Commercial Girls: Gender and Sexuality

19 Sep

I’m not usually impressed by commercials. In fact, I tend to watch them critically trying to figure out who it is they are targeting and how they think they’re achieving their goals.

However, while that-dude-that-I-live-with fast-forwards through commercials (to think we haven’t always had the ability), I still like to watch them because commercials are little balls of societal focus all rolled up in less than a minute. They target an audience and tell them a story and they always want us to do something.

And in an time where a show about the very kind of advertising execs influenced advertising to become the manipulative force that is today is one of the most popular and award-winning shows on TV, we should all be paying a bit more attention to what we’re being shown.

So maybe this is something I’ll return to in future posts and maybe it won’t be but I saw two commercials over the weekend that I just had to point out.

Good News First

In a time period where the LGBT community is struggling to find equal footing and basic human rights, I have a heightened awareness to all media that tries to reach out to them. While Logo is an exception in having a wealth of LGBT focused commercial campaigns, you don’t often see commercials portraying or addressing the LGBT community at all. Then I saw this:

Okay, so this is an exception on some terms because the use of this product is strictly sexual. By opening up their commercials to allow a wider range of audience by including lesbians and therefore addressing the LGBT community at large, they’ve admitted a wider customer base. But that argument could be made for ANY product.

Instead of shying away from their topic, it’s use, and the kind of people who use it, this campaign of commercials (that has already been around for awhile) reaches out to an audience that other companies refuse to admit exist.

Let’s just say, there are always opportunities to criticize and this commercial caught me by surprise, in a good way.

Bad News Second

Then I saw this:

In the era of “It Gets Better,” videos; shouldn’t this come as a red flag to even the most conservative viewers? Is that exactly what they’re hoping for? As Margaret Hartmann said over at,

In 30 seconds this Tide commercial presents a troubling cocktail of gender stereotypes, and it’s a bit hard to decipher. Are we supposed to relate to the uptight, creepy mom who wishes her daughter wore pink, or laugh at her for being neurotic and over-the-top girly? At worst, the ad plays on the fears we’re supposed to have about girls like Shiloh, and at best it’s just uncomfortable to watch.

Shiloh, of course, is the daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who is media-notorious for wanting to dress “like a boy.”

So what are we to take from these commercials?

To overly simplify it, this is what I see: KY, a newer product that has a limited audience, is open-minded while Tide, a product that has been advertised as long as advertising has existed, is still burdened with the baggage of its past.

What do you think?

Do you want to buy these products any more or less?


5 Responses to “Commercial Girls: Gender and Sexuality”

  1. Laura Poff September 19, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    I’ll agree the second commercial was uncomfortable to watch. I did, however, like that in the only sentence she was actually speaking to her daughter (and I assume that we’re supposed to assume her daughter can’t hear the narration before that) that she said the car garage was pretty, which while not genuine is still an encouragement. And I like that she lets her wear what she wants, even if it was a battle at some point. So, I can see where Tide maybe (maybe, maybe) didn’t think fully through how it might come across and instead just saw it as a mother accepting (reluctantly) her daughter’s preferences.

    • redshana September 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

      I think what makes me uncomfortable about that point of view is that we’re supposed to think the little girl can’t hear what she’s saying. Even if she is encouraging her on the car garage, there’s still the inflection of her voice that let’s the audience know she is doing so begrudgingly. Kids pick up on that kind of thing more than we give them credit for.

      • Laura Poff September 23, 2011 at 1:14 am #

        Yeah, absolutely! I think that many people have issues with their parents because they were picking up on such inflections and then never talking about them. It is certainly a problem, and I think it’s a very prevalent problem, actually. For me, It is probably more disturbing that the commercial portrayed that ‘begrudging’ nature of the mom’s voice as normal than what the voice was actually used on (gender roles). Even though gender steretypes bother me, too, that kind of parent/child relationship bothers me more and it especially bothers me that it may be ‘normal’.

        Did any of that make sense? Haha.

  2. AliMali September 20, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    This post made me think of when Levi’s did basically the same commercial, but did it twice–tailored to the “straight” community in one, and the gay community in another. I remember it specifically because I had seen the male/female version of this ad a million times on the networks, but noticed the change from male-female to male-male while watching Project Runway on Bravo. I thought it was actually an interesting concept, and that Levi’s probably was doing a smart thing by targeting different audiences on different channels. Anyways, just interesting tidbit..didn’t know if you had seen this or not! Both aired around the same time period, just on different networks.

    Male/Female commercial:
    Male/Male commercial:

    • redshana September 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

      I don’t think I ever saw the gay version of that commercial but I remember the straight one. It’s really similarly interesting to see what kind of products are willing to court the LGBT “market.”

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