As you will know all too well if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, I don’t have a problem with male ‘objectification‘. More please.
But there’s objectification and there’s objectification. Despite not being altogether innocent of sadistic tendencies, I’m not sure I’m also cool with treating hot ‘objects’ that gladden the eye as idiots who deserve a good slapping for making us perve over them.
OK, I might think it sometimes, but I wouldn’t say it out loud.
But food giant Muller have no such inhibitions. They’re acting out this sadistic ambivalence loud and proud in front of millions. In their latest TV ad, a young, attractive, nearly naked pole vaulter with a smooth, edible body is scoped by the camera in extreme close-up while a young, pretty, also fit – but less naked and less ‘objectified’ – blond woman scoffs the smooth, less edible-looking product.
She is so excited by the ‘fat free’ claim for the product that she yells it out loud – ‘FAT FREE!’ – distracting the vaulter, who hits his buff chums in the head – and in the butt – with his BIG POLE.
It’s slightly reminiscent of the recent Bonmarche TV ad campaign, in which random men were ‘accidentally’ beaten up by sassy ‘ladies’ – to communicate ‘female empowerment’ and sell clothes.
Though in the Pole Vaulter ad, apart perhaps from the fact he glances at the yoghurt scoffer and raises a wolfish eyebrow, there doesn’t appear to be much of a pretense at some kind of dubious feminist statement. And of course, the smacked about men are objectified as well.
We could, if we were inclined to give a giant multinational the benefit of the doubt, treat this as a one-off by Muller (annual turnover 5BN Euros). But this is not the first time Muller have beaten up on (fit) men.
In fact, there’s a whole series of ads from the last few years flogging their (female-targeted) food product, all using the same formula: gawp at men’s bodies to get the viewer’s attention, and then punish the male trollops for being so damn hot and making us drool over them.
Now, I don’t think these ads are something to report Muller to the ASA over – though they would be in a flash if it was a bloke eating yoghurt and sexy women were getting get hit in the head. And I’m certainly not ‘offended’ by them – but I am intrigued how Muller and their ad agency clearly think this is such a cool and successful format that they keep repeating it.
Perhaps the fact that Muller is a Bavarian company needs to be factored in here. Bavaria has a strong tradition of ‘physical comedy‘. In other words, men falling over is fucking funny in the land of lederhosen and slapsticked thighs. And at least in this regard, Bavarian humour is globalised humour – it doesn’t need dialogue/dubbing.
But it’s the way that slapstick sexualisation is used here that is key. In most of these ads the (idealised) female consumer appears oblivious to these (even more idealised) males – she only has eyes for Muller Light. But the camera lingers over the ripped, lean, nearly naked male at least as much as over the product – because the viewer is likely not quite so interested in gazing at fat free yoghurt as they are in feasting on mouthwatering man-flesh.
(Full disclosure: this is the only reason I noticed the ad.)
Of course, the close-ups on the woman eating the yoghurt are ‘sexualised’ too, in that orgasmic, Cadburys Flake fellatio advertising cliche. But this is mostly to portray the plastic pot of aerated dairy products as even ‘yummier’ than the ‘hunks’.
That’s, like, totally objectifying. But pretty much a standard trope in mainstream advertising these days, and rather more common on TV than the ‘real’ or traditional form of objectification, i.e. of women. Apart from anything else, it doesn’t provoke protests – and anyway, most TV viewers are female, and most TV ads target female viewers.
Where the Muller ads go further is in debasing the male love-object. The hunks need to be punished for being so damn tempting. They obviously ‘love themselves’ – who wouldn’t, with those ‘fat free’ muscular bodies? So, they need to be taken down a peg or two. Or just hit in the head.
After we’ve eaten them alive.