The Death of Love

18 Feb

I’m not entirely sure how long these ads have been in the New York Subway system, but regardless of which holiday they’re geared toward (I suspect Christmas), it kills me to see this ad. It tears my heart up.

Johnny Walker Black Label: There’s no need to say I love you, man, every again.

This ad is a play on the recent trend in the media highlighting homosocial intimacy. From the films I Love You, Man, Pineapple Express, and The Hangover, to the off-Broadway film Matt and Ben, to the coining of the term “bromance,” male bonding and the actions and emotions associated with it are getting new attention. From a psychosocial and gender role perspective, this is huge! Conservatives and the patriarchy have long branded homosocial relationships as being akin to homosexual relationships (while simultaneously engaging in overt homosocial activities, under the guise of “manly” hunting/fishing trips, manhood retreats,  “guys’ nights“). Through these messages of hate, men everywhere are taught that getting “too close” to another man might “make me a homo,” that close male friends might be “gay for me,” and to fear any semblance of intimacy with another man. That Hollywood, Broadway, and the national zeitgeist are accepting and promoting straight male relationships signifies a new step toward the universal acceptance and support of homosexuality and homosocial relationships.

Sadly, Johnny Walker (JW) takes this notion in the entirely wrong direction. By telling men that if they give their male friend a bottle of Scotch, they never have to say, “I love you,” JW sends the message that there’s an easy way to avoid showing emotions. JW is telling us that real men should not show emotions. The company is discouraging displays of affection between brothers, fathers and sons, and male friends. This is a tragedy, because it reinforces the messages that all men have heard since we could listen: don’t cry, don’t display your emotions, don’t touch, don’t love. The fact that JW sells alcohol is also no coincidence. The industry could show any number of messages, but the one is sends is, real men drink booze.

Unfortunately, it seems like there are very few good examples of way for companies that sell alcohol to produce thoughtful, positive messages, and still hope to sell their products. These companies have long histories of sexist ads, aimed at men, and this tradition continues today. One alternative would be to simply promote causes that have nothing to do with gender, such as one beer company’s ads promoting the NY Giants and Jets. Anyone can watch football and drink beer. Nothing in the ads (except perhaps the colors, fonts, style, etc.) are targeting toward men. Another good example of this is the Budweiser frog ads from the mid-1990s, which were hilarious (to me, at least), simple, and non-sexist.

Rather than just being neutral, though, can these companies produce ads that discourage gender stereotyping? What would that kind of advertisement (billboard, television, radio, etc.) look like?  I look forward to the ensuing conversation in the comments!



One Response to “The Death of Love”


  1. The Last and Worst: Rules for Men « The Conscious Man - April 27, 2011

    […] the high numbers of female nurses and social workers. They’re in the way we talk about cars, male friendships, illness, cooking (twice), and interior design. And they come from everywhere: the media, our […]

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