Research Paper Title: Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse and Misogyny
It's difficult to spot, let alone grasp how heavily gender depictions is shown in the media. We might watch individuals interact without asking as to why those interactions took place as they did. We rarely judge nor critique as to why such an individual was casted for the role and what does that role require of them. Consider the following commercial aired by Mercedes during the 2007 Super Bowl. The commercial begins with a beautiful blonde women walking into a library. She is youthful and slim, wearing an eye-catching turquoise dress that reveals her arms. Her breast are perky and her face is powdered with make-up.In the background are men studying and reading literature. Then the blonde makes her way to a librarian and in an assertive voice says, " Hello, I'd like to order french fries, burger and a milkshake!" (Youtube). The librarian , who also is a women is in complete contrast to the blonde. She is plump in weight, wears neutral colored attire, sports glasses, has frizzy hair and she has a stern demeanor. After hearing the blondes request, The librarian looks away from the text she is reading, looks at the blonde and replies, "This is a library"(Youtube) and quickly attends back to her text. The blonde woman pauses for a moment and looks to her left. The men originally in the background make some movement but avoid making any eye contact with the young women. The blonde then turns her attention back to the Librarian and in a whispered hush repeats, "I'd like to order french fries, burger and a milkshake" (Youtube). The librarian looks at her wide-eyed and in disbelief. However, The blonde smiles proudly to herself and eagerly believes the librarian will serve her the food she has requested. The scene ends and the commercial transitions. Gentle background music plays as the following text appears on the screen, "Beauty is nothing without brains...Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse"(Youtube). Nonetheless, The Mercedes commercial sends a profound message about gender. The commercial attempts to reaffirm beliefs about gender stereotypes, roles, behavior and it portrays misogyny while objectifying women.
The most noticeable depiction of gender in the commercial is how profoundly stereotypical it is. The context of this stereotypical depiction can be seen once we view the differences between the two women portrayed in the commercial. This stereotypical depiction morphs gender identity in order to send a specific message to the audience. Gender identity is, " [H]ow we feel about and express our gender and gender roles - clothing, behavior, and personal appearance" (Planned Parenthood). By using gender identity as a factor we can now compare and contrast the two women. On one hand we have the young blonde woman who is depicted as dumb, bringing to life the old age stereotype that blonde people are dumb. This is even further cemented by the commercial's slogan, "Beauty is nothing without Brains". Despite her portrayal as dumb, The blonde women is shown as desirable. The clothes and makeup she's wearing along with her slender physique sends a message to the viewer that she cares about her appearance. On the other hand we have the Librarian. Unlike the blonde the Librarian is not wearing any makeup,wears neutral colored clothes, sports glasses and is somewhat obese. The librarian has an unfriendly demeanor and most mainstream men would not find her desirable. These differences in appearance between the two women is the commercials attempts to assimilate and reaffirm old age stereotypes. On a deeper analysis, It sends a conflicting message to the audience that for a woman to have beauty she must be dumb or either that a woman that holds intelligence must lack beauty.
Another noticeable depiction of gender in the Mercedes-Benz commercial is how the young blonde women is objectified. Take into consideration that this is a car commercial and the purpose of the commercial is to promote the Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse car. Now consider that the message being promoted is that this car has both beauty and brains, yet the medium used to promote this message can be seen in the scene involving the young blonde women. There's a comparison being made to the young blonde woman with the car. The young women is put in a scenario that would require unparalleled stupidity to occur in real life, yet the purpose of this depiction is to highlight that the car is not stupid like the woman and it has her beauty along with the intelligence she lacks. This has direct negative effects on her and also on any female viewers. "The objectification of women by our society can become internalized by women, resulting in negative psychological outcomes" (Muehlenkamp 371) and among those negative psychological outcomes can be low self-esteem. Ask yourself why would any women want to play this role? To be made a joke on national television. One possible explanation could be the actor playing this role has already been objectified in previous roles and as a result has developed a damaged state of mind that has led her to believing that a role as this one is acceptable and worthy of her self. In a different perspective the young women can also be seen as a competing car company and it's product. A product (depicted as the young blonde women) that lacks the intelligence of a Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse.This in-direct depiction and comparison of the woman to a car shows that the Mercedes-Benz commercial is objectifying women.
The most difficult to notice depiction of gender in the Mercedes-Benz commercial is how it sends a message about gender roles and gender based behavior. If observed carefully, all the characters in the background during the entire commercial are men. The setting is at a library, yet there isn't a single woman in sight during the entire scene (aside from the main characters). There are men of various ages in the library. One is sitting down attending to a book, another stands by a shelf looking for a book to pick, and to the right of the main character is a man standing, browsing through a magazine. This is somewhat peculiar considering that the commercial has already stereotyped and objectified women. The Mercedes-Benz commercial is sending a hidden message to its audience. While, "gender roles do vary greatly from one culture to the next" (Planned Parenthood), simple endeavors such as going to the library are very much universal despite what gender or culture an individual belongs to. Despite this, The commercial attempts to classify gender behavior and build on notions of gender based roles. To further evaluate this consider the gender roles typically associated with occupations. For example, "most nurses and secretaries were usually women, and most doctors and construction workers were usually men" (Planned Parenthood). However, All these occupations required some study which means spending time at a library or using its resources. The Mercedes commercials failure to show women at library plays into gender based behavior, but even goes further by attempting to radically make rigid generalizations.
Therefore, The commercials adds to that notion by casting only men as background characters.
Lastly, The Mercedes-Benz commercial serves as an example of how gender depiction can be misogynistic. Misogyny is defined as "hatred, dislike or mistrust of women" (Merriam-Webster 261). The commercial in no way portrays that it hates or mistrust women, but an argument can be made that the commercial hints at disliking women. For starters, Take into consideration the roles available for the commercial. Any women who would audition for those roles faces an ultimatum. She can either choose to be ugly yet smart, or be portrayed as beautiful yet clueless. In addition, The commercial makes a mockery of womankind while attempting to solidify stereotypes. The only possible reason why the commercial has the plot it does, is it that it was written by men for men. The commercials ridicules a young blonde woman in an attempt to sell a car. In the process, it portrays her as dumb and indirectly objectifies her by comparing her to a car. All of these factors indicate that the commercial is indeed misogynistic.
The Mercedes-Benz commercial is comedic at first glance. However, upon deeper analysis it is anything but funny. The commercial has shown itself to be an engine when it comes to promoting wrong portrayal of women. The commercial has contributed to spreading gender stereotypes, reaffirmed beliefs about gender roles and notions toward gender behavior. Lastly; like so many unnoticed giants of industry, Mercedes has objectified women and perpetuated misogyny by airing its Super Bowl Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse commercial.