Archive for May, 2011

Dove Deodorant – Go Sleeveless ‘Shameovation’

This video by Stephen Colbert — called Buy and Cellulite, which aired a few weeks ago, (sorry about the link. Couldn’t get the video to embed) — takes a look at Dove’s newest ad campaign: Go Sleeveless.

“One of the secrets of sales is fulfilling the public’s need,” Colbert says on his show. “The other secret is inventing the public’s need.”

Indeed.

I mean, everyone wears deodorant. We all want to smell nice. Clean, fresh.

But making our armpits more attractive? I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I don’t think of my armpit as one of my more attractive qualities. Or even as a could-be sexy part of me. Hair, yes. Face, boobs, legs — we’ve heard it. But underarms?

Apparently Dove, and its parent company Unilever, think this is an invented need that will sell. But, considering the backlash, I’m not so sure.

“I thought,” Colbert says straight-faced, “we had reached the peak of making money off female insecurity.”

Far from it.

Dove’s next step in the Go Sleeveless campaign is to draw in “star status” in order to make girls and women aspire (perspire?) and buy the product. Jessica Szohr is a small-time celebrity best known for her annoying character on Gossip Girl, her brief relationship with co-star Ed Westwick, a part in the summer horror flick Piranha 3D, and a continually advertised fashionable life. Dove’s theory is that girls will see Szohr, design a sleeveless shirt (a tank top), win the challenge and go shopping with Szohr in New York City.

Star affiliation or promotion gives a product more legitimacy. And by using Szohr, Dove is clearly targeting a certain demographic: teenagers, girls who know who she is.

Dove is pairing this “beauty product” with stardom in an effort to make the deodorant more glamorous. It’s a pretty obvious gimmick, from my end, and I hope other people see it that way, too.

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Beyonce – Run the World (Girls)

So Beyonce’s single “Run the World (Girls)” has been out for a while. And her music video came out not that long ago. But the song/video definitely exhibit some things that inspire a feminist discussion.

Here’s the video:

One of my friends linked this video on Facebook by NineteenPercent, a response to Beyonce’s video:

I basically agree with everything she says. The virgin-whore dichotomy definitely exists. Women don’t run the world. And messages saying we do is not helpful, but harmful.

Here are some more lyrics:

I’m so good with this
I remind you I’m so hood with this
Boy I’m just playing
Come here baby
Hope you still like me
If you pay me

Now, I’ve got to say, these lyrics right here are super problematic to me. “Boy I’m just playing”? So…she’s not serious about her whole women empowerment/run the world spiel? She’s just playing? He’s really the one in power?

And “Come here baby / Hope you still like me / If you pay me”? So…she’s a prostitute? Drawing him closer in a suggestive manner and telling him to pay her certainly seems like prostitute-speak to me. And last time I checked, prostitutes definitely don’t run the world. And, in this scenario, the man is paying the woman, which, even if not a prostitute-image, still places the man in the position of power (i.e. the woman is not running the world).

I just don’t understand, in a song/video shouting about how women run the world, why Beyonce switches around and basically says the opposite in parts of the song.

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Dove ad: Before and After

Oh Unilever…

Dove has been praised by some for its (sometimes) realistic depiction of women: the evolution video, with its accurate stylist/makeup/photoshop; the beauty pressure ad; the True Colors commercial (which makes me cry every time I see it); the whole campaign for real beauty/self-esteem fund/age.

Dove gets it right some of the time. Even though its owned by Unilever, the same company that owns Axe.

But sometimes, Dove falls short. Like in this magazine ad, which has run in O Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and probably more.

Now, obviously this advertisement is about skin care and the visible effects of this new moisturizing body wash. For all people. But, unfortunately, the design of the ad makes it seem like the Before and After refer to the models as well as the texture of skin.

As Gwen Sharp at Sociological Images says,

the arrangement of the models combined with the text above and below them unfortunately intersects with a cultural history in which White skin was seen as inherently “more beautiful” than non-White skin (not to mention thinner bodies as more beautiful than larger ones).

The ad makes it seem like a larger, darker-skinned, curly-haired woman transforms miraculously into a smaller, white blonde woman. Just by using Dove body wash. Which, of course, makes the assumption that white skin, blonde hair and thinner bodies are more beautiful and attractive than darker skin, darker hair and larger bodies.

I’ve got to say I cringe every time I see this ad. And I saw the double message the first time I looked at this advertisement. I seriously doubt that at least one person at the advertising company or at Unilever/Dove didn’t catch this before the ad was okay’d to run.

Seriously, #wtf #DoveFail

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Axe Shower Gel: Beach Commercial

I know that Axe commercials are known for their stereotypical and sexist depictions of women, which the company uses to appeal to their juvenile 13 to 25 year-old male demographic. I know this. You probably know it, too. Much has been written about it.

But I can’t help recoiling in disgust every time I see this new Axe commercial.

Every girl on the beach has model-like beauty: tall, thin, fit, wearing tiny bikinis. The guy is average-looking.

Where is this beach? Every man wants to go there!

All those models… Being controlled by a man’s actions? What? Touching themselves, stroking their bare skin, untying their bikini tops? Gleefully enjoying it? Posing like Victoria Secret models with coy smiles and come-hither eyes when he turns around? Shaking their heads in a “no” that really means “yes”?

Wow. Talk about your female stereotypes. And that last one really is a doozy.

#WTF

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2012 Acura Commercials

These 2012 Acura TL commercials feature two star athletes, Ashleigh McIvor and Calvin Johnson.

I think these commercials were made beautifully. They are refined. They are visually pleasing and well made. The music is good. They’re interesting and get the point across.

But there are also some problems.

The tagline is, “Aggression in its most elegant form.”

Ashleigh McIvor is a Canadian freestyle skier and an Olympic gold medalist. So why is this traditionally beautiful (fit, skinny, blonde, white) female being reduced to her body when her athletic and other accomplishments are so impressive?

The tagline “aggression in its most elegant form” creates the notion that McIvor, like the car, is fundamentally better when she is refined, dressed up–and not doing her thing (actual career, sporty life, etc). Since McIvor is a woman, this notion can be read as applying to all women: Women should be beautiful and only aggressive in a sensual way.

Calvin Johnson is an NFL wide receiver for the Detroit Lions.

All I can say is, way to play to black male stereotypes, Acura! Yes, Johnson gets dressed up. But the African American male body is also stripped and objectified (as only a body). And Johnson is fundamentally linked to aggression through the WASP patriarchal voice over. Everyone knows the stereotype of the violent, aggressive black man, and though Johnson’s career is football, the link is still there.

The fact that these Acura commercials feature only a black man and a white woman is troubling. Additionally, both McIvor and Johnson are dressed by other people; they passively stand in front of the camera, which dilutes their personal agency.

Additionally, these ads glamorize aggression, which, when released in the real world and not in the world of sports, can be destructive.

I’m sure the Acura people meant well, but they widely missed the mark with this ad campaign.

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