by scarletzora on February 27, 2017 - 5:28pm
For the past few decades, the term “selling sex” has become a common method to advertise almost any type of products with the use of sexualized images (Wade and Sharp 163). In most cases, women are displayed in very specific ways, where their bodies are exposed and used to the point of objectification.
The picture shown above is part of a Carl’s Jr burger video commercial that was showcased during the 2015 Super Bowl event. Charlotte McKinney, the actress featured in the commercial, is the definition of an “exemplary female prototype in advertising…[she] displays youth […], good looks, sexual seductiveness (Baudrillard 1990), and perfection (Kilbourne 1989)” (Cortese 59). During the video, she alluringly walks around an open farmers’ market, naked. The absence of her clothing is explained as she says: “I love going all natural” suggesting that the product (in this case the burger) is “all natural”- no antibiotic or steroids used. Furthermore, the camera angles used during the shoot were carefully set up in order to “capture […] the concept of the provocateur (an ideal image that arouses a feeling or reaction)” (Cortese 59). In fact, several males present in the commercial are completely seduced and immersed by McKinney’s provocative body as she passes by them. Another important aspect to take note is the fact that the screen time of the actual product is only 30% of the length of whole commercial. Visibly, the advertisement is more focused on displaying the actress and attracting more male viewers rather than simply displaying the product; hence, the act of “selling sex” is very explicit.
The concept of using an exemplary, naked female body to represent an all natural burger is a severe act of objectification. In fact, comparing a woman’s body to a burger is basically devaluing the body; treating it as an object. Not only does this thematic raises ethical questions, but most importantly, it leads to the act of “self-objectification” (Cortese 61). Spreading these type of advertisement to the public will normalize the idea of objectifying female bodies. This notion is quite problematic, because for many women, it has become their reality. They believe that in order to be accepted by society, it is necessary to treat their body as an object. Moreover, another issue linked with the act of self-objectification is a possibility that this act can increase the risk of psychological problems, such as eating disorders, bipolar depression, and sexual dysfunction (Cortese 61).
An additional negative aspect that is being reinforced in this commercial is the “cultural ideology [that] tells women that they will not be desirable to, or loved by, men unless they are physically perfect” (Cortese 59). In fact, in the commercial, the shopkeepers, mostly male dominant, are completely distracted by the woman’s perfect body; their eyes are fixed on her and they do not pay any attention to their work. In order to be wanted, women blindly follow and aim for that unachievable, ideal image even though these images are fake. In fact, most of the images that are conveyed through the media are not real and often “constructed through cosmetics, photography, and airbrushing techniques” (Cortese 59). However, despite the artificially constructed beauty, many women still continue to try to achieve that ideal image by purchasing “vast quantities of beauty products (Kilbourne 1989)” (Cortese 59). This concept is quite problematic, because the chase for the ideal beauty will be interminable and will incite women to purchase more products in order to be wanted; it is an interminable loop.
The simplest way to avoid “selling sex” is to just present the product as it is and avoid any stereotypical, sexually explicit content. In this case, the presence of the female actress was completely unnecessary. In fact, the “all natural” burger could have also been expressed by replacing the female body with an actual cow walking through the market. This concept would have been both an effective and humoristic way to convey the exact same message.
Carl's Jr. Commercial 2015. Carl's Jr, 2015, http://www.superbowlcommercials.co/carls-jr/. Accessed 22 February 2017.
Cortese, Anthony. "Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising." Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, Third Edition, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008, pp.57-89.
Wade, Lisa, and Gwen Sharp. "Selling Sex," Susan Dente Ross and Paul Martin Lester (eds.) Images that Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media, Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2011, pp.163-172.