Posts Tagged WTF

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.


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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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Pepsi MAX Superbowl 2011 Commercials

The Superbowl was on Sunday, as most people in America are aware. I actually watched it this year, and I could not believe how bad most of the ads were. And especially, how horribly racist and sexist the Pepsi MAX commercials were.

PepsiCo, owner of the Doritos brand, ran a consumer-ad contest for the 2011 Superbowl called “Crash the Superbowl,” where consumers were encouraged to create ads for products Pepsi MAX and Doritos.

Watch them for yourself:

1. Love Hurts

This ad was directed by 28-year-old Brad Bosley, a white amateur filmmaker. He made this ad on a budget of $800.

What’s wrong with this ad?

Let’s see … it features an Angry Black Woman stereotype; a “dumb,” emasculated husband; a flirtatious blonde; uses men vs. women; places a “rounder” woman vs. a “hot” woman; laughs off domestic violence; and portrays black people as violent and criminal vs. the “innocent” white girl.

All in the name of “humor.”Oh, and money, of course.

Did I get it all?

On her blog The Beautiful Struggler, black feminist cultural critic Sistah Toldja points out how this ad uses color and weight to reinforce the Angry Black Woman trope:

Let’s talk about the actors couple for a second. The husband is bald, sturdy and marginally attractive … I’d say the wife is very pretty, aside from an unfortunate looking weave. She’s also darker and heavier than most of the women we see in print or TV ads (unless they are “big” women, such as the stars of the Pine-Sol and Popeye’s commercials). If I had to guess, I’d say she was a plus model (somewhere around the size 10-12 range; remember: most plus models aren’t actually plus sized). However, it’s very clear that she isn’t supposed to be a “hot” or beautiful wife- the juxtaposition of her and the pretty blonde makes that very clear.

2. First Date

This ad was created by 29-year-old Nick Simotas.

Man vs. woman again. And the sexism reigns.

The girl’s first thought is about money — positioning her in a stereotypically dependent role.  And she obsesses over their “future” together even though it’s a first date, worrying over the guy’s future hair loss and aspirations for children. This portrays women as always relationship-minded and maternal.

The guy’s repetitive “I want to sleep with her” and abrupt change to “I want a Pepsi MAX” plays on the stereotype of men as simple-minded, unconscious of commitment, always thinking about sex, and easily distracted.

What astonishes me most about these commercials is that they were ever chosen to run in the first place. Why did Pepsi choose these ads as finalists to play during the Superbowl, an event renown for its “good” commercials?

Do good ads have to use stereotypes to be funny?

Both these ads make me angry, frustrated and disgusted. Racism and stereotypical gender roles are not okay. Some might “argue” that the ads are humorous and therefore “okay” — but laughing at stereotypes (or not recognizing them) only serves to disregard them as hurtful and wrong.

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