In advertising, men too are reduced to clichés

You will be manly, my kid. In SCUM Manifesto, pamphlet written in 1967 by New Yorker Valerie Solanas, it is written: “A man is able to cross an ocean of shit to find a vagina. » In a 2012 ad, a shower gel (Axe) even shows him capable, to achieve this goal, of being atomized. Literally.

Scenery: the beach. He is 20 years old, rather puny, without a hair on his chest, like a geek. He is surrounded by rather pretty young girls, without a hair of cellulite, of the model type. The “hero” of this spot leaves to wash in the public shower. And there, the ladies all rush in his direction. Miracle of foaming soap? No. They flee, because a kind of comet is heading straight for the beach. Until we discover that the meteorite is itself made up of women in bathing suits, enticed by the smell, plunging arms outstretched on the soapy weakling. Our young man kneels on the sand, his eyes raised to the sky, waiting for the rain of bikinis to fall on him.

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This advertisement was analyzed this year by twenty-three teenagers from the Hector Guimard vocational high school in Lyon, as part of the Zero Cliché project. This competition, organized by the Center for Media and Information Education (Clemi), rewards, every year for ten years, videos, animations or campaigns carried out by nearly nine thousand students, from kindergarten to high school. “It’s the first time that a group made up only of boys has taken part”, specifies Virginie Sassoon, deputy director of the Clemi. In their video, which received a special mention from the 2022 jury, we see these guys dismantling the campaign in their own way. “Hey but the beggar there, with his cowardly body, and his charo look”says one in front of his buddy, who replies: Hey, but this guy, for advertisers, is us! » The teenagers are not fooled: the losers are the boys – even if they also underline the sexism against women. “This generation has realized that it is paying a high price for this assignment and this injunction to play the strong, successful and breadwinner man”, testifies Virginia Sassoon.

The myth of virility, this trap that man set for himself almost three millennia ago, has been largely fueled by advertising and the cinema. From John Wayne to Tom Cruise, passing through the Marlboro Man and the figure of James Bond, the characters are intrepid, brawling, conquering and seductive. Not the type to choke on a pillow in tears. Spots for products specifically “marketed” for men then multiplied, promoting male friendship, competition and appearance.

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