Posted tagged ‘sexism’

When Did Commercials Get Super Weird?

May 12, 2010

Can it be it was all so simple then?

Has anyone else noticed that the average commercial is super friggin’ weird these days? As a product of the 80s, I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side believing that the entire point of a promotional tool was to get the consumer to purchase a product. These days, as the mega-conglomerates would have you believe, not so much. They just want your attention and want you to think it doesn’t matter whether you buy it or not because they’re just that cool. Did it begin with the Quizno’s hideous Sponge-Monkies or Pepsi’s strategy to trap children in their bottles? Regardless, we’ve become a generation who wants whatever weirdness on top of weirdness you can throw at us in order to fork over the hard-earned cash we don’t have for your awful product that we don’t need. Quite frankly, this is why we are all dead on the inside the greatest country in the world. Here’s some example of how far into the abyss we’ve descended.

Pledge “Glass Box”

Beginning our journey is a reminder that modern commercials exist with the rational of the irrational and completely illogistical logistics. Without delving too far into NYUnicorn cultural studies post-modernist “othering” rhetoric, you’ll most often find cleaning products ads targeted toward women. Therefore, what better way to remind them of what they were put on this Earth to do than make the act of cleaning the most demeaning task possible? In a commercial that had to be directed by Sardu, a woman is “trapped” in a glass box and forced to clean it without so much as a protest or a plea. While this isn’t as bad as the one where a woman is screaming to be let out of the box at the end of it (not a joke), which has conveniently vanished from YouTube, the disembodied male voice gives the entire spot a bizarre misogynistic repressive sadomasochist vibe all from cleaning allergens. Did they really need to say the woman was “trapped?” At the risk of sounding oversensitive, when a woman is trapped in a glass house I have to throw stones and ask “Who is this supposed to appeal to?”

The Chicas Project “Sharing”

Whereas the last commercial brought up the possibility of the commercial not having a clear target audience, this one for Mun2’s The Chicas Project appears to be deliberately pursuing the wrong one. I first caught this in the summer of 2008 while channeling surfing and the image of siamese twins caught my attention. Two girls who enjoyed partying enough with each other to SURGICALLY SHARE THE SAME BODY?! This is the stuff that great 70s exploitation films are made of. AND THEY CHOKE EACH OTHER OUT IN FRONT OF THE PIZZA MAN? Sign me up, ring the alarm and sell me a t-shirt – I have a new favorite show. Even the name The Chicas Project gave the whole thing a jovial but morbid edge. Imagine my disappointment when the promo turned out to be just an attention-grabbing one-off for another reality show about two girls trying different crazy things! Im sure for what it is, this show on the youth-orientated Telemundo sister-station is fine, but it’s saddening such a bizarre premise seemingly raised on so much organic free-range awesome has gone to a 30 second waste.

Old Spice “P-P-P-P-P-POWER!”

Just when people thought time-tested deodorant Old Spice couldn’t go any further off the creative deep end than their I’m On A Horse Super Bowl ad comes this series, directed by the ambassadors of absurd Tim Heidecker and Eric Weirheim. Starring one of my Honest-to-Gosh favorite actor’s, Terry Crews AKA President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, Tim and Eric at least want to convey to you that Old Spice’s body wash is a quality product. What’s crazy is, unlike their Absolut ads, this isn’t a viral campaign. This is a nationally prime time syndicated commercial seen by every single demographic. While I love these ads, as does my Father who coincidentally was born a generation before me, I have to wonder if these are really going to catch on with everybody the way a Wasssssup or Can You Hear Me Now did and if so, where do we go from here?

I'm so gaffing the pilot episode for this series.

If anything, my greatest hope is that such outside the box factory thinking can expand beyond commercials into more standard programming. Sometimes cult followings crossover, and when that happens we’ve historically been all the better not only for better art, but the seeds planted for future generations that continue to defy convictions while managing to not suck. Abbbbbbdominals.

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

Female Rappers in 2010: The Reality of “Equality”

March 15, 2010

Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah wants "U.N.I.T.Y."

If stand-up comedians in the 80s taught us one thing, it’s that men never ask for directions. If female rappers in the new millennium have taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to giving women direction, they’re just as scared. As frustrating as airline food, the gender-bias that once plagued the oft-misogenistic genre of rap music has spent the past decade morphing into some mutant subversive institutionalized sexism. What was once a glass ceiling has become a glass cage with female rappers going from being seen as novelty acts to just being novelties. An overcorrection-caused car accident of post-Rawkus guilt, the present result is ladies’ night becoming the one evening Hip-Hop goes to bed early.

For all the heat the likes of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown have caught in recent years, it’s seldom mentioned that they were both parts of some pretty incredible songs. Such revisionist history, downplaying the importance of the actual music in favor of an unspoken morality, has been the catalyst for the lessened role of female rappers today. 15 years ago the dominant female voice in Hip-Hop was an overtly sexual one. While it did clear a path for women in the industry and could be deconstructed as a feminist equal-rights endeavor as women were freely able to express sexuality as much as men were, it suffered a backlash in the late-90s and that backlash is why there’s so few good female rappers today. Sexuality suddenly became a negative and women who even slightly differed from this path (involuntarily lead by Missy Elliot) became seen as “positive” without really expressing any positivity, just an absence of a “negative influence.”

More than anything, this forced female rappers to (more than any other group) have their “message” become most important and the actual act of rapping/making good rap songs took a backseat. Suddenly any female who wasn’t rhyming about sexual conquests and reached mere adequacy over a beat became heralded as a “Great FEMALE Rapper.” It’s a double standard that has been detrimental to this day. Look at a tremendous talent like Jean Grae who balanced doing disturbingly well crafted social issue songs like “Taco Day” alongside female-masturbation tales like “Hands On Experience” and was both critically respected as well as commercially viable and versatile enough to be the one to carve the dope modern female rapper niche in the marketplace herself and tragically got pigeonholed by an audience and industry that wanted her to just be a female Talib Kweli. It’s a man’s bland world.

The giggity-gender bias of siggity-sexism has to stiggity-stop!

To better maintain estrogen levels, rappers need to think globally and act locally. I’ve spent time at many Hip-Hop open mics around the country and have noticed a disturbing trend amongst the reactions to female participants. If a female rapper is completely awful, she’s met with a polite golf clap and the night moves on. If she comes back at the next installment and is just *slightly* better, she’s then showered with praise as if she’s finally got *it*. This hinders the creative process and artistic progress as the female rapper in question now believes she has perfected her craft. This results in her output’s quality plateauing and then opens the door for her to put on any gaggle of female friends of equal or lesser ability to be embraced in the same way. Now the prospects of ulterior motives from male observers come into play and the circle-of-dishonestly spins again.

There was an article that came out two summers ago about “why are there no female rappers at Soundset” or any number of (their words) “supposedly progressive underground hip-hop festivals” and the answer straight up is because THEY’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. The reason they’re NOT good enough is because they’ve been told they were good enough for a long while now and nobody wants to tell them different. I’ve long believed that most underground rappers whether male or female are just a few honest friends away from making some incredible music, but while most criticism of males is written off as “haters,” females tend to have others preemptively writing off these critiques with an ingrained belief that “female rappers come under more fire” (they don’t) and now even the most novice of Gyno-American* steps to the mic with an unwarranted feeling of entitlement.

How many of you thought this group only existed as a Chris Rock punchline on the SNL "I'm Chillin'" sketch?

The best female rappers of all time (such as MC Lyte and Rah Digga, both of which I’m a long time devotee) are the ones who came up in the hardest of all-male environments and crafted their personalities to be more than either “the girl who has sex” or “the girl who doesn’t have sex because she’s too busy reading books or something.” It’s staggering how many she-rappers right now think bragging about themselves having a flat-chest or any semblance of sexual standards somehow makes them more Hip-Hop than thou. All this does is further enforce stereotypes by suggesting in order to be an exception to the rule one has to be the complete opposite. It’s a self-defeating mindset that attempts to craft an identity based on who someone isn’t rather than who they are. That being said, there are a growing number of female rappers now in NYC, New Orleans, Minneapolis etc. who seem to know the difference between “a great female rapper” and “a great rapper” and are striving for the latter. It’s a trend I hope continues to the point where its no longer a trend and a rapper’s gender becomes less of a definition and more of a dynamic.

I’d like to take a sec to say this jam here is dedicated to some of my favorites –



So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*A term I’m using for readers who believe the fairer sex is more than a “man” or “male” with two extra letters.