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The use of gender roles and stereotypes in commercials has slowly become more of an issue as men and women’s true societal roles have undoubtedly changed over time. The push for women’s equality over the past 50 years has been progressing each and every year, and rightly so. As women have become more self-sufficient in their everyday lives, their dependency from males and gender stereotypes have been changing drastically. These social changes have also sparked the progression of gender roles in advertisement and how men and women are presented to the public through television. Recently, many commercials have made drastic efforts in order to present more equal gender roles by trying to eliminate some of the stereotypes that have been part of our society for years. However, despite many of the progressions that have been made, commercials tend to revert back to some of the old stereotypes and perceived gender roles in order to create humor.
One type of humor that has been prevalent in many recent commercials is the exploitation of gender stereotypes in an attempt to make a mockery of certain socially acceptable gender roles and actions, while at the same time displaying some of the characteristics that are not accepted by society. The humor in these types of commercials comes through the comparison of the same actions performed by both men and women, but one of the genders looks ridiculous performing these actions, despite the fact that they are the same. This type of marketing technique tends to cause a disproportion of equality between the two genders, because it is displaying how the actions of one gender are accepted by society, while similar actions by the other gender just appear to be unreasonable. In order to create a comedic effect in their commercials, many companies have started to disregard the progression for equality in gender roles and have started to display some of the same old gender stereotypes that we, as a society, have tried to separate from.
Through my exploration of Snickers and Heineken commercials, I was able to outline a very particular style of comedy that affected both genders in negative ways. Two very well known brands, Heineken and Snickers, have started to show men displaying some of the female stereotypes we have seen in other commercials. Now, some might say that this is a good thing because it is trying to blur the line between the two stereotypes and show that men can experience some of the same things that women do. However, I see this as quite the opposite. It seems that use of men displaying female stereotypes is, in a sense, making fun of the women. While the brands have achieved their ultimate goal of providing a humorous commercial, this humor comes at the expense of us laughing at how ridiculous the men appear when they are acting out some of the women stereotypes.
To get a better understanding of how the commercials are creating this style of satire, lets take a closer look at some examples from Heineken. In a Heineken commercial from 2009, the scene starts out inside a home, and the women of the house leads a group of her five girl friends through the living room, the kitchen, her bedroom, and eventually they arrive outside of a closet. The woman proceeds to proudly open up the closet doors, unveiling shelves full of shoes and clothes, with a table in the middle full of shimmering jewelry. All of the woman’s friends go absolutely crazy and begin jumping up and down while simultaneously releasing screams of excitement. As the excitement begins to die down, they hear faint cries of excitement coming from across the house. The scene then immediately switches over to the men’s closet, a walk-in freezer, full of Heineken beer.
All of the men appear to be imitating the women’s excitement that was displayed moments earlier, with slight exaggeration, as one of the men begins to shed a tear. The two stereotypes displayed in this commercial were pretty clear. It shows men getting overly excited about a room full of beer, while women are getting excited over a room full of shoes and jewelry. These stereotypes are not what make the commercial offensive to any one of the particular genders though. When the audience sees men getting excited over beer as much as women get excited over shoes it tends to expose the ridiculousness in the actions of women because people are thinking “wow…imagine if men got as excited over beer as women got over shoes…that would be stupid”. This train of thought is what starts to draw the lines between men and women and how one gender’s actions can be accepted by society, but similar actions from the other cannot.
It suggests that men should remain calm, cool, and collective at all times unless they want it to be viewed as a joke. On the reverse side, it suggests to women that their actions are only acceptable because they’re girls, and that if men were to do the same thing, it would appear ridiculous. The next commercial I looked at was a Snickers Super Bowl commercial from 2010. The commercial shows three men working at a construction site, all of the sudden one of the men transforms from a man in work boots and a hardhat, into a women with nice clothes and heels, while still standing in the middle of the construction site. After this transformation the “woman” begins to complain about the work and how hot it is outside. The two men look at the women with a disgusted look on their face and advise her to “eat a Snickers…you turn into a diva when you’re hungry”.
The woman gets tossed a Snickers bar from one of the men, takes a bite, and suddenly transforms back into his original character as a construction worker. This commercial displays one of the very old and outdated stereotypes of women not being able to perform laborious tasks. When the man turns into a woman, he begins to start complaining about the hard work and the hot weather. This commercial again exposes how unacceptable it would be if a man were to act like a woman on the job. In contrast, it also tries to show how out of place a woman would look on a construction site by placing a nicely dressed woman in the middle of the dirt filled construction area. It attempts to show how men are expected to be tough and free of complaints, unless they want to be ridiculed by their co-workers with words such as “diva”.
The commercial implies that as soon as men start to complain about work or being tired, they are immediately labeled as having female characteristics due to our current stereotypical views on gender roles and actions. Through these commercials I have discussed above, it is clear that some of the new tactics for adding humor to commercials has become a sort of mockery of the stereotypes between men and women. Heineken and Snickers have both tried to show scenarios in which we see men behaving like women in an attempt to show how ridiculous it would be if males were to exhibit some of the same social stereotypes we associate with women.
By doing this, the two commercials begin to draw a line between the actions and characteristics that are acceptable for women, but not for men. These marketing schemes are detrimental because they provide a clear example of how society can accept the actions of one gender, but when the other gender performs some of the same actions it becomes humorous satire. I think that a comedic commercial without gender stereotypes would appear much more sophisticated and would be better received by the public. I hope that advertising agencies will begin to realize this and that future commercials will appear both humorous and professional.