By: Aaron Slade
Ever since the new line of Betty Crocker desserts commercials has been aired, I’ve always been slightly put off by them. I never knew what it was about the commercials that made me feel this way, but there was definitely something different happening in them that wasn’t happening in other ones. However, upon reading Susan Bordo’s Hunger as Ideology, I realized that these commercials were meant for a completely different demographic than the one I am a part of, being a male age 18-24. It felt weird watching the commercials because I didn’t understand them. After realizing this, I also noticed the various gender ideologies that were being utilized in the commercial, and how Betty Crocker had made a shift from sensual male food advertisements as described by Bordo to sensual female food advertisements for their desserts. Thus, through the “Warm Delights” line of advertisements, Betty Crocker has made a shift from utilizing male gender ideologies in the past, to now exploiting female gender ideologies today.
Susan Bordo discusses in detail the various male advertising gender ideologies and specifically discusses Betty Crocker commercials. She is explaining that through the commercials, “sexual appetite [is] operating as a metaphor for eating pleasure.” (111) This is shown through examples of Betty Crocker dessert ads from that time period, through which she states “the men are shown in a state of wild, sensual transport over heavily frosted, rich, gooey desserts.” (111) An example of the ads she refers to is below:
As seen, the ideology of sexual appetite as eating pleasure is depicted in this advertisement. Furthermore, in these ads from the past, Betty Crocker advertisements were seen utilizing male gender ideologies as opposed to today when more commonly using female gender ideologies.
A particular contemporary advertisement line selling Betty Crocker desserts utilizes almost every female gender ideology observed and discussed by Bordo. This is the “Warm Delights” dessert campaign. In these ads it represents women as being forbidden to indulge in food in public, and show various rationales to when and why women are allowed to eat. Before diving into the analysis of the commercial, two ads from the line of commercials can be viewed below:
As one can see in both ads, various female gender ideologies are seen being exploited.
In the first commercial it shows one woman alone indulging in the extremely decadent “Warm Delights” desserts made by Betty Crocker. Bordo discusses how one of the gender ideologies that have been applied to women is that their “eating is virtually always represented as private, secretive, illicit.” (129) This observation is presented explicitly in the ad, as the woman is privately eating the caramel dessert alone on her couch. In addition, Bordo explains that because women aren’t allowed to indulge in public, it resorts in over-indulging in private. Bordo states “the forbiddenness of rich food often resulted in private binge behavior.”(114) This phenomenon is seen in the ad as the women is eating the very rich, caramel coated, cake creation in the absence of other people.
In the second advertisement similar ideologies are used, except there is one different aspect, which is the use of a pregnant woman at around seven seconds into the commercial. This coincides with gender ideologies about women concerning when they are allowed to eat. One common conception about women is that they “are to lust for food only when they are pregnant,” (110) as explained by Bordo. The use of a pregnant woman in the Betty Crocker ad confirms this gender ideology and is stating that it is acceptable for this woman to indulge in the dessert simply because she is pregnant. All three gender ideologies used in this one line of advertisements, women eating in private, over-indulging, and being allowed to eat only when pregnant, represent the shift in Betty Crocker advertisements from concerning male gender ideologies, as in the first example, and now using female ones, as seen in the latter two examples.
Betty Crocker’s advertising shift could have been caused by a number of different rationales. One could speculate that there is an increasing dependence of female sexuality within food advertisements, in which case Betty Crocker is simply trying to compete with other advertising campaigns, such as Carl’s Jr. Whatever the reason, there is a clear progression within Betty Crocker dessert advertisements by switching from a male orientated advertising campaign to a more female orientated one, and presents a clear example of the different gender ideologies within food advertisements.