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Today in Sexist Commercials

gaila thinks somebody's hot
I cannot find this commercial on YouTube. I can find a commercial referencing it, but not the original commercial.

Picture it: some city, 2008/9.1 A truck with a picture of some snack cakes on the side, bearing the legend "100 Calorie Packs Oreo Cakesters", drives down the street, pursued by hundreds--nay, thousands--of screaming women, like unto the hordes of screaming children no one has ever seen pursuing an ice cream truck.

Women are so hungry. It's really very sad how hungry women are. Women are so hungry we will chase a truck down a city street, forcibly tear open its doors and not even take the time to abscond with the 100-calorie packs of snack cakes within. Tragically, women are only permitted to eat foods that come in 100-calorie packs, because the worst thing a woman can be is fat and because consuming calories in amounts of more than 100 at a time magically makes you fat.

Oh--wait--no it doesn't.

Huh, would you credit it, you can't actually get fat if you're not already supposed to be.2 Kind of like how you can't get thin if you're not already supposed to be, unless you are literally starving to death.3

And hey, now that I think about it, women don't actually chase snack food trucks down the street. On a related note, women wouldn't pile out of their cars in the middle of traffic to gather up high heels raining from the sky, like cartoon squirrels trying to gather too many nuts at once. This is because women are actual, living, adult human beings with common sense, intelligence and real motivations, and not comical animated rodents driven by unthinking instinct to possess more, more, always more shinies even though any real human being (read: man) can see that the woman already has more shinies than she can carry and anyway they're only cheap plastic beads.

For the record, I have eaten the Oreo Cakester. They aren't bad, I wouldn't say. They taste like your regular Oreo, except squishy, and something just seems wrong to me about the Oreo taste without the Oreo crunch, so I'm not into them. But I can tell you--I mean, I enjoy the Oreo, but I wouldn't chase an Oreo truck down the street even if they were Double Stuf. I wouldn't chase a cheesecake truck down the street. Because I know where I can get a cheesecake if I want one, or a package of Oreos. As a sentient being with a concept of time that exceeds "right now" and an understanding of the possibility of more food in the future, I know the advent of a snack food truck is not my only chance ever in the whole world for Oreo Cakesters, much like, as a child, I knew the ice cream truck was not my only chance ever in the whole world for ice cream. I knew there was a chance of ice cream tomorrow. Human beings know that.

Watching this particular stripe of sexist commercial, I am reminded of the fourth-season Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Beer Bad". In the episode, Buffy and several college boys consume a magically enhanced local microbrew that evolutionarily regresses them into what are most likely supposed to be Neanderthal people4 and are therefore unable to choose not to act immediately on their every whim. The episode--and its humor--works because we know people aren't really like that, and the characters' predicament is treated as a problem to be solved rather than the status quo. The joke in these commercials, on the contrary, is supposed to be that we--the men viewing the commercial5--know that women really are like that and there's nothing you can do about it, so you better just let her have her shoes and chocolate, am I right, heh heh, women, what you gonna do?

1. "Picture it: Sicily, 1922." I always have said I want to be Sophia Patrillo when I grow up.
2. You might be able to get fat in defiance of your genetic set point if you take certain medications, but this usually seems to go away when you stop taking the medication. Both my sister and I gained weight on birth control--not enough to get actually fat, because we come from pretty thin stock--but she lost hers when she went on a different form. I haven't changed forms or gone off birth control, but I bet when I do I wind up down at around 125 pounds again.
3. A common argument for the idea that you "can" get thin if you "really try" is that there were "no fat people in concentration camps". Aside from the breathtaking insensitivity of this statement to actual Holocaust survivors and their loved ones, an interesting point brought up in the comments at Shapely Prose a while ago was that those skeletal people you see in the photographs were the fat people. The thin ones had all starved to death long ago.
4. I find myself annoyed by the common trope that Neanderthal people were somehow less sentient than chimpanzees6, since I am aware of no evidence to believe they would not have been more or less on the same level we are; they were just out-competed, it happens to the best of species and is nothing to be ashamed of.
5. See my last Today in Sexist Commercials post.
6. Chimpanzees plan for the future. I believe it was Stephen Colbert who recently reported on a chimpanzee in some zoo who gets up in the morning and gathers rocks to throw at the zoo patrons he anticipates will annoy him later in the day. What I'd really like to know is--does he generally gather the right number of rocks? It would be interesting to see if chimpanzees have that kind of intuitive grasp on the concept of averages and probability; "Okay, so usually about fifteen people really piss me off by standing around making stupid faces at me while I try to go about my daily life here in my home,7 so that's how many rocks I'll need."
7. I'm guilty of this myself, because I'm an avid zoo-goer when I can manage it, but when I really think about it, it's unconscionable. Chimpanzees are people, to my mind; they can talk,8 they make tools, they have a culture. We don't consider it acceptable to stand around staring in our neighbors' windows. We shouldn't do it to chimpanzees--or the rest of the great apes, probably. And we shouldn't be imprisoning them in cages, either, but that's hard for me to be really sure about because zoos and other human-made habitats seem to be the only really safe place for them anymore. Which is also our fault. Possibly we should be asking them on a chimp-by-chimp basis, would you like to live here? And please let us know if you'd ever like to leave.
8. Sure, okay, we teach them a language we invented so we can communicate with them. Surely they have a language--languages! multiple dialects!--of their own and we just don't know it yet. Possibly we are killing it off by raising more and more generations of them in captivity. Possibly raising generations of chimpanzee children to speak only ASL is similar to what the United States government did by taking all the NDN children they could get their hands on, sticking them in schools, and beating them if they spoke anything but English.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
samantha_vimes
Mar. 31st, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
One thing I remember reading about the stone thrower is he would wait until a large crowd had gathered to start throwing.
I can't stand going to see apes in zoos. When I was about 20 I was going through a zoo and I couldn't see the apes as anything but innocent people thrown in prison anyway.
finding_helena
Mar. 31st, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC)
I am not totally opposed to the "hordes of screaming people chasing a such-and-such" premise for commercials but I hate those damn 100 calorie packs. On the other hand, when my husband takes a whole tube of Ritz crackers to his desk I tend to move it and give him a few back before he mindlessly eats the whole thing, and I'll only take a few myself. So I can see the value so far as reducing mindless snacking, but I hate that a 100 calorie pack and a diet soda is supposed to be a sufficient snack for anybody. I also hate how all the girls at school are rail-thin and microwaving Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones for lunch. Gaaaah.
lepusdomesticus
Mar. 31st, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
I remember seeing this commercial somewhere and thinking, "that's about as disgusting as the taste of those 100 calorie foods."

Thanks for the link to Shapely Prose--very good posts over there. But I wanted to add (and unfortunately I can't remember where I read this!) that a recent study suggests that people who were hungry or malnourished in childhood tended to have thin offspring, regardless of what those children ate, and people who had abundant food in childhood had children who grew up to be fatter, regardless of diet. This seems to me to explain part of the so-called "Obesity Epidemic" as the children of people who grew up during the sudden boom in prosperity and wealth in the U.S. (and other "Western" nations) post WWII approach or reach middle age, when people often experience weight gain anyway.

And I absolutely agree that the emphasis should be on health rather than weight. I'd much rather see a person (let's not forget that boys and men suffer from body-image dissatisfaction as well) who is fat and healthy than one who is starving to death--the stress of which is visible and, yes, unattractive.

And especially to remember than thin does NOT equal healthy. I know a man who is thin as a rail and has exercised obsessively every day since he was in his early twenties (forty years). He recently had triple bypass heart surgery because of his extremely high LDL cholesterol--something which is clearly genetic, as many of his family members have died of heart disease. Meanwhile, the pudgy (OK, fat.) people on my own mother's side of the family have all lived into their 90's or beyond.

And don't get me started on the sentience of non-human animals. It's a subject I have a lot of strong opinions on. But I will add that many animals cache food for the winter, including "dim-witted" squirrels--who have an interesting social structure also--and birds. And a number of species use tools, although only apes and crows are known to make their own. And Neanderthals made tools and homes and ceremonially buried their dead and made art. This prejudice stems totally from the wrong-headed human belief that anything that is extinct was unworthy of continuing to exist. In terms of length of their survival on Earth, dinosaurs are far more successful than mammals. : )
slythwolf
Apr. 1st, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
Re: squirrels, I was actually just talking about the cartoon ones. ;)

I hadn't known that about crows, but it doesn't surprise me--I knew a crow in my youth named Lucretia who pretty much babysat some friends of mine when their mother was busy with something, who would cry "Mom! Mom!" when something was wrong and tell the dog to shut up when he was barking.
vengence_on_ice
Apr. 2nd, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
and to add to the furor, have you seen the Crystal Light commercials claiming that women who drink their product drink x% more water than other women and are therefore, by implication, eating less food/drinking less soda/other calorie laden beverage and so are not healthier, which I would have no problem with them promoting, but skinner and thus prettier. this = infuriating (and untrue) crap

also the commercial for some yogurt or jello or some similar product where the chocolate ice cream is begging to be eaten from the freezer. They pitch the yogurt not because it is healthier than the ice cream, which it undoubtedly is, but because it simply has fewer calories than the ice cream and so it won't ruin your diet if you have the need for a midnight snack! Because , as you've pointed out in previous posts,the world (or at least the male portion) seems to think that every woman is on a permanent diet, and if she isn't she's either an unnaturally beautiful perfect goddess or, more likely, a fat slob.
**OMG incoherent rage**

This is why I refuse to watch daytime TV; I end up wanting to throw heavy breakable things at a perfectly innocent inanimate object.
slythwolf
Apr. 2nd, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen those! But I have seen the ones about:

- eating Special K or drinking their stupid bottled sugar water because it has less calories than the snack you actually want--thank god for Special K because you almost enjoyed yourself for five fucking minutes before remembering that as a female human being weighing more than 95 pounds you don't deserve to enjoy anything, especially not food for fuck's sake

- your hunger is a little fuzzy orange dude who follows you around and waves donuts in your face, and is evil and trying to sabotage your efforts to lose weight, instead of an instinct that your ancestors developed millions upon millions of years ago so they wouldn't starve to death, that tells you when your body needs fuel

- you shouldn't skip breakfast, not because you need energy to start your day but because you will be skinnier if you eat something in the morning, at which point I start jumping up and down and screaming "CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION" at the top of my lungs, because I will fucking bet that the reason "women who eat breakfast" are skinnier than "women who don't" is that fewer naturally thin women tend to diet than naturally fat women
slythwolf
Apr. 2nd, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
I must also say, I may very well have seen the Crystal Light commercials in question but I never listen to them, I'm always too fascinated (like a train wreck) by the really, really bad music they use, and also the suggestion that my water needs "pumping up".
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