After reading Sandoval’s chapter on semiotics, I searched for a commercial to put it into conversation with. One of the first companies that came to mind for me was AXE body spray. They’ve certainly had some interesting commercials, but the one that I stumbled upon actually surprised me in terms of the messages it seems to be promoting.
Generally, when I think of AXE, I picture the stereotypical muscular guy gets the girl with the help of AXE narrative (whether they actually follow that plotline I am not totally sure, but that’s what my association with AXE was prior for whatever reason). This commercial did quite the opposite of this. The commercial begins by showing billboards of incredibly muscular male models and it says “come on, a six pack?” and then shows the main character of the commercial, a guy who is skinnier and not muscular. This opening in itself implies that there is an assumption in society that girls are going to go for the ripped, male-model type over a skinny guy. Throughout there is idea of “who needs this, when you have that” and it promotes a positive image of a wide variety of people including the queer community, different races, a redhead, and a man who is in a wheelchair. While, the message of the commercial seems to be pretty positive and the comments reflect this by people saying they appreciated seeing something closer to themselves being represented as “getting the girl” or “seeming attractive” rather than the stereotypical male model that we often see in these types of ads.
BUT, the commercial implies that in order for these people to be attractive, they need the help of AXE. The ad closes with the line “who needs some other thing, when you’ve got your thing?”. Pretty positive, right? But wait! Next, we pan to the AXE products and the voiceover says “Now work on it!”. In some ways, this implies that what they have to begin with is not enough, while also trying to promote a sense of feeling like you are enough. This seems to be a common thing within commercials. Making the viewer feel good about themselves, but imply that they can be closer to societies beauty standards with the help of their product.
All of that being said, it is still nice to see an advertisement challenging what it means to be stereotypically attractive and it appears from the feedback on the video that it made a lot of people feel good about themselves and I think that is certainly great and very important!