Creative Destruction

May 15, 2006

“I Am Man” Burger King Commercial

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 11:23 am

Andrea at Shrub.com has a good post with a feminist analysis of “Mantham” (YouTube link) the Burger King ad with new lyrics to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” (although in her count of women in the commercial, she seems to have missed the line of cheerleaders behind the guy burning his tighty-whities). Gayprof has some good comments, as well.

Although not always this blatant (how could it be?), smaller fast-food places have been hitting on similar sexual themes in their commercials for years. Jack In The Box, a few years ago, had a series of commercials based on Jack Box sponsoring a football team (the first commercial featured Jack’s plan to fire the male cheerleading squad – a silly gag, I know, but the symbolism of rejecting homoeroticism in favor of “real man” heterosexuality is hard to deny). And Carl Jr’s (doing business as Hardees in some regions) has had a series of aggressively sexist commercials, from Paris Hilton washing a car to commercials showing befuddled men in a grocery store having no idea what to buy, with the slogan “without us, some guys would starve.”

(It’s amazing how anti-male the “guys should be guys” mentality quickly becomes. Sure, the “some guys would starve” commercials were funny, but c’mon – their premise is that men lack the smarts required to choose a loaf of bread).

So the “guys should be guys” ethos of the Burger King commercial is nothing new, although it’s perhaps a new achievement in the compulsive over-the-topness of its sexism. For example, at the climax of the commercial, the mob of whopper-eating men toss a minivan off a bridge, symbolically rescuing the pleased family dude who got out of the van from his emasculating family attachments. (And if you think I’m reading too much into it, tell me why else they would throw a minivan off a bridge while singing about manhood?)

(Compare the auto-as-symbolic-emasculation theme in this commercial to the auto-as-invulnerable-manhood theme in the recent Dodge Caliber commercial, in which the macho Dodge is the one thing in the world that fairies can’t feminize. Ad writers are convinced that men have a thing about cars…).

But putting the feminist analysis aside, since Shrub.com has already done an excellent job of that, you know what I found striking about this commercial? The absence of fat people. Often, commercials about “everyday guys being guys doing guy things” will include a guy or two with a spare tire, because what’s more everyday than that? Not this commercial. The singer who opens the commercial is if anything a bit scrawny for TV men, and all of the dozens and dozens of guys who crowd through this commercial are thin. There are just two exceptions. First, they cast someone a bit round-faced to play the minivan owner, presumably because family men are stereotypically a bit chubby. Second, the dude pulling the dump truck by a chain isn’t thin, but professional truck-pullers usually aren’t.

It’s odd, isn’t it? On the one hand, the whole commercial is saying “screw the wife/nanny nagging you about health – eat what you want” ethos, while at the same time the casting is trying to assure men that eating at Burger King won’t make them fat.

Now, as it happens, I believe that eating at Burger King won’t make you fat, nor will being fat make you unhealthy (more on that subject here). And I think people should feel free to eat what they want, even if it is unhealthy. But the way this commercial endorses ideologies of thinness and of sexism – even while waving a “just kidding! You’re not allowed to analyze what’s going on, because we’re! just! kidding!” banner – pretty much wipes out any possible beneficial message iit might have carried.

What’s interesting is how the ideology of “healthism” is now predominant enough so that hamburgers are sold the way beer is sold – as an appeal to base male instincts. “C’mon, be bad.” Eating burgers, which are probably the single most popular food in the country, makes you a rebel. Yeesh.

P.S. So why is there a mime? Is that the ultimate example of a feminized man coming back to manhood, or did they just think sticking in a mime would be funny, or both? (Look in the background about 32 seconds into the commercial).

24 Comments »

  1. I’m fairly certain that the commercial can be taken as tongue-in-cheek. Also, I’m just glad they’re not doing those creepy “wake up with the king” ones anymore.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — May 15, 2006 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

  2. I saw nothing remotely anti-male in the commercial. If anything, it mocks the “men are stupid” feminist trend we typically see in advertising. More specifically, it mocks the pro-female/only-female TV dinner commercials (the ones with the random satin clothes floating sensually behind two strips of soy-based “chicken”), hence the ridiculously unappetizing food at the beginning of the commercial.

    There were no “fat” men in the commercial (just as there are no “fat” women in the Lean Cuisine commercials), however, there are several “chubby” men featured throughout the piece. In most advertisements “fat” men symbolize laziness, stupidity and general ineptitude. To include them would potentially ruin the joke (I suppose they could be added in as a sort of “man bursting free” element, but that has already been done).

    Idealized views about the male body have less to do with sexism towards women or thinness issues than the fact that people associate “real men” with built, or at least muscular, physiques. This could be confused as an obsession with thinness. However, as an avid movie watcher and comic book fan, I doubt an audience would cheer for the “fat” guy who gets blown to bits because he cannot dodge a missile launched from a jet fighter at close range. It is more likely an extension of the ever-popular, yet completely unattainable, He-Man Complex.

    The irony is that drinking beer and eating meat are considered base male activities. One wonders why a group of men drinking beer and watching football renders them childish. One could also wonder why eating a burger and fries is some how the epitome of sexism against women. Neither of them makes any sense, which is why the Burger King commercial is so funny.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 15, 2006 @ 11:39 pm | Reply

  3. they cast someone a bit round-faced to play the minivan owner, presumably because family men are stereotypically a bit chubby.

    This is interesting, because when I first read your description of the scene, I assumed that the minivan owner was very thin and short — the stereotypical spineless weiner.

    Comment by Stentor — May 16, 2006 @ 7:03 am | Reply

  4. Sheesh.. talk about reading way too much into a commercial for goodness sake. It really is no different than any other commercial, it is made to appeal to a certain market group.. period. Are Tide commercials showing a housewife folding laundry sexist too?

    Comment by Pattie — May 26, 2006 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  5. Everything is sexist. Everything.

    That’s why you have to watch everything closely, so you can spot what is sexist about it. If you don’t, you won’t know when to get offended.

    Comment by Field left blank — May 31, 2006 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  6. Toysoldier has the gist of the fuss perfectly. And Pattie is my hero.

    On eof the reasons I love this commercial so much is that the second I saw it I knew this fuss was coming. Hilarious. ANd other women wonder why I refuse to call myself a feminist.

    Comment by mouse — June 4, 2006 @ 3:53 am | Reply

  7. “…while at the same time the casting is trying to assure men that eating at Burger King won’t make them fat.”

    So you over-analyze the commercial but you miss something? At approximately 30 or 35 seconds in, you should hear these two lines:

    “I will eat this meat
    ‘Till my innie turns into an outtie”

    That kind of goes against you doesn’t it?

    Anyway, personally I think you’re looking too deep. If you look for something, you will find it.

    Comment by Frag — June 5, 2006 @ 10:28 pm | Reply

  8. No one seems to remember that the composer of the I AM WOMAN song was an Australian MAN called Ray Burton. Read his comment on the ad on his website.

    I can imagine him dancing around his apartment in LA singing it out loud in front of his girlfriend and her saying “what tha….?”

    Comment by Casey — July 16, 2006 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  9. [...] I googled “Burger King I am Man,” I came up with a feminist critique of the commercial as the first item. I distinctly disagree with their interpretation of the ad as [...]

    Pingback by McBizzle’s Bizznass! » Blog Archive » I am Man — January 20, 2007 @ 7:08 pm | Reply

  10. I love how the feminists never throw a fit over the plethora of commercials in which women triumph over men in a comical fashion. In fact, when I watch a TV show where a guy and girl are competing against each other, I just assume the girl is going to win at whatever it is, and I’m usually right.

    And I have never once seen a mainstream hit sitcom that depicts men as sole survivors and women as slimeball Neanderthal losers. The vice versa, however, is everywhere. What do you do when you see that? Do you throw a fist in the air and proclaim “YOU GO GIRL!” like some cliche teenager?

    If you want equality, how about laughing at an obviously over exaggerated commercial about stereotypical manliness, instead of screaming “GIRL POWER” every time a woman sticks it to a man on television like it’s not the same thing (like it’s not WORSE)?

    Feminists give me the impression that they want the perks of being a man and nothing else of it. Like they automatically have deep insight into society upon spending 5 minutes in college. A lot of them are plenty out of shape because they eat like a man, man. (Oh, dear. I’m sexist.)

    Comment by Sid — January 24, 2007 @ 2:32 am | Reply

  11. Excuse me, but did somewhere in this pointless banter did you actually manage to convince yourself that your opinion as a .. a … a WOMAN means JACK?

    You guys are almost as bad as the blacks.

    Just because I’m so angry with your ignorance, I’m going to go beat my wife, and you know what? YOU!! CAN’T!! STOP!! ME!! Because I’m a man, see, and despite your 5 hour long filibuster, I am still more than capable of immediately silencing you with one forearm to the cranium. Because I’m better. My penis, my overpowering height, size, intelligence and overall value as a human being in this world says so. Bye.

    Comment by Mr. Dean Mason — January 24, 2007 @ 2:39 am | Reply

  12. Amp, you might want to change the GooTube link to this URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO0YqaA-80U

    The one you have up is for a, and I quote, “private video” for use by friends of the poster only. The rest of us poor saps can’t see a damn thing.

    Comment by Off Colfax — January 26, 2007 @ 8:36 am | Reply

  13. Thanks for the tip, OC. Correction made.

    Comment by Ampersand — January 27, 2007 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  14. Why can’t you just let people enjoy the funny commercial? Instead of breaking it down bit by bit to analyze each and every effing lyric, you can just sit back, relax, turn the channel when that particular commercial comes on, and you would’ve saved everyone, including you, a BUNCH of time.

    Comment by Phezz — January 31, 2007 @ 9:07 am | Reply

  15. Why can’t you just let people enjoy the funny commercial? Instead of breaking it down bit by bit…

    But what I enjoy is breaking down the funny commercial bit by bit. Why should I enjoin enjoying what I enjoy to further your enjoyment?

    As for the time you’ve wasted, I refuse to take the rap for that. I didn’t hold a gun to your head and force you to read my blog. (Although that would be an intriguing possibility, if I was really determined to increase traffic.)

    Comment by Ampersand — January 31, 2007 @ 5:51 pm | Reply

  16. Gunplay for readership is frowned upon. Something about the blogging code of ethics.

    But it’s totally OK to hold someone’s family hostage until they link you.

    Comment by Robert — January 31, 2007 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

  17. THE WORSE COMMERCIAL EVER!!! My opinion is this… This commercial is all leaning towards men eating big burgers which is fine but to me howevere I am offened for the women out there who also enjoy eating Whoppers doubles, triples whatever it may be. I feel that in some way thyy are saying you have to have a man’s appetite to eat what thay are promoting in that commercial and that is wrong. There are many females out there that also eat this food. I am not going to go on and on but the commercial is wrong and for all you woman out there that do eat whoppers I would now start going for the BIG MAC!!!

    Comment by Dawniqua — February 13, 2007 @ 8:29 am | Reply

  18. My favorite thread of the day, so far. And I haven’t even see the commercial (no YouTube at work).

    Comment by S. Weasel — February 13, 2007 @ 10:53 am | Reply

  19. If I’m going to get a burger, I don’t order the biggest one to be all “assert my masculinity, and ho ho! isn’t it phallic shaped, and look at me the macho man!”, I order the biggest burger ‘cos it’s got the most meat, cheese and gherkins in! Furthermore, the advert’s need to portray men as being supposedly masculine is detrimental to its own cause! If I am less hungry, and order a smaller burger, does this make me less of a man? Does a woman ordering a bigger burger make her more masculine? I completely advocate equality, but the problem with the advert is that it portrays some characteristics as being ‘masculine’, when there are plenty of men AND women who embody these characteristics, and equally, many who do not. These characteristics do not decide whether these people make ‘good’ men, or ‘good’ women (in society’s warped traditional sense, i.e. big strong man and girly woman staying at home) but just says something about their personalities as human beings! The more we view some characteristics as being masculine or feminine, rather than, say, human, the more we actually promote sexism!

    Comment by John — February 22, 2007 @ 9:29 am | Reply

  20. All of the Burger King commercials I have ever seen are sexist against women and completely disgusting. I just saw a commercial by Burger King about getting rid of the “whopper,” and at the end, two men are talking and one of the guys says, “They might as well call it Burger Queen if they have no whopper.” This is absolutely disgusting and ridiculous. It doesn’t even make any sense because they show many women being the ones getting upset about no whopper. Why do women have to be degraded and made fun of in every single on of their commercials? It’s absolutely disgusting and it’s a shame that in the 21st century, we still have this primitive, barbaric, and disgusting way of thinking. I hope many complaints are filed against Burger King.

    Comment by Marty — December 17, 2007 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  21. Hope you don’t mind the late response. I hate these types of TV commercials. Hardees seems to be trying to convince young males that they are gay if they don’t eat Hardees food. That’s why I don’t eat it. I have read some other blogs today on the subject of homophobia and sexism in TV commercials, and I noticed that the bloggers who take your point of view get constantly slammed by the people who comment, and who rant about “political correctness” and say we should “get over it”. Thanks for speaking out.

    Comment by Eric — December 6, 2008 @ 8:17 pm | Reply

  22. Any woman who says she’s not a feminist or doesn’t want to call herself a feminist has really internalized a way of thinking that seeks to keep women down. As a woman, there is no logical reason to not self-identify as a feminist. That is, unless you are afraid of what certain ignorant people might think. Feminism is not about women being inherently superior to men. It’s about fighting everything and anything that devalues, disrespects, or pigeonholes women.

    So, after all that has been done to empower women, it’s ok to permit a certain brand of sexism because it is mild? When you get to your porch do you stop there? I mean, why go in the house when the porch has a floor and a roof?

    Comment by Ha ha — July 10, 2009 @ 12:17 am | Reply

  23. Hahaha!! Are you serious!? Just like a woman, suck the fun out of everything. It’s really hard to believe that this is an issue!! How old are you, 7, 8? Tossing a mini van over the bridge just signifies strength. I didn’t see a family in there. My guess they chose the van is because, no man wants to see a hummer thrown over, and it’ll look weird if a bunch of guys threw a mini over. If you don’t like the commercial, change the channel or suck it up. If you HAVE to bitch about it, find some women in a salon or wherever you women go to talk and rant as you wish!

    Comment by The Bru — October 23, 2010 @ 1:15 am | Reply

    • “Just like a women, suck the fun out of everything” and “find some women in a salon or wherever you women go to talk”?….wow… what an ignorant comment…I can assure you that maybe only 30% of women suck the fun out of things (same with guys). and I guarantee that many don’t go to salons and that most women don’t go anywhere [as in a certain place: restaurant, spa etc.] to talk (that’s pretty pointless if you do, and a waste of money).

      Comment by Star — May 23, 2011 @ 3:52 am | Reply


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