Monday, April 14, 2008

Smell the Glove

What criticisms can I levy on the marketing campaigns of male deodorant titans AXE and TAG body sprays that countless throngs of feminist writers, moral crusaders, advertising experts, media critics, and numerous disappointed first time customers haven't already? Yes, it's sexist and demeaning to women (although it's funny that AXE's owner, Unilever, also makes Dove which runs all those "it's okay for women to be old or ugly, 'real beauty'" campaigns). Yes, it encourages promiscuity and is contributing to the rapid erosion of standards of decency. Yes, it encourages a cult of narrow minded male, spiky haired, frat boy, baseball cap douchbaggery. Yes, it is no more effective in getting women to sleep with you than wearing a "new car scent" air freshener around your neck.

Of all the schools of negative criticism, I am only really opposed to the fostering of fratty doucheiness. It's disturbing to imagine, but out there somewhere there are guys; deluded, sad guys, who believe that this product has any possible benefit in getting chicks (which if you sincerely believe indicates that body hygiene is the least of your present concerns). There are impressionable young minds will drink the Kool-Aide that a spritz of spray, some tips from the latest MAXIM, and a popped collar will get them neck high in ladies. It's a pretty speculative profile, I know, but I can't believe that there isn't one person that fits it and that out there somewhere, some girl will wake up to the lingering scent of AXE or TAG as they stumble out the dorm to report a date rape.

Aside from that unpleasantness however, I've got no problem with the rest of the stuff. Women are objects, morals are dynamic and constantly evolving with society, and anything to encourage promiscuity bodes well for me. Of course in the end it's all just a commercial; the multi million dollar, internationally created, multimedia, equivalent of a hyper active child trying to get attention. Considering the hyperbolic claims of the products as some sort of irresistible, mind controlling, female, sex, pheromone; this is obviously not suppose to be taken seriously. On the whole they are also a lot more creative and easier on the eyes than a Chevy Truck commercial.

There is also the fact that these types of commercials are not unprecedented. A trip through the advertising way back machine will show once again that there are indeed no more new ideas in the 21st century. Back in the 60s and 70s, your baby boomer dads may have been slapping on a little budget aftershave known as "Hai Karate".

Made by future boner drug barons Pfizer, this, on the cheap, aftershave was muscling for positioning in that crowded post puberty market with the likes of Brut and Old Spice. In order to get that critical edge on the competition, Hai Karate was marketed as a scent so potent and powerful that it would send pre-feminist movement era women out of their minds with passion, leading to uninhibited attacks of carnality. In order for their male users to fend off these inevitable waves of mad, uncontrollable, lustful women, each bottle contained a helpful "self defense" booklet.

As the television ads show, whether you're a Woody Allen-esque geeky fellow or a smooth, chess playing, sideburned, Lothario; you had to be on alert when the bitches came running. The analogy continues to hold true as both, consummate second banana, Regis Philbin (who proves that he was never cool) and charming Rat Packer, Joey Bishop demonstrate the inherent dangers of Hai Karate.

Putting the obvious, offensive Asian stereotypes aside, the Hai Karate campaign was just as objectifying to woman as any modern day body spray ad. They're both portrayed as feral animals, subjective to men, and displaying about as much independent will power as Cathy has to chocolate. Actually things may have improved since then. At least in modern day AXE and TAG ads the men are just putting up token resistance and sleeping with the women, as oppose to trying to brutally subdue them via karate chops.

So've come a long way baby.


  1. in defense of axe and tag
    by i. a. stoner

    after many, many years of inhaling illicit herbal substances, i must contend that axe and similar products do hold a certain place among my kinds. when forced to relegate our activities to enclosed spaces, especially automobiles, i can only say that such products have become consistently useful in covering the scent of our whimseys in cars, in bedrooms, and our person-all too important when returning home for a much needed dinner. so, let the feminists say what they will. there are those out there who NEED these products, and not to give ourselves a false sense of self-confidence, but in order to get hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigggggghhhhhhh.

    thank you.

  2. Wait a minute...

    You smoked "dope"?

    Oh. My. God.