woman is taken care of by a man, a possession to be won and protected, while also suggesting that she cannot control her impulses of attraction (exemplified by her rushing over to the man in the astronaut suit).
De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. McCain and Kim, eds. New York: Routledge, 2003.