Offensive Commercials: It's Showdown Time!

To kick us off, Padma Lakshmi hearts Carl’s Jr.:

Why it’s offensive: This ad not only follows the classic Carl’s Jr. trend of showing a hot woman licking barbecue sauce off her naked thighs, but the woman in question this time is Padma Lakshmi! Am I the only one who thought Padma (host of Bravo’s Top Chef) was above selling fast food burgers by showing her cleavage? The always hilarious Sarah Haskins has a new video about the douchebaggery of Carl’s Jr. ads here. Padma, how could you do this to me and Gail Simmons of Food and Wine magazine?

You might have reasons to vote for the Carl’s Jr. ad as the most offensive, but our showdown is far from over! Next up, Orangina gets animalistic:

Why it’s offensive: Have you ever seen anything this creepy? As if forcing unreasonable, heteronormative standards on humans in commercials wasn’t enough, Orangina has animated sexy animals to objectify! WTF is up with the “lady panda” having her top ripped off? And what is the point of this ad, besides making me (and everyone else in the office who has been forced to watch this) feel really uncomfortable? I’d say I need a shower, but I don’t want to follow in the footsteps (hoofsteps?) of that sexed-up doe. Yikes. Also, just imagine how long the animation process on this must have been! Was it worth the effort?

That ad might have you jonesing to become a vegetarian, but we’re not through. For our next round in the showdown, Schick Quattro does yard work in the UK:

And in the US:

Why it’s offensive: These ads (especially the British one with the jingle) accomplish so much when it comes to strange sexist, racist, and all-around-bizarre innuendos that you almost have to congratulate them (almost). How many cat/pussy jokes can one commercial contain? And what about how the black woman has a huge chainsaw hedge trimmer, while the Asian woman has a tiny pair of scissors? Of course, the underlying theme is that all women need to trim their pubes, ASAP. It’s okay ladies, it’s fun!

Before you throw out those gardening shears in disgust, hold on for one more round. Last but not least, hailing from the dirty minds at Axe Body Spray, it’s “Dark Temptation”:

Why it’s offensive: Not only are women reduced to mindless chocolate fiends in this ad (don’t they look like extra-pretty zombies?), but it is a contender for the most racist of all of the entrants in today’s showdown. Once the white man puts on his “Dark Temptation” (which, btw, is a cologne that smells like dessert and sounds disgusting) and turns brown, the thin, beautiful, white women in the ad go crazy trying to ingest him. Am I wrong, or is he basically wearing the candy version of black face? I don’t think bell hooks’ article “Eating the Other” was meant to be interpreted this literally.

Time to vote! Take your pick as to which ad is the most offensive, and we’ll post the results on Friday. Will your choice be the winner (or loser, as the case may be)?

Which offensive ads should be included in the next showdown? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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32 Comments Have Been Posted

never thought i'd be saying this, but

needs more burger king

three words.


I know, right!

The awesomely kick-ass Padma, known by me as a "foodie" (not after this!), hosts and judges a HUGE show on the Bravo network about gourmet food. She is also the better half of author Salman Rushdie.

WHY would she even feel the need to DO a commercial? especially in that manner, and especially for that company.

Her choice of course, but my how the mighty have fallen. Heavy in a vat of grease they drown. (To paraphrase T-Pau.)

i feel gross

I feel gross after watching these. The orangina one and the axe one were seriously disturbing -- what is even the *point* of that? The only thing I can think of is that nobody drinks orangina, so maybe they feel like they can at least get some attention?

This is off the topic of racism and sexism, but how is it ok that both Padma and Tom Collicio (sp) are doing ads for junk food now (Tom's is for Diet Coke)? How am I supposed to believe what they say about "taste" on "Top Chef" if they're eating crappy fast food burgers and washing it down with nutrasweet nastiness?

"The only thing I can think

"The only thing I can think of is that nobody drinks orangina, so maybe they feel like they can at least get some attention?"

Ha ha ha ha!

I have a minor childhood trauma (difficult family vacation) permanently linked to Orangina in my mind, and any time I try to have some it ALL COMES BACK. This ad, while unrelated, just solidifies it all the more.

One good thing about Carl's Jr.

The only good thing I can take from any of these commercials is that Carl's Jr. shows a woman eating and she's enjoying it. Of course, it has to be in a sexual manner, but if we take into account how body and food obsessed the media is. The cover of US weekly is DWTS' diet secrets, I swear to God, those women don't eat anything, they talk about avoiding carbs and having salad and fruit for dinner. One dancer talked about how she eats a whole cup of Gummy worms! God forbid, the horrors, gummy worms!!! One dancer has no carbs except for orange juice. How can that be healthy??? Ugh. Anyways, at least the Carl's Jr ad is showing a woman enjoying eating food. But that's the only positive thing I can find. But unfortunately the manner in which it's shown is sexist.

The Orangina ad was seriously creepy. was the video grainy, or did I see the bear's penis? And how she rubs the flower on is crotch off-screen? And the stimulated sex, the pole dancing, the straddling of Orangina bottles that burst, lap dancing, crotch shots, tops being torn off... I could go on. The Gilette ads were also bizarre, and the Axe ads are unfortunately nothing new.

They're all so offensive...

I can't decide which is the worst. Here's the French version of the Bikini Quattro commercial/music video...

<div><object width="480" height="291"><param name="movie" value=";related=... name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"></param><embed src=";related=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="480" height="291"></embed></object><br /><b><a href="">Ma Garden Party</a></b><br /><i>Uploaded by <a href="">magardenparty</a></i></div>

Anyone know French? Kelsey??

Based on the imagery and the few English words, I gather that I should be offended by this one too.

holy fucking shit

the gardent party commercial is so long. i can't believe they have commercials so long. what the hell?

but all the rest of those, holy fucking shit. seriously, the time-space continuum, it is smashing in on itself. color me creeped out.

i've seen the chocolate commercial on tv. i cannot get over how much like a person made of poop the guy looks like. and for germaphobes like me, oh my god. the idea of touching a strangers butt with my mouth, horrifying.

My french is not what it

My french is not what it used to be but apparently inviting all her friends is an amazing fun party that is doing them a favor so they keep their hedges clean.... and not look like a yak?

I also love the part where they discuss their options together, a heart an arrow....
because thats what we all need to do, have garden parties and talk about what designs to create. (do we get to bitch about the ingrown hairs and bumps later? not to mention when you make a mistake and the heart doesnt look right!

ok sarcasm ending.

there's also a refrain about

there's also a refrain about how "when it's short, it's more glamorous, and there's less stress when you embrace me". and yeah, she doesn't want to look like a yak. wonderful.

am i missing something?

maybe i'm crazy but i actually think these carl jr ads show that women can be sexy *and* eat. isn't that a good thing? when was the last time we say images of "pretty" girls eating anything...

yeah, but does the positive

yeah, but does the positive value of a sexy woman eating even come close to equaling the offensiveness of the ad?

The commercial's

The commercial's objectifying really trumps that message, for me. The commercial wasn't created with the idea of telling pretty girls to eat, and I think that's obvious with the need to focus on her pulling up her dress and her cleavage amongst other things. It was created to draw in ogling men. It's a good, hopeful thought to see it as a way to encourage eating, but I doubt that was the intention.

I got served this commercial twice while watching a baseball game. It's even more offensive in proper quality and size than it was on my computer screen.

when do we see fat girls eating?

when do we see fat girls eating?

i mean, these commercials are clearly -not- aimed at girls. all girls on tv commercials are generally thin and 'sexy', though not sexually objectified.

"More than just a piece of meat"??!

What's amazing to me about this commercial is that it uses the phrase "just a piece of meat," which originally referred to the objectification of women (am I right?), yet preceeds this by objectifying a woman and in the end is referring to the SANDWICH as more than a piece of meat, NOT the woman. What kind of f*ed up message is that!? No, Padma, no. How could you?

The being pretty AND eating concept still perpetuates society's unrealistic standards of beauty and probably makes real women feel worse about their bodies and eating. The idea that celebrities are effortlessly beautiful and perfect is really appalling.

m & m commercials

Is anyone else mad/sad/freaked out by the sexualization of the green "lady" m & m?? I HATE those commercials. I realize they're playing on the urban legend of the green m & m making you horny but come on. Can't an m & m just be an m & m??

I HATE those commercials,

I HATE those commercials, too. Totally gross, for the obvious reasons, but also for the fact that I never heard that stupid green m&ms urban legend, but my mom DID tell me when I was little that green ones were for wishing on. And I do that every single time to this day. So it's kind of a childhood ruining thing as well as being generally offensive.

Orangina gets the vote hands down

What is Orangina selling, exactly?

With a name like "orangina"

<p>With a name like "orangina" I'm not sure I <strong><em>want </em></strong>to know.</p>

Tell the companies

Would anyone else like to join me in e-mailing these companies? I just sent Carls Jr. the Sarah Haskins piece. They probably don't really care, but hey, at least it's something. The next question is, do I start calling their comments and questions phone number?


re: Axe Body Spray

...I didn't think this ad was very offensive at all.
I get that the women are <cite>'reduced to mindless chocolate fiends'</cite> as you put it, and sure, that's a bit offensive...but realistically, chocolate (if I'm correctly informed) is an aphrodisiac, so it's more of a metaphor than anything (plus let's not forget they're selling body spray to men) but I don't think that there's any racism intended here...
Sure, the white guy turns brown... but when you think of chocolate, what color do you associate with it?
I doubt most people would think of white chocolate instantly unless it was the only type they ate... plus, if he was made of white chocolate then chances are, a lot of people wouldn't understand the ad (not to mention that the product is called DARK temptation).
I think that to say this ad is racist, is pretty harsh considering he didn't embody any specific black stereo types.
That's just my opinion though...

(p.s, I thought the ads for Schick were funny and clever...)

how's about the old school

how's about the old school 70's pimp walk?? the large black-faced chocolate guy couldn't walk like some normal douche bag that was just out to pick up chicks??

I voted for Schick as most

I voted for Schick as most offensive... but Orangina gets my vote for most disturbing.

Grossest moment of Orangina

Grossest moment of Orangina commercial:


I actually gasped out loud in disgust.

We should say something

All of those commercials are mortifyingly terrible. I think that I am especially horrified by Orangina and Quattro, not because the standard lameness portrayed in Carl's Jr.'s commercial or the bizarre racism of Axe's commercial are any less horrible, but because Orangina and Quattro take sexism, sexualization/objectification, and gender roles to a low that I have never seen before in a commercial. Basically, they shocked me the most in how offensive they were. I shudder to think that girls and young women... or anybody will see any of these advertisements.

Who's with me in lodging complaints to these companies?

Orangina's contact page:

Schick Quattro:

Axe's Dark Temptation (scroll down to bottom of page, click "Contact Us" and a feedback form window will pop up):

Carl's Jr.:

(Also see Carl's Jr.'s other gendered ads and compare their stereotypical portrayal of men as eating lots of meat or as professionals in the medical world to the commercial posted above where a woman (Padma) is sexualized and eats food off of her ankles:
"More Meat":
Bourbon Burger:

Good Idea!

Thanks so much for posting those addresses! Anyone who has an opinion about these commercials (and I include myself in that group, obviously) should contact the companies and let them know how creepy we think they are. Let's get to it!

lighten up a bit

Okay, the description of the first video is just plain extravagant. She never licks sauce off of anything other than her hand and the burger, even Elizabethan women could do that. I never saw her cleavage, it was always hidden behind a shadow, not that I was even looking being a gay man. The fact that she is a gourmet foodie only makes this commercial funnier, it's not demeaning because it's obviously a poke at the gourmet world that thinks they're better than everyone else and a poke at the people who take commercials too seriously, like you people.

The 2nd video is creepy, the description and hatred of that commercial is justified.

3rd video, blah blah blah, since when does feminism mean that you can't talk about pubic hair anymore?

4th video, people are taking the chocolate = black people thing way too far. There is no commercial that they could have done that would not have given you people that search for racism a bit to munch on. Quit looking for a zebra when there is a horse right in front of you. The guy turned into a moving chocolate bar, not some black stallion out to exotify the world. As for the girls turned zombies I will quote Avenue Q "stereotypes may be uncouth but you laugh because they're based on truth" introduce me to a woman gay, straight, or otherwise that doesn't crave chocolate and then we'll talk, until then, laugh a little bit, life is too short

are you blind?

Kyle, I agree with a good chunk of your argument but I have to say Padmas cleavage is clear and blatant at 0:09, 0:23, 0:26, 0:30, 0:34, 0;36. And that's just a quick perusal.


Seriously, you all need to get your heads out of your asses. People get butthurt over anything these days. When these clearly, unoffensive commercials come on, you all get uptight and start whining about your periods. Shut up,relax, take your Midol and eat some chocolate, you cows.

Do you remember that

Do you remember that offensive McDonalds ad where two women were sitting in a jazz cafe and conversating?
-You know, I heard McDonald's is making lattes now.
-Now we don't have to listen to jazz all day long!
-I can start wearing heels again!
-I don't know where Paraguay is!.... and so on...
I have to admit that almost every commercial ad I've seen from McDonald's makes me think that this company is not actually run by humans anymore. The way they play out, it feels like the approximation of what human life must be like from the eyes of an outsider, culled from our most base stereotypes and social roles and regurgitated back onto us.

AT & T ads

The man sitting with the kids doing ridiculous things when he asks is faster better or is 2 better than one. These commercials are dismissive of the girls. His total fascination with the boy who is stupidly waving his arm and wiggling his head and his dismissiveness toward the girl who tries to show what she can do---and the one where the girl is saying some nonsensical chain of events and his response, to her, is not fascination but is a disdainful "What?"

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