The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Toyota Prado Campaign Doesn’t Want No Poofs Or Women ‘Round Here

Posted by Clem Bastow on September 27, 2009

Back in gender studies class at uni, momentum was regularly stopped while our lecturer explained to whinging sportoes that the patriarchy was bad for men, too – and the new Toyota Prado campaign has had me thinking precisely that for the past week. Here’s the ad, if you’ve not yet seen it:

The ‘net has been abuzz about how hilarious it is, particularly as a skewering of the myriad ‘phobias exhibited by Border Security-type television shows (xenophobia springs to mind), but that’s where it falls down for me, and all because of one of my least favourite phobias of all.

It is “funny”, much like the Snickers/Mr T ads and moments of the new VB campaign. But here’s the problem I have with it: campaigns like these (and, for a real flashback, the old Collingwood “What’s that in your locker, you big girl?” Sunsilk ad), play into your average “Aussie” person’s latent (or in many cases, not so latent) homophobia.

All that’s missing is for one of the tough boder patrol team members to use the phrase “a bit of a poofter”.

That might seem like a stretch, but it isn’t when you examine the campaign’s examples of apparent “soft” manhood (i.e. “men’s cosmetics”, “manscaping”). Much like the phrase “real women” makes my blood boil, so does implied ideals of “real manhood”, which, let’s face it – despite the presence of a few women in the ad, both on the Patrol and behind the wheel – is essentially at the core of the Prado campaign: people who drive “soft-roaders” are either not real men (in other words, potential gay men), or women (who are most certainly not real men).

We’ll keep laughing at this sort of humour in advertising because in our post-internet-slang (“Taste the future in your mouth”, “The drinking beer”, etc) and satire-drenched world, it will be shrugged off as “irony”. But isn’t it time we examined the deeper implications of such depictions of manhood, real or unreal?

Methinks it’s time for Joe Jackson’s sage meditation on gender roles to climb back up the classic hits charts for a much needed repeat airing:

17 Responses to “Toyota Prado Campaign Doesn’t Want No Poofs Or Women ‘Round Here”

  1. Mindy said

    I hadn’t thought of this angle at all. Being a country girl, I thought it a great skewering of the city vs country divide, and the idea that city folk aren’t tough enough to survive in the country as evidenced by pink polo shirts with the collar up, and men’s moisturiser products. Some food for thought, thanks.

  2. richardleighwatts said

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who saw this virulent subtext, Clem. x

  3. kimpowell said

    Similarly, why do ads for bathroom cleaning products and washing powder always feature women? When’s the last time you saw an ad with a man cleaning a toilet?

  4. Andrew McIntosh said

    I find this article and it’s ideas silly. If it does “seem like a stretch”, that’s because it is. Look at it this way -
    1 – It’s an ad. Of course it’s going for lowest-common-denominator thinking.
    2 – It’s an ad for a four-wheel drive. A wank engine on wheels. A dickhead-mobile. It may be useful in some parts of the outback (not living in the county I have no idea) but for anyone else, it’s a vanity trap.
    3 – It’s actually quite clever: I liked the tofu bit, and I like tofu. A sense of both humour and perspective is needed with these things. Like the Mr T ads for Snickers and the Sam Kekovitch ads for meat, both examples of which can be appreciated just as throw-away humour without having to go buy the products.
    In fact, perspective is the point here. Anyone can look at this ad and get a chuckle out of it. But if you’re serious about the way men are depicted and see themselves, looking at it from this example is a waste of time.

    • caitlinate said

      1) Oh, right. It’s stupid but it’s meant to be stupid and so we shouldn’t care or comment on the fact! You mean kind of like the way when sexist people say sexist stuff it’s okay because they’re sexist? Or like when a murderer murders someone it’s okay because they’re a murderer?

      2) So you disagree that it’s offensive but want to make sure that we all know that even if was offensive we shouldn’t be offended by it? Because it’s stupid?

      3) Wait. So even though you think it’s stupid you also think it’s “clever”? But that the pretty little ladies shouldn’t worry their little heads about the big grown up man issues? Unless of course they get it and realise that it’s stupid but also clever and that you like tofu. I’m so glad you like tofu, I do as well.

      p.s. You win bonus points for telling feminists to get a sense of humour! That’s to make up for the ones you lost in the department we call Logic.

  5. diva_boii said

    I agree with what Caitlin has said. To say that something doesn’t need to be critically examined because it is appealing to the “lowest common denominator” anyway is pretty foolish I think. Ads like this may appear funny, but there is a harmful, and indeed homophobic, subtext.

    If we are to look at the “way men are depicted and see themselves” then I would argue that this is indeed A VERY GOOD example, as it shows how Australian patriotism is interconnected with homophobia and hegemonic masculinities. Moreover, this ad is a slice of mainstream culture, and yes it appeals to the lowest common denominator, but the ‘lowest common denominator’ is a pretty huge chunk of the Australian public. Nearly all images of Australian identity are formed around masculinities. The outback blokes, the suburban blokes, The Bushrangers, the diggers, our AFL heroes etc.

    This ad reinforces damaging gender stereotypes, and Clem was spot on in referring to the Aussie person’s latent homophobia. This ad attempts to present the Australian bloke’s fear of being emasculated in a funny way. Fear of emasculation IS homophobia, and I don’t think that it really can be construed as funny.

    Perhaps it’s easier for you to say that this analysis is an overraction because you don’t really experience homophobia or identity issues relating to masculinity. For some of us without such privileges, this ad is pretty offensive.

    • Andrew McIntosh said

      Diva, if you think this ad is “harmful” I’ve got to say that’s some pretty serious fear you’re carrying. I agree with you that Australian identity is infested with “blokes” and find the whole thing boring beyond belief, but as for how much damage it’s doing to people I really can’t say. Can you?

      When you write “(t)his ad attempts to present the Australian bloke’s fear of being emasculated in a funny way” I think you’ve nailed the issue but then miss the point by going on to write that it can’t be seen as funny. Yes, it can. Homophobia, the “fear of emasculation”, is hilarious. To me there’s few things more amusing than the fear of macho fuckwads who are so blokey and tough yet freak the fuck out at even the thought of being slightly less than 100% bloke. I don’t know if I can make you understand: when you fear something you give it power. When you understand it you loose your fear of it and it gives you power. That can be used to your advantage: you’ve never in your life made fun of macho dickheads before?

      As far as my own experiences go, I’ve had a fair share of macho dickheads giving me a hard time and threatening me with violence and the rest. It’s a hassle. But not something I’d want to let dominate my life about. Which is why I find chuckling at silly little things like this ad we’re discussing all the easier. It feels good to laugh at things like this. Since it’s an ad and not some bloody-minded fool driving around looking for violence (and I hope you understand the gulf of difference)it’s all the more easier, and appropriate, to treat it lightly. I’m more concerned about the bloody minded fools than whether Toyota want me to buy their stupid cars.

      It seems to me that the writer is simply using the ad as an opportunity to ask about concepts of “manhood”, rather than setting in stone whether it’s offensive and “harmful”, which I think is a very strong way of looking at it. Fair enough, but it still strikes me as a rather trivial item to start asking those sort of questions about (for one thing, everyone’s more interested in the damn ad than the questions raised. Pity).

      By the way, is the writer the same Clem Barstow who wrote a really cool article in The Age a few years back about the different types of Heavy Metal? Or am I mistaken?

      • divaboi said

        So, you find this ad funny because it’s parodying Australian notions of masculinity (and homophobia). I can understand this, and I have made fun of “macho dickheads” many time before. My point is that most people who view this ad will find it funny for other reasons. This ad, as I see it, appeals directly to the ordinary person’s latent homophobia. Sure it is well masked with humor, irony, satire etc but it’s message (nothing soft gets in) reinforces harmful (yes harmful!) notions of masculinity within the wider Australian audience.

        For you, this ad is funny. But surely you can see that for others it would be funny for entirely different reasons?

        I don’t fully understand this: “Homophobia, the “fear of emasculation”, is hilarious”
        Are we living in the same universe, Andrew?
        Have you, or anyone you’ve known, ever been gay bashed before?
        Have you ever been disowned by homophobic parents before?
        Have you ever felt alienated and depressed and suicidal because you live in a society where non-hetero sexualities/non-conforming genders are condemned, censured and imbued with shame?

        I don’t understand this either: “When you fear something you give it power. When you understand it you loose your fear of it and it gives you power.”
        I did not talk of fear in my original post.
        I find homophobia a pretty scary thing, and I definitely understand homophobia. My understanding of homophobia does not negate me fearing it. My not fearing homophobia would not contribute to its eradication.

        This platitude does not really relate to the ad we’re discussing. Let me see if I’ve understood you correctly:
        -you don’t fear homophobia (thus you’re not giving it power)
        -you understand homophobia (thus you have disempowered it)
        -and now you’re empowered, and able able to find homophobia funny when presented in an ironic way?

        Are my deductions correct? I don’t see this as being particularly logical. The ordinary Aussie bloke laughing at this ad will find it funny because:
        1) he fears/dislikes non hetero sexualities and/or women and/or anything deviating from his own hegemonic masculinity.
        2) he is empowered because he a man, an Aussie masculine (not soft) man.

        Thus, he’s able to laugh at this ad coz poofs are funny (and he certainly isn’t one).

        You say that “it’s an ad and not some bloody-minded fool driving around looking for violence”. I understand the distinction, but what is it in our culture that creates this “bloody-minded fool”?

        And yes, I’m guessing it’s the same Clem Bastow.

  6. dannyhotep said

    I think this is really spot on, Clem Bastow. And it reminds me (unfortunately) of those repulsive Solo ads from a few years yonder. Remember? Man is afraid of spider. Man is punished for cowardice and grows breasts. Man is horrified by his like, total physical inferiority. Man performs ridiculous heroic tasks in a display of TOTALLY MANLY AWESOME STRENGTH. Breasts deflate. Crisis (a.k.a. not-having-a-dick) averted. Drink solo, guys. OR FACE BEING A WOMAN.

    In response to Andrew Macintosh, I wonder why you think that simply because most advertising is aiming for the lowest common denominator means it is unworthy of analysis. These ads are not created in a vacuum. They are created with a target demographic in mind! and when Toyota chooses to run with a campaign like this – one that devalues so-called feminine traits (and, er, tofu?) – they do so because they are aware that it will speak directly to the rife misogyny and homophobia that sizzles (and most of the time, spills all over the place) in the metaphorical cooking pot that is Australia.

    I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen tonight.

  7. Andrew McIntosh said

    Dannyhotep, advertising as a whole may well be a subject of serious discussion. I don’t know, I’d be more inclined to say just shoot the lot of them and move on. But this one little ad should not be, and it’s been a study for me to see how people are so serious about it. It’s all about cliches, and you need to get past them to get to what people really are. This is what is interesting to me: people here seeing the cliches as some kind of reality. In a lot of cases they are, because people have made them reality. But they’re still cliches.
    You seem to be suggesting that the advertising company that made the ad are thinking “gee, there’s a lot of poofer-bashers out there, if we sell them this car, gay bashings are going to go through the roof. Yea! Right on! Fucking faggots, death and destruction to the enemies of church sanctified marriage!” or something like that (you write “they do so because they are aware”, so clearly you think there’s something conscious going on). For them, it’s all about the dollars, and they’d sell the same car to homosexuals if they thought it’d generate enough dollars for them.

    Diva, when you ask what in our culture creates homophobia, I’m guessing (just guessing, mind you) that it’s thousands of years of conditioning. I’m also guessing that whether this little ad existed or not, it would continue.

    As for how I see homophobia, to make it clear, I think it’s just another bigotry. I don’t care for bigotry myself but I don’t care if anyone else is a bigot because I know there’s little I can do about it except laugh at them for being bigots. The thing is, I did not see this ad as homophobic, I saw it as a silly little ad. A light piece of fluff to chuckle at and forget about afterwards, only to be reminded by earnest people who see more in it than I do. As I’ve stated, I just don’t see it as a big deal. What’s interesting for me now is that you and others do.

    As for the “ordinary Aussie bloke”, the thing is he doesn’t exist and never has existed. This thing called NORMAL is a myth. But what’s interesting is that people love their myths and love living their cliches, and that’s what people do. The macho dickwad that we both make fun of is funny because they are living a cliche, actually taking on the mannerisms and attitudes they’ve been exposed to without the slightest hint of thought let alone criticism. But my experience with such people is that either a: they can think and when you get them one on one you discover that’s possible, or b: they couldn’t be bothered thinking and they’re not worth getting one on one.

    As for the questions you’ve asked me, I’ve never been gay bashed but have heard of people I know who have. I’ve never been disowned by homophobic parents. I’ve felt alienated, depressed and suicidal for reasons other than gender. And none of this makes any difference to the ad in question, which is, I still maintain, a light piece of fluff. If you’re gay and you find this ad depressing as a result please come out and say so. If you’re only speaking on behalf of others, please don’t. Let them speak for themselves.

    We are living in the same universe, we just have different ways of understanding it. The fear of people who are gay is funny, because it’s irrational and makes no damn sense. The whole anti-gay, pro-”straight” sexual obsession is something to mock and deride, like any bigotry (that you happen not to share, of course). Doesn’t mean I wont seriously stand up for gays etc. if I have to, when faced with stupidity. But it doesn’t mean I have to take peoples’ stupid phobias as seriously as they do. And again, it doesn’t mean I have to see violent homophobia in a silly little ad.

    Which is why I mentioned fear. If you are looking at a silly little ad and seeing something that makes you think of the heavy things you’re discussing here, THAT is fear. You’ve allowed a stupid piece of television to trigger thoughts that involve the real world and that is giving it power. Sorry for being an armchair psychologist here, but I can’t help thinking that you’re putting far too much emotional investment in something that just doesn’t warrant or deserve it. If you’re concern is gender roles in society, you’re being side-tracked by this little issue.

    • soppageddon said

      ‘As for the “ordinary Aussie bloke”, the thing is he doesn’t exist and never has existed. This thing called NORMAL is a myth.’
      Perhaps this should be discussed with Toyota because in this case it is they who are invoking and reinforcing the hetero-macho male stereotype.

      When talking about this ad I think it’s worth bringing up the old primary school adage ‘I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.’ Laughing ‘at’ something, such as homophobic attitudes within advertising, is merely indicental and requires no support of what’s actually being laughed at. The sheer ridiculousness of this ad does indeed merit a chuckle, but nothing else.

      Laughing ‘with’, denotes an identification with whoever’s making the joke. From what you’ve written here it doesn’t seem as if you’d identify with those who seek to make fun of supposed ‘softies’, so I ask, why support this ad?

      You’ve said above that ‘looking at this example is a waste of time’. The point is that these advertisements are one manifestation of a system of oppression which can take the form of a poorly-written car ad or a violent attack. Discrimination is all-pervasive and can, in various guises, to be found in all areas of society (particular the media). So it’s not so much a matter of ‘emotional investment’ as being generally pissed off and frustrated at the state of things.

      And excuse me but isn’t ‘when you fear something you give it power’ a line from Harry Potter? It’s hardly that simple… I’d argue that in the case of societal values power is ‘given’ when they are left unchallenged.

      • Andrew McIntosh said

        “The sheer ridiculousness of this ad does indeed merit a chuckle, but nothing else.”

        THANK YOU! Finally, someone gets the point.

        But then –

        “…why support this ad?”

        - (sigh). I’m not, I’m questioning others making a big deal out of it. That includes a weblog column of analysis and a few replies to it making it into some kind of cultural anti-gay steamroller. It merits a chuckle, but nothing else. So I’m trying to communicate with people here who are making a big deal out of it, not bloody Toyota about whom I could not give less than a shit. I prefer to communicate with people, not capitalists.

        You got it right when you mention the difference between laughing at and laughing with. No argument there.

        As for Harry Potter, though, no idea, I’ve never read any of those books or seen any of those movies. I’m referring of course to how an individual allows something to affect them. Societal values can be hard to counter, but as for ads on the telly, you don’t have to watch them and it is that simple. I don’t have a telly and didn’t even know this ad existed until I read this page. There’s only so much media bullshit I can take and I choose to take as little as humanly possible.

  8. caitlinate said

    Okay, Andrew. We all understand what your opinion is. Your voice has been very well heard.

    We. Get. It.

    In 1500 words or more you’ve let us know that one blog post and a couple of comments were just too much attention for one tiny measly unimportant ad. That we really shouldn’t be going on about it so much. That we really shouldn’t be making such a big deal out of something so small. Like an ad.

    Now can you please stop derailing this thread into your opinion on why it shouldn’t exist so that other people can maybe actually comment on the content of the post and the points raised in it.

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