Back in 2008 I did a semiotic analysis on a Trojan condom commercial. The commercial was provoking a lot of reactions on the subject of gender discrimination. In this case the reason wasn’t the all so familiar sexualisation of women, but instead it was the men who were offended. The main point of critique seemed to be the commercial turning men into beasts. Well, there’s no doubt about that because men are being projected as actual pigs in this commercial.
Check it out:
After seeing this commercial from a man’s perspective, you might be offended, but more likely you’ll be amused. At least I couldn’t suppress a little smile. To me the extreme generalisation is rather funny and I don’t feel like somebody is actually telling me I’m a pig. Everybody knows guys can be kind of rude and pig-like in daily life. I’d say it’s an accepted stereotype in these modern days. Why would you be offended when someone’s using it to make a point, promote safe sex and earn some money during the process? Still the fact is, a lot of people were offended by it. So there must be something there which is offending to a lot of people. This is exactly what I tried to figure out with my semiotic analysis, which you can find here
Unfortunately the paper is written in Dutch, so for the interested non-dutch reader it’s impossible to understand the entire paper. For them I’ll try to summarize my most important findings in English. The main thing I found out is the fact that people weren’t really offended by the men being portrayed as pigs, instead they were offended by the social balance in the commercial. The ladies in the commercial obviously don’t really appreciate the presence of the pigs at the bar, but the pigs are craving for there attention. You could say the women are in the most powerful position. But, when a pig gets a condom and turns into a true man, this powerbalance changes. The man suddenly becomes interesting. So according to this commercial, a man who takes his responsibilities is an attractive man. But looking at it from a gender/power- balance perspective, why would the man have to take all the responsibilities? What we see here is that even when a man takes his responsibilities there is still an uneven division of power. The girl in the commercial is only showing a little more interest, he’s not there yet. This power division in favour of the women seems to be the main obstacle for the offended people. It’s not the pigs themselves that are offending, it’s the weak social position of the pigs which is making people uncomfortable.