Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sex sells! But what do we actually get?

The marketing team at CKE Restaurants Inc. and the advertising agency 72andSunny has produced a male-targeted commercial, "Fantasy," for Hardees and Carl’s Jr. The commercial is meant to promote the "3-Way Thickburger," which is a burger with bacon strips, bacon jam, and bacon crumbles. It emphasizes the fact that the Thickburger has three forms of bacon: literally symbolizing meat and figuratively symbolizing women. In fact, the press release issued by CKE Restaurant Inc. said the said the sandwiches make "your dreams come true." Clearly, the implication is that three forms a bacon make your dreams come true, just as three women make your dream come true. In the same way, eating bacon-on-bacon-on-bacon burgers are as good as voyeuristic three-way woman-on-woman-on-woman sexuality. This point is highlighted by the fact the commercial features three women in bikinis who are sensuously feeding themselves and each other. As they playfully touch each other, their three respective forms of bacon also come together. The climax of the plot occurs when one woman’s take a big bite as the other two women look on longingly. It’s at that moment that the 3-Way Thickburger is created and the three women exchange a sultry look. In the background, the song "Threeway" by Dirt Nasty is playing. The edited lyrics in the commercial are: "They say three's a crowd / They ain't never been to my house / Hey girls whatcha doing this weekend? / We should stay in and have us a threesome / She's givin' her some, they givin' me some / Yeah, we havin' us a threesome / Menage a trois." And with those lyrics, the symbolism is made clear. 
The target audience of this commercial is men, especially men who find exhibitionist threesome lesbianism to be titillating. The young, skinny women in bikinis are clearly being used to attract men to the message of the three forms of bacon on a thickburger. This use of women as sex objects is an obvious example of scopophilia, where men are supposed to derive sexual enjoyment from watching sexualized women.  The display of women for the sake of men is an example of the “male gaze,” whereby “women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness” (Hein). It’s old fashion sexism used for modern commercialism.

The creators of this commercial assume that the target audience is hyper-sexualized, voyeuristic, scopophilic, sexist, anti-feminist, and uncritical. To assume these things about men is a prejudiced oversimplification and gross generalization of masculinity. It should be concerning to all people that a company would consider using this commercial at a time when the USA might possibility be electing the first female president.

As consumers of media, we need to highlight and deconstruct sexism. This video could be used as an example of how sexism harms both men and women. For women, it implies they are passive, objectified sex symbols. For men, it implies they are aggressive, hypersexual consumers of erotica. Once these negative effects of sexism have been exposed and challenged, alternative forms of femininity and masculinity could be explored. 


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