22 April 2019
Throughout all of history in society there have been certain roles and expectations that are deemed acceptable on how a person should behave and act based on their gender. These roles have been impressed into people’s minds through media and this starts from a child’s social and cognitive development in their early childhood and they grow up with these stereotypical thoughts into their adolescence and adulthood. The stereotypes adolescents see teach them how to act and behave come from the media including: television, movies, and advertisements. The media can exaggerate these gender stereotypes which is also known as hyper-masculinity or hyper-femininity and these exaggerations influence children on how they should behave and how the other people around them should follow suit. Unfortunately, we can see it becomes a permanent behavior into adulthood. Teaching children and young adults that they have to fit into a certain category to feel accepted in society can have negative effects on their personality, self esteem, and their overall life. In What Media Teach Kids About Gender Can Have Lasting Effects, Report Says, states “According to the report, a lifetime of viewing stereotypical media becomes so ingrained it can ultimately affect kids’ career choices, self-worth, relationships, and ability to achieve their full potential.” (Knorr 8). The effects of gender stereotypes can lead to psychological problems like toxic masculinity, homophobia and sexism. The media has a strong influence on society and one advertisement campaign that is a perfect example for these gender roles being instilled into society is Old Spice’s “Smell like a Man, Man”.
In this campaign Isaiah Mustafa, a former NFL player, is seen wearing only a towel walking out the shower. Mustafa says “Hello Ladies” and asks them to look at her man and look back at him repeatedly. The advertisement is hinting that the woman’s male partner does not meet the expectations of Mustafa’s perfect looks as he asks the viewer to compare his body to her male partner when when the actor tells her to look at his shirtless body. he then says, “Sadly he isn’t me” convincing the viewer that a normal man’s body is disappointing and unattractive compared to his. He continues to say that if her partner didn’t use lady scented body wash, he could smell like he him if he used Old Spice. This is telling the viewer that there is still hope in aiming to be attractive and you can succeed this by using Old Spice, because if you smell good you can fool people into thinking you are attractive, but if you smell like a woman you are not.
The scene dramatically switches, dragging the bathroom away, revealing the actor on a boat with an oyster in his hand, he opens the oyster and says it is the two tickets to the thing you love. The tickets then turn to diamonds and the Old Spice bottle rises out of the diamonds. The commercial ends with Mustafa on a horse saying, “Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady”. This scene enforces the idea that if you smell feminine you will be seen as unattractive and incapable of satisfying a woman and if you use the soap you will live your best life as the actor was living his on his boat with diamonds and oysters.
The Old Spice campaign was a success in reaching out to viewers and influencing consumers to purchase their products. In Old Spice Campaign Smells Like a Success, Too the author says “Since the ‘Smell Like A Man, Man’ campaign broke in February, Old Spice has month-over-month strengthened its market position” (O’Leary 9). The commercial was released on youtube and now has over 56 million views since 2010. This shows that tactics used in ads like these are successful in selling a companies product and will be continued to these tactics in other advertisements. Although, these benefit the companies it is bad for the viewer and our society. It enforces people to have a mindset that they are supposed to follow these masculine or feminine roles based on their gender. This advertisement can teach toxic masculinity, when men conceal their emotions and have to appear as tough to avoid being feminine. The advertisement tells its viewers not to smell feminine, because you will be seen as weak and unattractive compared to the NFL player shown who is telling the female viewers to compare an average man’s body and lifestyle to his. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), toxic masculinity is also referred to as traditional masculinity ideology. In an article by Jacey Fortin she talks about the APA’s study on traditional masculinity ideology and how it can lead to violence, homophobia, and misogyny.
The author states, “They acknowledge that ideas about masculinity vary across cultures, age groups and ethnicities. But they point to common themes like ‘anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.’” (Fortin 4). The ad encourages traditional masculinity ideology by making men feel incompetent if they smell feminine. Men and boys are also taught that being sensitive is a sign of weakness and it is feminine. So men feel that being sensitive is wrong and tend to hide their emotions and put up a facade that they are strong and aggressive, this can cause them to be sexist and violent towards women and bully other men who show signs of feminine behavior. This type of behavior is not healthy for a man to act as the author continues to state that, “males who are socialized to conform to “traditional masculinity ideology” are often negatively affected in terms of mental and physical health.” (Fortin 3).
The advertisement has been so successful by using tactics that make men feel emasculated if they do not use Old Spice and women to appeal to the scent of a masculine smell. The audience is targeted towards both men and women, hinting that if women want to have an attractive man and if men want to be attractive to women then men should use Old Spice.
The advertisement appeals to ethos by starring Isaiah Mustafa to establish the credibility of the soap that it will make men more appealing to women if they smell like him, since he is an attractive and desirable man. The use of pathos is seen to target the emotions of men’s insecurities when the actor says that they can be the perfect man if they stop using lady scented soap and start using Old Spice. The actor is continues to play on the insecurities of men by showing his muscular physique and making sure it is seen throughout the entirety of the video. This shows that he is portrayed as the perfect man and makes the audience feel that being muscular is desirable. Once the scene switches to the boat it shows the luxurious life he is living and by using Old Spice the male viewer can be as attractive as he is. The description of the video says “We’re not saying this body wash will make your man smell like a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it.” this shows that Old Spice is actually saying that they are manipulating the audience to think that they will smell like a rich, romantic, masculine man. Although logos is not used as much in this advertisement, the appeal to reasoning is that Old Spice body wash can make you smell good and result in making the consumer become more attractive towards women. This is a logical fallacy being used since there is no support to the argument or data showed to prove this is true.
“Culture Shift: Dealing with Toxic Masculinity.” Chrysalis Foundation, 30 July 2018, http://www.chrysalisfdn.org/learn/dealing-with-toxic-masculinity/.
Fortin, Jacey. “Traditional Masculinity Can Hurt Boys, Say New A.P.A. Guidelines.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/science/apa-traditional-masculinity-harmful.html.
Knorr, Caroline. “Gender Stereotypes Can Have Lasting Effects on Kids, Report Says.” CNN, Cable News Network, 29 June 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/06/29/health/gender-stereotypes-media-children-partner/index.html.
O’Leary, Noreen, and Todd Wasserman. “Old Spice Campaign Smells Like a Sales Success, Too.” – Adweek, Adweek, 25 July 2010, http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/old-spice-campaign-smells-sales-success-too-107588/.
“Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” YouTube, Old Spice, 4 Feb. 2010, youtu.be/owGykVbfgUE.