The sexism of beer and other alcohol commercials has been well-documented by About-Face. So, I can’t say I was terribly surprised to see the line of the latest Miller Lite commercials. I’m referring to, of course, the series of advertisements that the company has been promoting as part of their “Un-Manly” campaign.
I’m sure you’ve seen them. Men who cry are deemed “unmanly,” men who don’t want to be apart from their significant other are “unmanly,” men who like Kelly Clarkson are “unmanly,” men who ask another man to go to the bathroom at the same time as them are “unmanly” … all leading up to men who choose any light beer other than Miller Lite being “unmanly.” Luckily, these men always have a posse of dudes to remind them how unmanly they’re being and set them on the straight and narrow by ordering a Miller Lite. All is then right with the world, men are again masculine – meaning a safe distance from anything that may be considered – shudder – feminine. Miller Lite will SAVE you from being a woman, it seems.
Two of the ads that I find most worthy of criticism manage to both mock men who exhibit emotional lives as well as portray women who are supposedly in “heroic” roles as unnecessarily sexualized.
Here we have a group of women who are impersonating real-life heroes (lifeguards), for the purpose of being able to showcase women in bathing suits, while pretending to save a man from the insult of being compared to … well, themselves.
Even these female lifeguards are horrified by the thought of a man being feminized. They make sure to point out that drinking anything other than Miller Lite is worse than using strawberry body wash – apparently, scented body wash previously held the title of least manly/worst thing a guy could use if he’s trying to maintain a masculine identity. To make sure you didn’t miss the effort to paint the women as sexually gratifying, the man in question plays into the women’s “rescue” theme by saying “I think I need mouth-to-mouth!,” as he watches the women rush out. Apparently they are scared off by a “manly” woman who appears to rescue him!
This ad heightens the drama, by having a man tell his friend that he will be taking away his “man card” if he makes one more misstep. (I didn’t know one’s gender identity depended on the approval of one’s friends. Or that one’s gender identity could be revoked.) His two crimes against masculinity, of course, being drinking a non-Miller Lite beer, and asking his male friend to go with him to the bathroom.
This one particularly mocks the behavior of going to the bathroom in groups, or with a friend that is generally seen as feminine. Not only is he supposedly unmanly for adopting an action that is usually only done by women, but it makes sure to emphasize that this behavior is supposedly ridiculous, foolish, and overly dependent. It’s not enough for Miller Lite to tell men that they can erase their recent behavior history that could be seen as shamefully unmanly. They need to exaggerate these behaviors to point out how silly and ridiculous they think women look when engaging in them, as well. However silly someone thinks that behavior might be – say, going to the bathroom with a group of friends – the point Miller is making is that the behavior is silly just because it’s a female behavior.
It’s important to note how misogynistic these messages are. While they attempt to be sold as funny (you weren’t laughing?), fundamentally these commercials are telling viewers that actions seen as feminine are weak, thereby reinforcing the message that women are less capable and competent. Worse, if a man takes on her characteristics, he’ll be threatened with total emasculation. The end result is that Miller Lite are willing to risk half the population’s purchasing power to appeal to their male customers. I won’t be rewarding them with any of my money.