Is Stupid the New Smart?
by No Name on February 24, 2017 - 5:25pm
Award winner of Cannes Festival 2010, yet banned from public posters by the Advertising Standards Authority, Diesel’s controversial “Be Stupid” campaign focuses on pushing the boundaries of socially constructed ideals by creating a thought-provoking advertisement in an attempt to depict "a very strong and unexpected image of femininity" to encourage “stupidity” that is the liberation from typical gender roles (Sweney). Instead, Diesel managed to not only encourage the objectification of women through the creation of “stupid” as an identity, but rather also encouraged the concept that any woman wearing the clothing brand is a willing and wild sex symbol.
This advertisement tries to push past the limits of societal norms with its attempt to overcome the “appropriate or expected behaviour for [...] women”( Cortese 58) by having the model flash the camera. However, with further inspection it becomes clear that this commercial features “the ideal beautiful woman” as a selling factor with “accepted attractiveness [as] her only attribute” because “she is slender, typically tall and long legged” (59). The model embodies “the concept of the provocateur [as she] displays youth, good looks, sexual seductiveness and perfection [...] she is a form or hollow shell representing a female figure” (59). This concept encourages the gendered message of unrealistic beauty standards to its female audience, with it being a shame if they do not conform to these standards. This is a concern as Diesel mainly targets the teenage population, an audience that is easily influenced by societal standards. Girls might begin to believe that only through the unrealistic sexualisation of themselves and their clothes will they ever be accepted by their peers, leading them to “internalize” the objectification, which is called self-objectification (61). This is concerning as it leads to “an increased risk of psychological problems, including eating disorders, bipolar depression and sexual dysfunction” all in the name of beauty (61).
Furthermore, this commercial objectifies the woman as a commodity of wild and sexual urges. As her face isn’t showing, her identity as a human being is stripped away and she is seen as nothing more than “being stupid”, advertising the message that for a woman stupidity is the only way she will be accepted by her friends. Thus, by flashing a camera for a fun experience, this model influences teenagers around the world to question their own search for identity. This is concerning as when the identity of a human being is stripped away, it emboldens the consumers to both sexualize the model but also abuse the model, as she is no longer considered to be human. This sexualisation of violence is an underlying message that is being sent to teenagers, basically condoning violent acts in the name of having fun. The model in the advertisement is not concerned with the repercussion of her acts, thus sending a message that the objectification and abuse of woman has no negative consequence.
This advertisement also criticizes women who have “brains” sending the gendered message that the intellect of a female decreases the appeal of them as a woman. By “advertising images of women from sexpots to airheads” it solidifies a woman’s status in society as beneath everyone else, not giving the woman a chance to showcase her intellectual capabilities (74). This is extremely concerning as it engages the thought that in this patriarchal world, women have no role other than to be an object of amusement or desire to a male audience. The intellect of a woman has no value in comparison to the woman as a sex symbol, which “negatively affect young girls’ sexual development [as] young adolescents and girls are especially vulnerable since they are developing their sense of self”(77).
Diesel’s “Be Stupid” advertisements may appear to appeal to the audience’s sense of humour with it playing a joke on the gender ideals of our society. However, I believe that with its representation of a woman as a sex symbol with no intellectual thoughts, it is a step back in the direction towards gender equality. An easy fix for the commercial would be to remove the slogan. Yet, I believe the only way to truly fix the advertisement, we need to go to the root of the problem that the company is trying to sell clothes through the promotion of women as sexual objects. Maybe the advertisement could focus on just the clothes, or the model could be portrayed having “fun” in the clothes while not having to demean herself, thus sending a positive message to all consumers. At the end of the day, unless the consumers reject a product, forcing it to reconsider its selling factor, advertisements like this will continue circulating and reappearing different forms in our media.
Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising. 3rd ed., Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008, pp. 57-89.
Sweney, Mark. "Award-winning Diesel Campaign Banned by ASA." The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 June 2010, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/jun/30/diesel-asa-advertising