Monday, October 11, 2010

The Fine Line

I love Desperate Housewives. What I love about the show is that even with a name like that, they refuse to portray their leading female characters as idiots, which is increasingly becoming a rarity on Television. These women are shown as fundamentally strong, intelligent, and witty without being Charlie's Angels or CSI Detectives, and I'm fine if they throw a cat-fight or two into the mix just to add some drama - it's a TV show after all.

Now, what I cannot stand is shows like 'The Real Housewives of...' series, Bridezillas or Paris Hilton's new BFF, whose sole purpose seems to be to slot women into one of three categories - bitchy, dumb or gold-digger. Over time, I've sort of made my peace with this portrayal - unfortunate, but someone out there gets a kick out of this stuff, and money must be made off it. But this Sunday, I was completely ticked off after seeing this ad.

Some would say this is a harmless ad. So why am I so riled, when I could look past Bridezillas? You see, once advertising misses the fine line between stupidity and comedy, and begins to think that women must be portrayed as dumb in order to potentially lure female consumers, one must take notice of the gravity of the problem.

My issues with this ad are, but obvious. Firstly, it is not funny. Yes, I mean even with grown women in Cinderella-like gowns, wearing those silly expressions. If they were going for comedy, they failed miserably. Those women could have been witty and funny - it's not entirely impossible. Even SATC could teach you a lesson or two on how to do that! Secondly, these people from advertising and marketing didn't stop to think if self-respecting women would want to buy butter-finger snacksters after seeing such an ad (and not just because they're called butter-finger snacksters)? No, just like in the ad, I think I won't! You see, I would feel stupid eating those things, now that I have the image of those two silly women stuck in my head, know what I mean?

And I'm not overreacting either. This ad is only one in a string of such insulting ads that I saw this weekend. And even if some women don't consciously feel offended by this (it's almost impossible to mentally register ads these days given all the info overload), I'm not sure if the overall impression of such ads appeals to the average woman's subconscious at least. So, to all the ad agencies/TV shows out there, please, take a leaf out of Desperate Housewives. And if you absolutely must show us as "girly girls", you could learn from 'The Closer' where Kyra Sedgwick has such a weakness for chocolate that she steals donuts from a crime scene while superbly solving a homicide mystery. I can live with that. Just not stupidity.


  1. Digressing from the topic a bit - but I have always thought that ads in the US r not that creative/funny. Indian ads r so much funnier. Maybe these guys should learn a bit or 2 from Indian counterparts.

  2. CAM with Anonymous! US HAS the most boring ads ever.
    But I didn't find this ad enraging or offensive. I mean I can see that the stereotype they are trying to portray, but don't most ads do that - how many ads do see with women who don't have a perfect body. Yes its appealing to the eyes and so it will sell more but it is also stereotyping in a way. I think you are just angry that "Butterfingers" failed at humor too :)

  3. Unless its a niche product, appealing to more refined sensibilities may not make business sense.

    @Tanz I guess its offensive if one believes that media stereotypes create unhealthy norms which people feel pressurized to follow.

  4. @Anonymous - Agree that Indian ads are far more creative. In favor of American ads though, some say that they like the fact that for a lot of products (which are not otherwise beauty or appearance related), you'll see the average-Joe-like "models" as opposed to Indian ads where you would see a hot model for Harpic Toilet cleaner too.
    @Tanz - I see the point you're trying to make, but here's the problem. Women with perfect bodies are not stereotypes as such, they are what these product companies want you to aspire to be. There are several issues with that too, but that's not what my post is about. From a purely advertising standpoint, I get that, because when you see a woman with perfect skin in a moisturizer ad, you either relate to her or want to be like her. In case of this ad, why would anyone relate to these women or want to be like them? My whole problem is that more and more people out there making ads and TV shows seem to think that this portrayal is relate able! And yes, what else can one expect from butter fingers, I suppose :D.
    @Synapse - I see your point. That is perhaps what some of the people responsible may have concluded about the average viewer's IQ/intellect (maybe after a lot of research, who knows?). But I still think that things can still be kept simple and funny without being absolutely dumbed down or stereotyped. They need to give some credit to the consumers' intelligence perhaps. Or at least, not totally alienate those who can think for themselves! And yes, it is offensive not because they are overtly sexist per se, but such portrayal does create unhealthy norms, as you said. More and more people don't see anything wrong with these things any more for that reason!

  5. OMG US/European ads are SO duh! I can sleep during the commercials, seriously!
    And abt the models bit, well, probably thats a plus, but dude, some fun, some wit, please?
    I used to like DH, but I got bored :( I LOVE Grey's anatomy though, even if it is all doc women, but it makes me very happy :D
    I just saw the ad, I am more amused by your annoyance with it, than the ad itself! :D

  6. I thought it was a noted thing that Indians made the best ads! Atleast that's what winning awards at Cannes meant to me! :)
    Oooh and I LOVE DH! Totally.
    And like DI above, I love Greys too! :D

  7. @DI, Preeti - Yep, Indian ads are most creative. I watch them on youtube sometimes because I don't get Indian channels at home. Who watches commercials on youtube eh? But what to do? Our Indian ads are just so entertaining! :)
    Yes, latest season of DH isn't great, but I'm a loyal fan. I have to start watching Grey's though. Heard so much about it. Did a 30 Rock marathon this weekend. It's a great show too.