Ad Standards Bureau agrees with Jim Beam that lesbianism is a “tragedy”.

In Jim Beam demonstrates just how much men want to hate us, I showed and talked about four sexist Jim Beam bourbon advertisements.

The Advertising Standards Bureau has now responded to complaints about three of these television advertisements, and their responses can be found by searching their Case Reports for “Jim Beam”. I’ll repeat the advertisements here – if you can’t access them, click through to my previous post for a description.

The ASB upheld the complaint about “The Stalker”, but dismissed those about “The Ultimate Tragedy” and “The Ultimate Girlfriend”. Details below.

The Stalker

http://www.dailymotion.com/swf/video/xjfhyz

The ASB upheld the complaint about “The Stalker” – and it’s the only one they upheld. This advertisement made a joke out of a woman talking about stalking a man. Jim Beam attempted the “Can’t you take a joke?” defence. Excerpted:

The TVC is a parody from beginning to end. To help viewers identify this early on, the next phrase is “I just broke up…well, two years ago”, which is of course a nonsensical contradiction. As the girl continues she giggles uncomfortably in the style of a ‘mad-hatter’, reinforcing the silliness of the words. Finally, she whispers to explain how she wears a disguise when she follows him. We chose these words because they are as slapstick as we could find to deliver the punch-line. The audience with which we tested this film found the TVC entertaining because it is silly, and the girl character is clearly farcical.

Although each complaint is different, the objections state this TVC is insensitive to stalking victims, that it legitimises or encourages stalking and that it minimises the impact a restraining order can have.

As described, we took care to establish the scenario as a comedy from the very beginning which our audience have found funny and inoffensive as a result. Had we found any viewers drawing a link between this TVC and domestic violence we would not have continued.

The ASB was not amused:

In particular, the Board expressed concern about the trivialising of criminal issues, and considered the reference to disregarding an apprehended violence order (“AVO”) potentially encouraged such behaviour. The Board was also concerned about the association drawn between alcohol and domestic violence issues.

The advertisement was taken off-air on the 19th of September, 2008.

The Tragedy

http://www.dailymotion.com/swf/video/xjfhz7

Jim Beam’s defence paraphrases to: “But gorgeous lesbians are a tragedy!”

In each case, we liken Jim Beam to other ‘ultimate’ or incredible things, the kind of things which our audience could only imagine in their wildest dreams. This is common to most humorous advertising, we over-exaggerate and fantasize in order to illustrate our point.

In ‘The Tragedy’ TVC a beautiful girl who is dreamily attractive to any man turns out not to be attracted to men at all, but instead prefers other women. To most men this is the ultimate tragedy, in the same way that Jim Beam is the ultimate bourbon.In each case, we liken Jim Beam to other ‘ultimate’ or incredible things, the kind of things which our audience could only imagine in their wildest dreams. This is common to most humorous advertising, we over-exaggerate and fantasize in order to illustrate our point.

In ‘The Tragedy’ TVC a beautiful girl who is dreamily attractive to any man turns out not to be attracted to men at all, but instead prefers other women. To most men this is the ultimate tragedy, in the same way that Jim Beam is the ultimate bourbon.

Jim Beam did take seriously, however, the religiously-motivated complaint that talk about lesbianism is not appropriate for children, and they have limited this particular advertisement to after 8:30 pm, thereby becoming finalists in the Missing The Point Award for 2008:

Although we are confident this commercial is acceptable to the majority we are mindful it is not our place to prompt unwelcome discussion of the subject between parents and their children.

The Advertising Standards Bureau didn’t give a toss about this one, and agreed with Jim Beam that it is a tragedy when attractive women weren’t at men’s sexual beck and call.

The Board then considered whether the advertisement breached Section 2.1 of the Code dealing with discrimination and vilification. The Board agreed that the advertisement was a parody not to be taken seriously and that the label at the end, “The Tragedy”, was not intended to mean that it was a tragedy generally for women to be lesbians, but that such an attractive woman was not available to heterosexual men. The Board agreed that this did not amount to discrimination against lesbians.

Finding that the advertisement did not breach the Code on any grounds, the Board dismissed the complaint.

The Girlfriend

http://www.dailymotion.com/swf/video/xjfhx6

Jim Beam’s defence:

Specifically, in ‘The Girlfriend’ TVC we create the ultimate girlfriend who is quite ridiculously relaxed about the things everyone knows women are certainly not relaxed about at all. This is what makes the commercial funny, and fairly obviously non-sensical. We developed the character’s mock accent to play-up the silliness of the film. Specifically, in ‘The Girlfriend’ TVC we create the ultimate girlfriend who is quite ridiculously relaxed about the things everyone knows women are certainly not relaxed about at all. This is what makes the commercial funny, and fairly obviously non-sensical. We developed the character’s mock accent to play-up the silliness of the film.


Prior to airing this TVC we researched it amongst both men and women (in Australia and NZ) aged between 20 and 35 to make sure our audience shares a similar view, and the outcome is positive. Qualitative research showed that whilst it is aimed predominantly at men, women take it with a ‘pinch of salt’ and ride along with the joke. We actually found women are similarly entertained, and they take it for granted that a brand like Jim Beam would make a joke like this.

And the Advertising Standards Board? Apparently believes that “deliberate chauvinism”, which they can’t spell, isn’t, y’know, actual sexism.

The Board agreed that the advertisement was a parody not to be taken seriously. The Board also agreed that the label at the end, “the Perfect Girlfriend”, while deliberately chauvanist, did not of itself discriminate or vilify women generally.

Finding that the advertisement did not breach the Code on anygrounds, the Board dismissed the complaint.



Categories: gender & feminism, media, violence

Tags: , , , , ,

32 replies

  1. He can do whatever he wants, I don’t care … because I’m about to run off with his best friend who doesn’t treat women like crap.
    The greater tragedy is that the Advertising Standards Bureau is probably fairly accurately reflecting social standards. We still have a long way to go, whichever wave of feminism we subscribe to.

  2. The ruling on “The Tragedy” makes it sound as if the board was implying that *lesbians* are discriminating against heterosexual men.
    Sigh.

  3. *headdesk*
    So they changed the timeslot so children can continue to be taught that sexual relationships between a man and a woman is the norm and to stop them from finding out they have other options. Do they have any idea how alienating it feels to be not-heterosexual and to have NO IDEA what you are? Assholes. Of course the kid’s dads still get to haw-haw over the hawt lesbians.
    If smoking advertisements are banned, why not advertisements for alcohol? That would stop alcohol consumption being so glamourised and might actually do something about underage drinking.

  4. Oh, so it’s only a tragedy if conventionally attractive women are lesbians.
    *looks around for something to destroy*

  5. How can the bureau miss the point so entirely? It’s ruling in the Perfect Girlfriend is so contradictory it seems like they’re doing it on purpose.
    Off topic but does anyone find themselves wanting to scoop out their brains with a spoon after watching one of the new Carlton Midstrength “Woman Whisperer” ads?

  6. Off topic but does anyone find themselves wanting to scoop out their brains with a spoon after watching one of the new Carlton Midstrength “Woman Whisperer” ads?

    Not my own brains, no.

  7. It’s ruling in the Perfect Girlfriend is so contradictory it seems like they’re doing it on purpose.

    And so, we see the results of industry “self-regulation”. The ad companies aren’t the only ones engaging in a game of sexist brinksmanship.

  8. Carlton Midstrength “Woman Whisperer”

    You mean, the idea that women are just like horses who need breaking-in isn’t HYlarious?
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/j7Z2gKT7B6Y?version=3&rel=0&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

  9. That is just creepy. I want to have a shower. I don’t know why that has pushed buttons, but it has.

  10. Oh that’s horrible, I just threw up a little in my mouth. No matter how gently I point out sexism to those around me they still don’t get it
    *headdesk*
    SDs last blog post..More wars?

  11. Yikes, of course women are just nagging, ball-busters who won’t let you hang with your mates. Jesus Christ!
    And I still don’t know how it’s supposed to make people buy more beer.

  12. So, it’s also ‘incredible’ that a beautiful woman is a lesbian and having a foreign acccent is ‘funny’.
    I’ve worked producing ads years ago and this just continues to remind me why I gave it up, no matter how well it paid.

  13. In their own words they say that the tragedy is that such beautiful women aren’t ‘available’ to men…meaning that all women who are not lesbians are ‘available’??

  14. fuckpoliteness, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Ugh.

  15. Certainly a pathetic lot of ads. Not quite sure why you guys are so keen on banning them. Moral majority ?

  16. Wow, laured, I hadn’t seen that one. Ugh!
    You’re right Liz, that woman “stereotype” is just as offensive in the first part of the ad as in the second!
    It’s a hard life, when all we’ve got to choose from is being a control freak or akin to a wild animal! I’m just so gosh-darned irrational and all, either way!

  17. Not quite sure why you guys are so keen on banning them.

    Gomez: A whole post and 15 comments so far, and I can only see one person who has so much as mentioned legislative solutions.
    And she’s not a guy.

  18. Ewww and indeed ick. Those ads are beyond awful. Does it bother anyone else, especially, that the ‘fantasy’ pliant girlfriend has a vague Euro accent? In the UK, human trafficking of, particularly, Eastern European women is a serious problem — they are smuggled into the country and sold to be raped by the same men who presumably find this ad ‘funny’. So it’s not just sexist, it’s racist, classist and pro-rape. Give yourself a pat on the back, Jim Beam, you’ve bowled a strike.

  19. wow, this is so infuriating but thanks for this breakdown!

  20. stalking isn’t right by males or females and I fell this add should be taken of air. It is a discrase to think we are condoneing such behaviour

  21. I love Jim Beam’s defence that ‘[women] take it for granted that a brand like Jim Beam would make a joke like this’. Oh. Well. If women have resigned themselves to this treatment, it must be alright. Sorry we mentioned anything. Carry on.
    Gomez, I’m not sure which part of your post is the most hilarious, but I’m going to have to go with ‘majority’.
    If only.

  22. The Stalker is standard chauvanist insecurity projection: fantasizing the unattainably sexy women as shamed stalker.
    Not quite at Fatal Attraction bunny time level; more in the tone of guys who say; “gee I WISH some hot babe would stalk me!” then joke about how desperate women are, drink spiked rape would just be “free” sex etc.
    It switches the “crime” in gazes from actual crimes that chauvanists feel entitled to; to the perceived social “crime” of women daring to act as intensely towards chauvanists as they’re treated.
    Mmajor sexist affirmation in wanting to laugh at fears of women’s “neediness” [mad-hatter crazy, pathetic, stalker] while STILL accessing her cleavage for the unseen male audience.
    Jungian alcholic sexism, woot!

  23. I honestly find none of these offensive. I tend to cut humorous things a lot of slack, I guess. Many funny, if not most, things are funny because they touch upon things that are naughty, offensive, or horrible. Because all of these involve such exaggeration and parody, it is hard to take them to heart.

  24. I think the choice of an Eastern European accent in the third ad was very deliberate, not just an attempt to up the “silliness.” I agree that the sex-trafficking implications mentioned by zooeyibz are disturbing, but I had another thought when I heard the accent.
    I don’t know if this is a problem in Australia, but at least in the United States, there’s a sort of fetishization of Eastern European men among the worst women-haters. These MRAs say you should never marry an American women because we’ve all been “ruined” by feminism. The thought is that mail-order brides from Russia, Romania, etc. will be more “traditional,” more submissive, so they’ll be less likely to demand decent treatment from their husbands, especially because they’re so grateful just to be in the U.S. So I think there’s a sort of dog-whistle in the whiskey ad: Not only will this gorgeous (white) woman not mind if you go to the strip club, she’ll be waiting at home to cook you a four-course meal and then blow you. And she had no needs of her own.
    Of course, there’s a darker side to this, as well. Although it’s not as explicitly stated, I think another reason mail-order brides appeal to the worst misogynists is that they’ll be less likely to seek help if their husbands mistreat them. After all, they have no family nearby, they may not speak English well, and they may come from countries where you really can’t trust the cops.

  25. Suze – I totally agree. I’m not sure that I’d even call it a dog-whistle; it seems the obvious text to me, rather than subtle subtext. Nothing funny or silly about it.

  26. Just to let you all know that not all adult men like the girlfriend ad or relate to women that way. My 20 yr old son just said, “Why would she like fat guys who go to strip clubs? What’s wrong with her ?” He thought she seemed stupid (I think the accent was purposely used to instil that impression) and said it was annoying.
    I am most annoyed at the arrogance and purposeful blindness of the ad company; Jim Beam and the Standards mob. It’s bad enough that they are promoting alcohol use, but as you’ve all noted so eloquently, they are also appealing to and perpetuating idiot stereotypes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if their sales dropped… my son (and daughters) give me hope that one day sales will drop when ads like this are used.
    (Great blog and comments btw).

  27. I’m glad you like the blog, pynchme. I’m not convinced, however, that fat-hate and the assumption that women with Eastern European accents are “stupid” is a laudable substitute for misogyny.

  28. Thanks Laured. I agree with what you’re saying but my son doesn’t hate anyone – much less chubbs or foreigners. Always difficult to quote someone verbatim and comment succinctly. Bleh. No doubt why I don’t bother to make a blog of my own🙂
    I guess he just doesn’t understand why she would prefer a certain type of bloke.
    As to accents; I read that the woman in the ad is Australian and that the accent was contrived. If so, then I am speculating as to the motive for doing that – they are, afterall, trying to appeal to a certain mindset. I think that the assumption of stupidity of non-English speaking women is as much a part of misogynistic thinking as anything else.
    Anyway, I am glad that he didn’t find the ad appealing and that he couldn’t see why she would be an ideal girlfriend.

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