The heart of this post is about the recent Mountain Dew commercials removed from television after only moments of broadcast due to their incredibly overt racist and violent factors. But let’s start with a positive.
Louis C.K., comic extraordinaire, responded loudly to the criticism against his colleague Tosh last year when his gang rape jokes hit the wire (that link is available in a former post of mine, here, discussing jokes related to women and mothers). Recently, some argue, he even inserted a feminist “violence against women” joke into his routine. Check this out:
“…There is no greater threat to women than men… globally and historically we are the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. We are the worst thing that ever happens to them…”
From Kat Stoeffel at NYMag:
“…That’s why Louis C.K.’s response to the controversy surrounding his colleague Daniel Tosh’s unfunny rape joke last year was so heartening. Amid all the moaning about political correctness and gotcha journalism, Louis C.K. appeared to be listening. He said the women responding to Tosh taught him something about male privilege. “I’ve read some blogs during this whole thing that have made me enlightened to things I didn’t know,” he told Jon Stewart shortly after the so-called Rapeocalypse. “The woman said how rape is something that polices women’s lives. They have a narrow corridor. They can’t go out late, they can’t go to certain neighborhoods, they can’t get a certain way, because they might get … that’s part of me now that wasn’t before.”
But way more heartening is how this new part of him worked its way into a bit (above, via Slate). It confirms that, even with a heightened feminist consciousness, male comedians can still be funny, even about rape…”
I think this is a fantastic satire on the truth, and a respectful way to bring up the issue. Two thumbs up to being funny and awesome, Louis C.K.
I have pondered jokes and comedy related to the topics of women (and mothers) before, in this post. A quick reference and reminder of that post:
“…And is it the laughter itself that’s the problem, as argued by Soraya Chemaly? There is the constant degradation of mothers. ‘Yo mama’ and ‘your mother last night’ jokes are not only anti-woman, but they validate how the topic of mothers is up for grabs, up for debate, and validates how mothers are second-tier to fathers in our cultural eyes. There’s the mommy wars themselves where women cut down other women, for working or for staying at home, and mothers are fighting constantly for recognition for their contributions to society, to family, and to the next generation of people. This fight doesn’t exist in the same regard for fathers. And yet, despite the respect that people have for their own mothers, these jokes continue. Because anti-woman jokes as a whole sit on a spectrum. They’re on a spectrum of how men, and women, and thusly children, comment against women in an offhand, didn’t-even-think-about-it-that-way sort of way. On one end there is referring to them in a light-hearted sexually antagonistic statement, such as with ‘that’s what she said,’ and on the other end there’s the Tosh comic extreme where gang rape jokes make people money. Abhorrent and nauseating.
Really, that’s the spectrum. No, but really. And, unfortunately, thinking about it that way makes it not funny. But really, it wasn’t funny in the first place, was it? Because when these jokes happen, who is this theoretical, proverbial woman or mother image we conjure up in our heads? I’d venture a guess that it’s rarely our own image, our best friend’s image, or our own mother’s image. Because, of course, then the joke wouldn’t be funny. In my mind the image that I conjure is some faceless woman, to whom things are happening, and against whom public commentary is made. And I hate that. That I have some faceless image of a woman as a reference point in my head for times when women are being degraded and my cultural humor automatically laughs at her. If you really think about it, it’s not funny. It’s not…”
And yet, we are still in a world in which Mountain Dew released these commercials for five minutes before rescinding: a world where advertisers thought that this violence would ignite people to want to support a brand and buy their product?
The third commercial is still available for viewing here.
The blatant racist nature of these commercials is currently the hot debate. Here, let’s focus for a minute on the overwhelming violence against a woman in these two ads.
In the first commercial, the (white) female waitress mixes her dialogue of “You’re a nasty goat” with screaming “No!” multiple times, as the goat replies, “Give me more, I want it!” while punching and attacking her.
In the third Mountain Dew commercial, the woman, beaten up, stands in front of a lineup of (Black) men and the goat, pressured by the (male) cop to identify the perpetrator, as the goat says to her, “Keep your mouth shut, when I get out of here I’m going to do [Dew] you up!” The woman, intimidated, then (again, like in the first commercial) screams “No!” for a full 6 seconds. A shrill, clearly audible, 6 seconds of “No!” as the loudest and perhaps most memorable part of this ad, which is to be associated with Mountain Dew.
Mountain Dew is trying to accomplish multiple things here, which they do to the success of advertising both racism and violence against women. 1) The “Dew” in Mountain Dew is being utilized as a euphamism for “doing” it, as in sex, and assumptions are made that the majority of the market would find that an appropriate association. 2) Assuming racism is enough on the up-and-up in our culture that the majority of the market might find humor in it enough to consider it appropriate advertising. 3) Assuming that violence against women is enough on the up-and-up in our culture that the majority of the market might find humor in it enough to consider it appropriate advertising.
As I described these commercials to a friend and expressed both my disgust and pure shock that something like these ads could still be happening, she discussed the important fact that, at some point, a group of people sat around a table and agreed that these ads were a great idea, from inception to completion. A. Bunch. Of. People. Agreed that an ad that included blatant violence against women and racism were a great advertising strategy. Mind-blowing.
Let’s also reflect on why the media finds it easier to focus on the racist issue than the violence issue. Few sources have discussed the woman being accosted while screaming “No” and then shown beaten up, and focus instead on the terrible display of humanity in regards to the racist overtones. Even NPR solely discussed the racist angle when reporting on why the ads were pulled, though at the bottom of the article references a Ford ad featuring women bound and gagged and a McDonald’s ad parodying women’s mental health issues. This makes me ponder whether racism is a more comfortable topic for discussion in public media, and that is why it is currently the main topic of discussion? Or is it that violence against women is assumed to be so terrible that of course a parody on it is only to be interpreted as funny, and not work discussion? Or is it that the community of people speaking about racism is larger and more accessible than the community speaking out for violence against women?
I am still in shock over these commercials, for all the reasons listed above and for many other reasons. Working on moving past this and moving forward. But who could even try to anticipate what could be coming next?