For a while now we have been annoyed by one particular Snickers commercial that is part of a compilation of commercials under the name “You’re not you when you’re hungry”.
The commercial depicts two young women talking to one teenage boy and one older man at a party. One of the girls asks: “You guys grew up together?” and the teenage boy answers “Since the 3rd grade”. Then Joe Pesci, who plays the older man, requests to know what the other girl is looking at. Pesci then goes on to throw a fit, verbally mistreating the young women as he literally yells at them “We’re not good enough for you? You looking for something else?” As one of the girls tries to defend herself Pesci starts to attack her appearance: “What are you, a big supermodel or something? Supermodels, what do you model? Gloves?” The teenage boy then pulls Pesci into the kitchen and Pesci states: “What are you doing? That girl is totally in to me!” his friend says “Brad, eat a Snickers, because you get a little angry when you’re hungry”. As Pesci morphs into the teenage boy Brad, he suddenly feels better and is again ready to party.
Brad is not only angry, but he is verbally demeaning as he tries to assert his power and dominance over the two young women at the party. Such instances of verbal cruelty are easily brushed off as “boys being boys” or as teasing and bullying being perfectly normal when boys and girls interact. As Brad flips a switch and becomes increasingly aggressive, he asserts his masculinity and power over the two women by demeaning and belittling them. And what better way to do this than to target the girls’ appearance? We know that girls and women face tremendous pressure to look good in a culture that sexually objectifies and values women’s appearance over anything else. Girls often learn at a young age that their value is based on how pretty they are, so telling someone that they are only fit to “model gloves” is for girls and women often a huge put down, one that lowers self-esteem. We also know that boys and men are expected to depict their masculinity, strength and power. The problem is that very often this hypermasculinity or hegemonic masculinity is used to dominate, mistreat and put down women.
We have a knack for sexist and stereotypical commercials and advertisements, and we know that many others do as well. They perpetuate and normalize beliefs and attitudes that can be, and often are, damaging. There is something so troubling about this commercial that really gets under our skin. If you would like to read more about bullying, gender and violence, The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools, by Jessie Klein is an excellent book that will stick with you forever.
Photo uploaded by Flickr user Leonid Mamchenkov and is shared under a creative commons license.