Mad As A Wet Hen #1A Roundup of Media Affronts

How about that new Taco Bell ad featuring 11-year-old boys on the beach ogling a shapely lifeguard as she consumes a quesadilla, twirling the cheese around her finger and sucking it off? Yeah, 18-year-old women exist only for the amusement of pubescent boys. And when the kid faints when he gets near her? Oh, we almost forgot-sexy is good, but too sexy is scary and dangerous.

Guess what? According to Cosmopolitan you’ll never get a date without duct tape and a “No Trespassing” sign. “A sexy woman lets her man feel that she is his ‘private property.’ ” Also, your voice “can be a major turnoff, if it is harsh or if you use it too much.”

When Camille Paglia addresses the defunct pedophilic Calvin Klein ads in the October 31 issue of The Advocate, she implies that pedophilia is somehow an essential part of gay life and heritage: “Pedophilia is an increasingly irrational issue in America. Gays must valiantly defend their cultural tradition by articulating its highest meanings.” How could such a (usually) great gay/lesbian mag allow the perpetuation of that pernicious stereotype within its pages?

Why is it that the only Sunny Delight ads that have girls in them at all are the ones for Sunny Delight Lite?

Sometimes we feel like we hallucinated this one, because we only saw it once-and because it was so horrifying. In a tv ad for low-fat or sugar-free General Foods International Coffee, one woman offers another a cup, and she refuses it until the first woman reveals how few calories it contains. Then she changes her mind, saying, “I said no, but I meant yes,” and the ad ends with them sitting there muttering about how yes and no are really all the same anyway. Sex, rape, instant coffee, it’s all the same anyway, right? When feminist rhetoric gets turned on its head to sell a reconstituted hot beverage-well, it just makes us want to spit.

We’re all for home exercise equipment, but why do the ads always have to be so fucking smug? Case in point: the Pro-Form Space Saver treadmill, with its unctuous voiceover, “So now you’ll both be taking up less space.” The lycra-clad hardbody adorning the foldable machine is- shocker!-female. Of course, because when men work out, they’re supposed to bulk up, not shrink down. Rather than use one of those to limit our own space-taking potential, we’re going to give one to every guy on mass transit who hogs two full seats with his splayed legs and find-another-seat-sweetie smirk.

Why must Kelly always talk to her boyfriends in a soft itty-bitty girly voice?

Now we have Nike telling us that the revolution will not be televised. On tele-vision. With African-American basketball players leaping gracefully in the background. So let us get this straight. Racial justice can be achieved through shoes? And buying from a billion-dollar company whose products are made overseas so that the work can be done by women who are payed slave wages is subversive? When advertising uses radical rhetoric to mask an ad’s true consumeristic purpose (and to obscure its own racism-the image of the athletic Black man has reinforced the historical contruction of Blackness as carnal, not intellectual, while traveling under the guise of a compliment), we are tricked into believing that products can take the place of politics. The pseudo-revolution certainly will be televised.

This article was published in Premiere Issue #1 | Winter 1996

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