Category Archives: Ad Critique

Don’t be stupid, protect yourself. –

In a marketing scheme to deliver more “creative” ads, delivered with some questionable interpretations of safe sex. In the following ads, two situations showcase a group of guys, armed with their phallic symbols and protective equipment, at a crossfire in roles historically portrayed by only men. In both groups, there is one man not just fully engaged in the action but also, fully naked. Both ads illustrate the cry of wisdom: “Don’t be stupid, protect yourself.” At first glimpse, this ad seems harmless. It appears to be endorsing the use of condoms in what is implied heterosexual intercourse (following a long pattern of heteronormative advertisements where men use their phallic either as weapons or hoses).  However, as creative the ads may be, they showcase certain implicit problems.  As Judith Lorber summarizes, “As a social institution, gender is a process of creating distinguishable social statuses for the assignment of rights and responsibilities. “ Lorber reminds us that the problem is endogenous with their use of gender. The destructive nature of the gender binary is rooted in its very function- not just consequence- in assigning roles to both men and women in an unjust hierarchy. First, we see that women are absent in both situations. This implicitly infers a few things: the counterfactual (i.e. if a naked woman filed up behind other men…) would be deemed inappropriate or, Lord forbid, inconceivable for the public because, as this and other ads show, only men can fit these roles (and can be naked in public advertisements with their chest in display). In other words, the ad is unaware of its own less-than-ideal vision of women or anyone fitting outside their heterosexual mold. Only heterosexual men can fit these roles!, the ads shout-unaware, that variability in safe sex can be just as “creative” as those performing it.



Miley Cyrus – Notions of Femininity

This clip was shown as a commercial on MTV advertising highlights of the VMA’s to viewers. It briefly shows the now infamous and controversial twerking move performed by Miley Cyrus – when she bended over and danced on Robin Thicke. In the context of this class, I thought about how her behavior might me perceived to a huge audience of girls/women. Although Miley technically should have the freedom to behave as she pleases, I do believe she has a responsibility to the millions of fans that allowed her to become famous; that allowed her to become what she is. Is it possible that her extremely sexual dancing might project to women that this is how all women should act? It appears that although Miley may not have been performing solely for a heterosexual male audience, that audience was watching as well and analyzing her behavior. Perhaps women might think that in order to gain attention from men, they need to pattern their behavior after their role model, Miley – further polarizing gender binaries and defining what it means to act like a woman/act like a man. Even worse, it might be extremely influential on a huge population of young girls. In this unit we explored gender as a social construct through authors like Judith Butler and Judith Lorber. Lorber especially emphasizes that gender is constantly being done through our day to day interactions. With this in mind, Robin Thick and Miley Cyrus are indicative of cultural norms; or with this performance, they are establishing a new cultural norm that men and women will strive to imitate. I think that women who have platforms like Miley Cyrus have the capacity to further perpetuate societal definitions of what it means to be feminine, and in this case, the definition isn’t exactly a good one.

Lorber, Judith, and Susan A. Farrell. The Social Construction of Gender. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1991. 113-18. Print.

The L Word, Progressive or Heteronormative

After reading Samuel Chamber’s “Heteronormativity and the L Word,” and investigating his claims during a class discussion, I was curious how the show was portrayed in promo commercials to audiences. Chambers criticized the show for presenting lesbian characters as having a very homogenous identity. Succinctly, he argued that “The narrative structure of the L word, despite its central cast of characters – often serves to perpetuate, preserve, and sustain the normatively of heterosexuality.” With this in mind, I analyzed the promo clip for Season 1, which is intended to function as a glimpse into the show’s main story lines without revealing too much. Although it can not encapsulate an entire complex and fluctuating season, promo clips are recognized as indicative of a show’s content.
This season 1 promo begins with two very attractive blonde white women speaking to each other. One says, “Why is it important for you to believe that everyone is sleeping with everyone else?” The blonde characters responds somewhat seductively, “Because they are,” implying that the show depicts rampant sexual affairs. Next it highlights the committed relationship between Tina and Bette and their desire to have a child. Chambers identifies this dynamic as heternormative forcing traditional expectations of behaviors on lesbians. The rest of the clip shows beautiful lesbian women constantly kissing and seducing each other. The clip also alludes to erotic affairs between some of the lesbian characters and a white male heterosexual character. With this brief 1:40 clip, it appears that many of Chambers’ claims are valid. Rather than portray the lesbian community as extremely variable, their representation appeals mostly to heterosexual men; men have ultimate fantasies of threesomes with two women, and watching women interact in sexual behavior. Thus, the behavior of the characters’ onscreen alludes to this; it is tantalizing. Near the end the voiceover says, “Sexuality is fluid, whether you’re gay or you’re straight you just go with the flow.” This line which is intended to project the main idea of the show implies that the lesbian characters are not strictly lesbian. Instead they are free and liberal and open to having affairs with men as well. It reduces the lesbian identity to an extremely sexual one with the objective of drawing in male viewers.

Chambers, Samuel A. “Heteronormativity and the L Word: From a Politics of Representation to Politics of
Norms.” Reading The L Word: Outing Contemporary Television. By Kim Akass and Janet McCabe.
London: I.B. Tauris, 2006. N. pag Print.

Access for Voters With Disabilities

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A new campaign promoting access for voters with disabilities has released a string of ads depicting physically disabled individuals with the slogan “He/She has issues.” While this is the first thing to catch the viewer’s eye, upon closer look these “issues” are revealed to be things like the environment, immigration, women’s rights, and the economy. These ads play on stereotypes and hint at prejudices surrounding the disabled by showing disability in a normative way – one man is in a wheelchair, another walks with a cane, and one woman has a guide dog. At first glance, the viewer may think the “issue” is the person’s disability, when the purpose of the ad is to say “Yes, I’m disabled, but this is not my only issue, and may not be an issue for me at all. My disability should not inhibit my rights.” The ad raises awareness of the challenges faced by disabled individuals but also reminds us that the label “disabled” is just that – a quantifier of their condition. Campaigns like this one, as Dean Spade points out, work in concert with the disability rights movement, which “is about pointing out that disabled people are capable of equal participation in, but are currently barred from participating equally by artificial conditions that privilege one type of body or mind and exclude others.” The campaign for increased access for voters with disability is a physical manifestation of this conviction.


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Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Print.

Meat and Meat

This very recently aired Taco Bell commercial, aims to showcase its new featured item; The Triple Steak Stack.  This advertisement does an exceptional job at reinforcing the, oh so, overbearing stereotypes surrounding the societal expectations for what masculinity should mimic. The producers have managed to accomplish a phenomenal feat, and should win the prize for cramming the most barbaric representations of the male gendered species in only 31 seconds.

Firstly, the voiceover, who acts as the little voice inside the main character’s head—Hurricane Doug, is incredibly deep, with a raspy quality that heightens the intensity of what is supposed to be true manliness.  Though, looking at ‘Hurricane Doug’ it is obvious that this voice does not match the same register of his own.  Doug is a shorter, white male, dressed in business casual clothing.  The commercial alludes to the notion that because of Doug’s outward appearance, he is not considered a “man’s man,” but by eating more steak he now will be able to consider himself one, and even be man enough to join the “real men” on the basketball court.

Another concern is the representation of the black men playing basketball.  Their depiction takes on an almost animalistic portrayal.  The music is slowed down and their words are distorted so it just sounds like muffled animal roars.  This tactic is used to heighten the intimidation factor for Doug, but it simultaneously heightens the racial stigmatization about black people.  Patricia Hill Collins writes in her article Booty Call, “Some black men’s bodies may be admired, as is the case for athletes, but other black bodies symbolize fear” (Hill 158).  This short advertisement manages to take the admired athletic black man’s body and turn it into the body that evokes fear.

This barbaric claim that a man is a man when he eats his meat underpins all of the misconceptions about male gender and masculinity.  So thank you Taco Bell, for creating a nation wide commercial that exploits the vulnerable male ego, by making the claim, a man is not a man without his meat.  That is exactly what society needed.

Ad Critique: Minajesty

This advertisement follows the typical expectation for fragrance marketing: a gorgeous, highly feminine white woman and the suggestion that using that perfume will give the consumer those same narrow traits. Only this portrayal is more offensive and unnatural than that; though the woman looks authentically white with her bleach blond hair and lightened skin, she is actually hip-hop artist and woman of Trinidadian descent Nicki Minaj. This decolorization (for lack of a better word) is the marketing counterpart of the cinematic racism that bell hooks described in Oppositional Gaze, or the “violent erasure of black womanhood.” Instead of portraying Nicki in a less stereotypically white way or perhaps revealing her true ancestry, she follows the mainstreams of white representation. This ad reveals the ridiculous ideal of white womanhood that Killing Us Softly 4 alluded to. It caters to white audiences, while implicitly telling women of color that the ideal of whiteness is supreme.

And beyond the marketing sphere, this advertisement is also disappointing in the larger context of Nicki Minaj’s career. Nicki is one of the few salient female artists in hip hop, and as such, she holds the potential to be influential in an industry mostly dominated by misogyny and the objectification of women. But instead of using this power to become an empowered role model for female audiences and a defiance of objectification, she lapses into the familiar narrative of an ethereal and sexualized princess. Also, the appearance of the perfume bottle in the bottom left hand corner literally objectifies her, as her torso and head compose the perfume bottle, a literal object. Instead of Nicki being a subversive force in advertising and hip-hop, with this ad she merely corroborates both white supremacy and female objectification.

Let’s talk about shoes


Earlier today, as I was browsing the internet, I ran into a blatantly sexist ad. The DC metro decided that they needed a new campaign to show how great they were and thus ended up producing this terrible piece of advertisement. The ad portrays women as mindless beings that only care about one thing:  shopping. Why exactly would the metro use shopping? Lorber would explain it as being part of society’s construction of gender expectations. Furthermore, if one were to look closely at the advertisement, the women’s body language displays a state of absentmindedness. Not only that, but based on the way they are dressed, they seem to be women with professional backgrounds. This begs the question as to whether it is also attacking the credentials of professional women in society. The ad encapsulates women in society as being unable to hold an intelligent conversation, one regarding the amount of miles a bus can last without breaking down. Due to the ad being placed on a bus, and it being in the DC area, one can expect that the audience is that of the lower class black community. Bell Hooks teachings might cause one to speculate whether this could reinforce the misogyny seen in the minority communities.

Hooks, Bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women.” No. 23, Socialist-Feminism: Out of the Blue (Summer, 1986), pp. 125-138.

Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender”, 1990.