Thursday, November 13, 2008

Of beer and bikinis

By Angie D

There is nothing better than downing a cold brewski on the beach… except realizing that your beer is actually a remote control for a woman in a thong bikini. The suggestion that beer allows men to exert control over women is explicit in this ad, but the reason is unclear.

In fact, the marketing relationship between beer and bikinis (and more generally, between beer and scantily clad women) has been a long and successful one, but can anyone really explain why? The notion that sex sells is oversimplified. Consider this ad for Moosehead Light Beer.

Apparently, not all sex sells. Moosehead would have us believe that homoerotic contact is only attractive when it’s between women – preferably in bikinis. In fact, it is in women’s nature to be sexy and it is in men’s nature to watch women being sexy. While drinking a beer, of course.

Miller also teaches us something useful: sex doesn’t sell to everybody. Who could forget the classic “Great Taste vs. Less Filling” debate. Miller almost achieves irony with this commercial: the men creating the fantasy ad are dreaming of women who don’t actually exist, and they are doing so at the cost of alienating the women they are actually with. The beer produces delusions of sexual grandeur and the delusions leave these men void of the female companionship (or, at least, the displays of female promiscuity) promised them by beer commercials in the first place. Yet this ad was immensely popular… Did the nearly-naked wrestling somehow distract viewers from the underlying message that beer commercials objectify women and make unreasonable promises? Hmm, tough one.

Kudos to HBO’s short lived series, Hardcore TV, which finally explicitly portrayed the absurdity of linking beer to sexual conquest (warning: there is a flash of nude breasts in this one). If it is widely acknowledged that these beer commercials are simply over the top and unrepresentative of viewers’ real outcomes when drinking beer – as this skit suggests, why does the advertising relationship between beer and bikinis persist? And why is the subtext of misogyny so tacitly accepted when it’s wrapped in a sales pitch for alcohol? A warning: you may not be prepared for the way this one ends.

Something to think about next time you uncap a cold one.

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