Old Spice, Race & Gender

This is a compilation of a series of Old Spice TV commercials. The commercials feature the extraordinarily muscular Terry Crews, a former NFL player turned actor, claiming that Old Spice body wash blocks body odor for sixteen hours. The product’s odor blocking power is supposed to somehow be evident in Crew’s visible physical strength: he wears only underwear to expose his muscles, he constantly flexes his muscles and positions his body as to suggest aggression, he violently destroys walls and buildings, punches people, “fights” the word ‘odor,’ and he yells his lines emphasizing the word “power.”  He is so physically powerful that the camera shakes when jumps and/or yells, and he can mount a tiger. These commercials target men, attempting to sell them an idea of masculinity based purely on physical strength. They sell this idea utilizing a common symbol of physical strength in mainstream advertising, the muscular black male body. In Reading the Slender Body, Susan Bordo explores the significance behind such symbolism: “[Muscular bodies] have often been suffused with racial meaning as well (as numerous film representation so sweating, glistening bodies belonging to black slaves and prizefighters). Under the racial and class biases of our culture, muscles thus have been associated with the insensitive, unintelligent, and animalistic…”(195). In addition to reducing Crews’ to his muscularity, the commercial dehumanizes him by partitioning his body. At one point (1:40), his biceps and abdominals talk. While his body parts speak, he yells, exemplifying the ‘animalistic’ association noted by Bordo. Old Spice exploits gender biases in addition to racial biases by excluding women from its target audience.  Although it is not explicitly stated, the commercial most likely targets men, assuming that women wouldn’t need this particular product.

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One Response to Old Spice, Race & Gender

  1. sashacutler says:

    Reblogged this on sashacutler and commented:
    Is this racist as well as gender objectification?

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