Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sexy Women As Meat (media moment 3)

This Hardees/Carl's Jr. commercial is designed to whet the appetites of its audience in several senses of the word.

The main players are two thin, bikini-and-booty-short-wearing white women; barbecue; and a catfight--a combination that's supposed to represent every straight man's wet dream. The title of the commercial--"BBQ's Best Pair"--refers not only to the pairing of pork and beef which happens towards the end of the scene, but also to the pairing of the two female characters.

The commercial starts out with a thin, white, scantily-clad woman in an American flag bikini (representing the ideal, "all-American woman?) slathering barbecue sauce on slabs of pork and licking her fingers seductively.

She really likes that barbecue sauce.
The interesting part begins when another thin woman in a bikini and booty shorts comes over to the grill. She puts her cheeseburgers on the grill (how dare she!), and starts antagonizing the other by bending over to reveal part of her butt and tossing a burger onto the other woman's slab of meat. The first woman retaliates by splashing barbecue sauce onto the other's breast, which prompts an obligatory cleavage close-up.

Then a feud ensues. They battle each other with their hips and toss their meat onto the other's meat. The "fight" scene is interspersed with several close-ups of the women's bare, taut, wet midriffs. Then a bit of pulled pork falls onto a cheeseburger, and the women stop fighting to contemplate the creation they've just brought into the universe.

The scene cuts and each woman is now holding a well-made Hardee's pulled-pork cheeseburger (is one kind of animal no longer enough? just sayin') which they share by feeding each other and climbing all over one another. Two men in cowboy hats stare at them, slackjawed, and take pictures on their cellphones.

Hardee's mends violent conflicts and gets people in the mood. Yey, Hardee's!
This commercial is obviously problematic for many reasons if you take an oppositional stance.

Both of the women in this commercial are white, thin, and very scantily-clad, suggesting that this is the ideal woman for a body to have (I like how that sentence accidentally turned out, so I'm going to leave it.) A brunette and a blonde come together to form the "best pair" by representing the "broad" spectrum of women the mainstream American media usually depicts as appealing to the white, American, heterosexual male. They are sexualized throughout the commercial in countless ways, from the postures they use to the close-ups of their bodies.

The meat can be interpreted to represent not only actual meat, but metaphorical meat--aka, penis. They battle it out over the meat and reunite over meat by sharing it and delighting in it. Substitute barbecue meat for penis, and the commercial still makes sense, I think (although I don't think they'd stab the penis with tongs in the same way that they stab the slabs of pork.)

The women's intimate link to the meat that they cook and share, and their subjection to the male gaze, also works to cast casts them as meat.

At the end when they share the burger in a sexual way, the two men taking pictures with their cell phones suggests that any remotely non-heterosexual behavior between two women is only valuable insofar as it appeals to men.

Do you find this commercial fun or offensive? Based on the idea that femininity is performative, is it problematic to criticize the media for putting forth images like these, or are we right to criticize the media for making us think that there is an ideal type of femininity? Do you think that the concept of femininity is shaped by the media, or is it the other way around?

(Also, did you notice that I love to use parentheses?)

- amanda

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