Retro Sexism and Uber Ironic Advertising

Retro Sexism and Uber Ironic Advertising


And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? Have you noticed this strange trend in TV commercial recently? It’s been bothering me for awhile but I haven’t quite been able to put a name to it. It’s this kinda twisted combination of cynicism and humour with these over the top caricatures and it always ends up being racist and/or sexist. It’s really the normalizations of sexism through the use of irony. It’s the ‘they know that I know that they know that their being sexist’ Some terms people have used to describe this is ironic sexism or retro sexism. Retro Sexism is modern attitudes and behaviors that mimic or glorify sexist aspects of the past, often in an ironic way. Let’s see an example from Carl’s Jr. I know it’s over the top and ridiculous to see women marching in American flags to Liberty, Cheeseburgers and the American Dream, and they know that they are over the top and ridiculous and objectifying women but because we all know doesn’t mean that it’s not sexist. Take for example this new marketing campaign by Mike’s Hard Lemonade, where they are attempting to rebrand their product as a more “manly” drink and a less “girly” drink. “Can you believe some guys have never tried Mike’s Hard Lemonade because they’ve seen women drink it?” “We don’t have those kinds of issues” “Thank you” “No we don’t” “Mike’s is a refreshing change of pace to beer but you should enjoy it responsibly” “For example, do you have a designated driver? I could take you home” “Or I could” “Or I could take you both home… Lots of options” See how he’s not even pretending to fool us? Like we’re all in on this big joke, look how funny it is that he’s incompetently and obviously trying to take advantage of these women. We’re all supposed to know that he’s acting like a scum bag and ha ha isn’t it funny. Really, they know that I know that they know that their being sexist. Or what about the good old wandering eyed lying husband and naive wife tropes? “Do you have the extra pacifier?” “Yes” “Do we have enough formula?” “Yes” “Okay here ya go honey… honey… honey” “What are you looking at?” “Need a moment, try the chocolate caramel and fresh cookie crunch of Twix.” “I’m looking at potential babysitters so we could spend more time together” “Aw that’s so sweet” “When you need a moment, chew it over with Twix” See how obviously and transparently he’s lying to his wife. We all recognize that this is ridiculous. This guy is clearly being a jerk and we get to laugh at that but we have the added bonus of being able to laugh at his naive wife who is clearly not seeing his transparent behaviour. Additionally, the advertisers get to use pseudo porn stars in a male fantasy sequence so the audience gets to join the man in oogling the women. And for another example of the naive girlfriend. “Who could that be?” “Oh wow, I’m there for you buddy. That was Brad. He really wants to… vent.” “You should go.” “Ready to vent?” “Let’s vent” “Let’s vent!” “Let’s vent!!” “Introducing the vented widemouth can from Coor’s Light. It let’s in air for a smooth refreshing pour.” “Is he okay?” “I think we’ll be venting a little longer.” So you see they know that I know that they know. Women are supposed to laugh at how stupid this girlfriend is while being secure in the knowledge that they’ll never make the same mistake. This commercial is set up so that women are laughing at caricatured sexist representations of other women. Ariel Levy describes in her fantastic book “Female Chauvinist Pigs” how women are being trained to be just as raunchy and objectify women just like “one of the guys”. We’re coerced into doing this instead of aligning ourselves with one another. One of the reasons might be to impress men and I’m gonna guess that pointing out sexism isn’t exactly popular with the guys. This next one not only manages to be sexist but also racist at the same time. Is there a CLIO award for that? “When a guy can’t get his wanine to put some hallakahiki all over his morabo then he’s gotta go some place else.” Not only is this exotifying and sexualizing Hawaiian culture but she’s literally a thing. This brings a whole new meaning to objectifying. Carl’s Jr. is infamous for uber ironic sexism in their commercials. Remember this one? “…in the winter when it drizzles, I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.” Yet somehow women aren’t up in arms, they aren’t organizing protests and boycotts and online campaigns. Some people might try to defend these ads by saying they are “making fun of sexism” ironically… somehow… Advertisers must believe that the use of irony distances themselves from male chauvinism but that isn’t the case. While we think we are in on the joke, the reality is they aren’t making fun of or pointing out sexism, they’re DOING it. Remember advertisers have one goal and one goal only and that’s to sell you a product. Everything else, all the jokes and humour and imagery and everything else is to get you to buy it. The easiest way to do this is to use sexist representations that replicate the status quo and doesn’t challenge anything. Marketers love the uber ironic sexist style of advertising because they can use all the racist, sexist, misogynist imagery they want and simultaneously distance themselves from it with a little wink and a nod. So how many examples of retro sexism have you already seen today? And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

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