George S Page

Gender Stereotypes in: Beer Commercials.
By: George H

Expectations surround us in the form of advertisements, especially in television commercials; alcoholic television commercials. Successful alcohol commercials use the sexual and social tension to promote their beverage in a humorous or romantically attention grabbing way. Usually a very attractive woman walks into the room, eyeing a man who is eyeing her back, and then at the climax of action beer is introduced in an either subtle or obvious way. The concept is to construct the gender of men and women to incorporate beer and liquor as an aspect of their lifestyle. An article by the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, found that “Adolescents are believed to look for media models that reflect their own already developed notions about gender (Walsh- Childers and Brown 1993)”. A socially developing adolescent person is made to question themselves as they watch an alcohol commercial, “What’s wrong with me? Why aren’t I suave and cool like the man in that commercial?” because everybody knows that a man who can get a girl by doing nothing other than drinking beer is totally cool. When a viewer sees a commercial they are not made to focus on the product, but on the people who are portrayed as those who enjoy using the product. The company advertising alcoholic beverages, target’s the adolescently maturing audience with portrayals of elaborated real life scenes which pose a fantastic turn of events that make the young people envious of their lifestyle, and aspire to become like these confident and successful people in the social world.

There is an ad done by Keystone Light, acted out by Keith Stone which shows a humorous gender construction of a male character concerning the traditional and heroic role of a male. He is carrying a box of 30 keystone lights and walking down a neighborhood street in a suburban setting, when he sees a grandmother who confronts him for help. When Keith stops to help the old lady, he shows the male adolescent audience how a man executes his role in society. “Adolescents are believed to look for media models that reflect their own already developed notions about gender” as was stated in an article published by Donna Rouner, Michael D. Slater, and Melanie Domenech-Rodriguez, who are part of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media on September of 2003. He shows to the male audience that they need to protect women because they are vouldnerable and helpless when confronted by tragic events. This is humorous because she is an old lady, and Keith is a man in his mid twenties. Keith’s decisive and unhesitant reaction to the issue provides an even more persuasive modem for showing how normal and comfortable he is as a man, making him a somewhat rediculous role model for his gender. The adolescent audience of this generation has grown up with such movies such as “Anchorman” which provide a male hero who is humorously dysfunctional in society.Then there is a fantastic, and humorous twist in the plot of the commercial where the audience discovers that cat in the tree turns out to actually be a very beautiful woman.
The cat actually being a woman who falls out of the tree is incredibly silly and rediculous. The woman is also very attractive which further attracts the attention of the adolescent audience, pumping them full of attentive hormones. The woman is also attracted to Keith because he has saved her, and fills the audience with envy that this sexually attractive woman would be attracted to this sort of man; filling these young men with a desire to accept the manerisms of this man into their construction. The man in this commercial shows a stereotype found in a snippet of information stated within an article published within the same article as that of the three social scientists who surveyed the impact of how adolescents evaluate their gender roles through sexual TV imagery, and favors their finding that, “Beer ads portray a male universe, with traditional gender role images featuring the Ultra-Masculine man who engages in physical labor, outdoor, recreation, and barroom drinking. He remains cool, calm and detached from females who provide little more than decoration (Postman, Nystrom, Strate, and Weingartner, 1988).” The underlying slogan of the commercial being “smooth” like Keith Stone shows a man confident with the completeness of his gender construction, and shows that he also enjoys drinking beer. Smooth is an adjective which enhances manly characteristics and it also charming; it comes with the great confidence in knowing exactly the right thing to do. The ideal beer drinking man who gets lucky and always acts smooth is like some sort of super hero, for smooth could be attributed to a man like James Bond (though he drinks martinis) but he always knows, and moves smoothly through dangerous situations. Keith is lucky and drinks Keystone Light beer, which the commercial attributes to being an “always smooth” drink. The viewer perched in front of the television sees another man as being actively successful in unrealistic aspects of daily life.

Beer commercials portray the male gender acting out life’s daily tasks, but pair them with different beers. These men are role models because they do humorous things, and are placed in outlandishly silly enough situations which the viewer might envy the people who are in them for the fun of the situation. Researchers Dawn T. Robinson and Lynn Smith-Lovin(cool last name) have said something quite similar in their article Getting a Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions where they said, “humor serves as ‘reality play’ by teasing or toying with reality in such a way that it generates situation-defining reality maintenance.” The men in these commercials know how to have a good time and find it in the party scene, living their life in what appears to be a good way, or find themselves in humorous situations because of their lifestyle. When something like a joke sticks out in a person’s mind, they may wish to share that humor with other people, and doing so will share the construction surrounding the humor. This construction is then perpetuated through the humor being spread by word of mouth amongst friends who interact with one another in society. Since there is no such thing as negative press, and since humor is usually not seen as negative, the exposure of these constructions is retained for its humorous outlandishness and carried out through the people who find themselves in normal, outside of television situations.

In accordance with information provided by the American Health Journal of Public Health in the article Association Between Adolescent Viewership and Alcohol Advertising, gender construction permeates into the different types of alcohol, deviating in gender representation between beer and liquor, and they say in their studies they found that, “spirits and alocopops, ad placement were especially associated with viewership among adolescent girls.” This makes sense when one looks at the differences between men and women already mentioned above, where the females in beer commercials provide little more than decoration, though this is done in a humorous light. A woman might shrug this construction for the obvious reasons being that she is not a man, and her construction amongst men makes her into something of a joke. Liquor and alcopop commercials provide a constructive outlook for life for young women who are maturing in modern society where the men have been constructed to incorporate alcohol into their lifestyle.

Men and women being depicted in different roles in different alcohol commercials shows the researcher that alcohol construction permeates into what we might consider appropriate for a man or woman to drink. Different commercials show women and men drinking hard liquor at functions where the viewer does not see any beer. This creates two different social scenes through the alcoholic media, one being the beer drinking men who are much louder, more physically active in social situations and look through a humorous lens concerning what is happening around them; while the liquor drinking men are sophisticated members of higher society whose focus reaches beyond the partying wild life, maybe into something like global trade. This was made clear through a variety of the commercials for Johny Walker’s colored labeled Scottish Malt Whiskey which show a the man who created his alcohol drink empire through the ingenuity of his global trading skills. This socially stratifies alcohol drinkers into two different classes of people. A man who drinks liquor would probably not be doing so within a group of partying beer drinkers through a constructive commercial. Slogans like “Here we Go” associated with the Bud Light beer to insinuate in their commercials that the party has just begun, like some natural hurricane strength force which cannot be stopped. A liquor drinking man would not be willing to break down the social barriers which hold him above the uncontrolled excitement because they would most likely be the beer drinker’s boss. In fact, the boss if he shows up in the beer drinking commercial, will generally not be a part of the party, but may poke his head in to be ridiculed by his lack of understanding these partying people.

The Urus Vodka company put out a commercial depicting a large party in the woods which looked to be something out of a scene in a Disney movie, where women in outrageously large dresses tower over men who direct the viewer behind the camera through the party wearing waiter styled coats and Mad Hatter styled top hats. The party seems to be pretty exciting, it is certainly in a strange and magically set up woodland setting, with the brightness and excitement of a children’s Carnival. These attractions are only a side show for the real party which is happening beneath one of the beautiful women’s very large dress. This commercial would appeal to an adolescent girl, because there are many bright, eye catching colors, and everything is elegantly set. Researchers from the American Journal of Public Health have stated, “spirits and alcopops, ad placements were especially associated with viewership among adolescent girls.” There is a clear presence of female importance to the party in this commercial, the women get to wear all sorts of fancy dresses, and the flashiest and most interesting part of the party happens under the really tall girls dress. This fits into the traditional role for a woman whom according to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology’s article titled “What matters more Breaking Traditions or Stereotype Content?” which states, “Women are perceived positively mainly because of their interpersonal features (e.g. they are nice and don’t get in anyone’s way) a phenomena they call the ‘women are wonderful effect.’ However this positive effect disappears hen women break tradition by stepping into the men’s areas.” The commercial shows this through the person behind the camera, being the viewer of the commercial, being led through a sort of lineup of interesting women in very fancy dresses and is directed in different directions through the party by men in unique waiter’s uniforms. The focus of this party is not on people drinking the alcohol, the only scene where vodka is shown is the one where a male waiter walks by with a bottle of the vodka on a silver tray, smiling ecstatically. The person behind the camera is also being led by these waiter men through the party and down to the place where everybody is dancing underneath the very tall girl’s circus tent wide dress. The image of the people underneath this woman’s dress can be seen as a powerful symbol to show how women are supposed to be very social, and the party could be seen as under her control by being literally under her dress; which could also be seen to hold some sexual connotations as well as the implicit social.

The presence of male waiters, being the ones who tend to the women who are the life, and joy of the party makes the image more appealing for a woman audience. This is supported by the American Journal of Public Health in an article titled “Association Between Adolescent Viewership and Alcohol Advertising” which states, “For spirits and alcopops, ad placement were especially associated with viewership among adolescent girls.” This commercial seems to target adolescent girls specifically, because it has fashionable people hanging out in a fairy tale like set up, with men who serve them as waiters, and the playboy men who appear are stylishly dressed and dancing at the parties in a very tame and appealing way. This commercial not only constructs the way women look at fashion in a preferential light, but also gets the image of being led by men through life, as she is being led by the working men through the party.

The differences between the construction of men and women through alcohol commercials seems to occur between different genders for different drinks. Young men are urged to enter the beer influenced party scene beer in a physically active way with women appealing as side pleasure. Liquor appears to try and appeal with a different light, where women are interactive within the party scene and look to be almost a requirement for these men to have a good time. The Liquor commercials try to come off as the drink of men who are economically successful, while beer tries to show an outlet to the younger audience who hasn’t accomplished much, and isn’t too concerned about it. Liquor tries to be more sophisticated amongst its party scene goers, where nothing goes wrong where somebody gets the brunt of a joke, or singled out for doing something weird which beer drinkers go for, in the wild ideals of spontaneous partying which makes up the excitement as it goes along.

Works Cited: Magdalena Zawisza and Marco Cinnirella, “What Matters More—Breaking Tradition or Stereotype Content? Envious and Paternalistic Gender Stereotypes and
Advertising Effectiveness” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 2010
Rouner Donna, Slater D. Michael, and Domenech-Rodriguez Melanie “Adolescent Evaluation of Gender Role and Sexual Imagery in Television Advertisements” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media September 2003
White Michael, Andrews Victoria “Association Between Adolescent Viewership and Alcohol Advertising.” American Journal of Public Health 2005