This week I was watching TV with my roommate when I noticed a trend in the commercials. There was a long set of beer ads, and they were all much of the same. All I could see were the same males portrayed over and again in stereotypical roles: handsome, rugged, heroic, dominating, and in love with all things beer and sports. Gender roles in the media are topics I’ve recently discussed in my sociology class, so I decided to research it a little further. When you watch a commercial more than a few times and really think about the message it’s sending, you might be shocked. The first noteworthy ad I found was a car commercial for Hyundai.
It showed chronological scenes of a boy nearing different disasters as he grew older but always being snatched from danger at the last second by his father. The final scene shows him learning to drive with his dad. He almost rear ends another car, but the auto-emergency brake on the “all new Genesis” stops his car automatically and prevents an accident. They leave with the tagline, “Remember when only Dad could save the day?” This commercial portrays the father as a superhero, and says that males are the only ones able to help in emergencies. Why couldn’t the boy’s mother save him from falling into a lake or getting kicked by a swing?
How is this explained? Hegemonic masculinity. This is how men are typically portrayed in the media. It’s sexist, exaggerated, and incorrect. But it is also what has been fed to us our entire lives. They also showed the boy only doing typical boy activities, like fishing, playing football, and generally being active and mischievous. If they were showcasing a girl for this ad, the activities chosen would be much different.
A few years ago Axe cologne released a commercial to promote their new Apollo line. Set on a beach, a beautiful girl in a skimpy bikini is being attacked by a shark. The ruggedly handsome, tan, and fit lifeguard runs into the water, fights the shark off, and carries the girl to safety. As the two stunning youths stare into each other’s eyes, she catches sight of an astronaut over his shoulder for no apparent reason at all, except that, “nothing beats an astronaut,” as Axe claims. She leaves the sexy lifeguard for the spaceman because no girl can resist a guy that smells like Axe Apollo. This ad is fairly sexualized, showcasing the lifeguard’s glistening muscles and ability to rescue a damsel in distress. Likewise, watching the female run down the beach nearly naked is quite sexist and Baywatch-esque.
Beer commercials never fail to deliver on some cold, hard misogyny. Heineken’s Walk-In Fridge ad featured an adult dinner party and two groups of friends, male and female. The host leads her friends to the bedroom to show off her beautiful walk-in closet full of clothes, shoes, and accessories. They scream excitedly at all the pretty feminine things. Her husband then leads his friends to a walk-in fridge chock full of ice cold Heineken beer bottles, and they shriek at the sight even louder than the ladies. This is a classic gender stereotype that shows men only interested in beer and sports with no appreciation for dinner parties, clothing, or class. Getting drunk in front of a game seems to be their only option in ads like these, most appropriately shown during the Super Bowl. We know these ads exist, and we know what they’re trying to sell to us. We just have to recognize that the media is often a lie, fabricated and over-sexualized for the sake of profit.