Monday, October 11, 2010

Trident Commercial

I’m sure many of you have seen this commercial of a young girl putting lipstick and eye shadow on a young boy where the mother immediately reacts by saying, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Reading this “Tomboy” entry reminded me how much gendering is going on in our media. I have taken gender and women studies classes and sociology classes where I came to the conclusion that gender is sexually constructed.

This video, featuring 2 Caucasian kids and a 1 caucasian mom, only lasts fifteen seconds but has a pretty powerful message. The commercial starts with the young girl telling the boy that he “looks good,” then showing the mother come in with a laundry basket asking “what are you doing.” With her laundry basket in hand, it shows the maternal figure of one to nurture as her son is obviously being unsupervised. Her surprised expression shows that she has been culturally shaped into thinking that make up on a male is not normal or appropriate. When the young girl responds, “fighting cavities,” it is supposed to make the situation better. The narrator continues to say, “Whatever they're doing, when kids are chewing Trident, at least they're helping fight cavities.” This caption seems to recognize that this image may not be the most common, but that its acceptable as long as they are chewing Trident. I have mixed feelings on this commercial because I like the end message that it doesn’t matter what they’re doing, as long as they’re happy. Happy in this case may mean just the act of playing with friends or exploring with make up. It is expected that advertisers will play to society’s unfamiliarity with this situation in hopes of catching their attention to the television when this commercial comes up. Either way, I’ve seen this commercial over three times and I don’t watch that much television to begin with. Go figure.


  1. I actually had the opposite response to the commercial, where I was more offended by the second half than the first. For example, I interpreted the mom's reactions differently - when the mom came in and asked "What are you doing?" - it seemed that she genuinely did not know what was going on and was curious as to what the kids were doing, especially since it's all of her make-up that's laid out everywhere; and once the little boy turns around, I read her face as being more amused than surprised or disapproving of what was going on.

    The part that I found fault with was the part that you liked in the commercial; the phrase at the end states that it doesn't matter what they're doing - when they're chewing Trident, AT LEAST they're helping fight cavities. I think that "at least" makes an enormous difference - it implies that the only positive outcome of this entire scenario is the fighting cavities, and it implies that had they not been chewing Trident, their activities would not be seen as positive, and would be construed as inappropriate - but hey, as long as you're chewing Trident, it's okay to crossdress. But stop chewing Trident, and then it's just downright wrong.

    I also think the fact that we interpreted each part of this commercial quite differently is really interesting, and really goes to show how the way we perceive media is so unique and individual. Even here, when we are both in the same GWS140 class and coming from that same background, what's offensive to you isn't necessarily offensive to me, and vice versa.

  2. And expanding further on that second paragraph, I think it makes an interesting commentary on the ties between consumerism and sexuality. If you're seen as an active participant in the consumer market, in this case by buying gum, any deviance from social norms (i.e. crossdress) become more acceptable.

  3. Great exchange! Great points about how subjective interpretation is and how consumer demands influence everything!

  4. I got a completely different impression from this commercial. When I first saw it, I noticed aspects of change of Latinos in the media. For example, when the mother enters the dark hair and surveillance of her children (Latinos, "a family people" stereotype, I was under the impression that she was indeed, in some light, a Latino women. However, the daughter in this commercial seems Caucasian. This took me back to the article we read about the "whitening of the Latina". The blue eyes, blonde-haired girl seems to be appealing to a demographic separate of the mother. The ambiguity of the characters is relateable to many different cultures/elasticities therefore the advertisers achieve their goal of reaching a broader audience that may be interested in the product.

    -Sweety [Navjeet] Ghuman