April 2015 archive

A Rhetorical Analysis of Carl’s Jr. Ads

Utilizing Models is the Only Way to Sell Greasy Fast-Food, Right?

By Hannah Bisbing

 

Setting: The sounds of Bobby Darin’s song “Somewhere Beyond the Sea” play as visuals of a beautiful young woman (played by superstar Danish model Nina Agdal) in a barely-there bikini appear. She emerges from the pristine, blue-green ocean and walks along the golden sand of an isolated tropical island. Suddenly, she appears half-lying on a beach towel with a Carl’s Jr. take-out bag and is taking a large bite out of a giant, scrumptious-looking fish sandwich. After several more seconds of extended, slow motion sandwich ravishing, the girl unties the straps of her bikini top. Continuing to eat, a sunburnt man walks up to her and says, “Nice sandwich.” She shakes her head, laughing at the man’s careless nature to allow himself to become as red as a steamed lobster, then an unseen announcer claims, “Sometimes you don’t want to get fried. The charbroiled, not fried, cod fish sandwich. Only at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.”

Throughout the entirety of this commercial, I was rather confused about how extremely attractive, skinny, and essentially naked models have anything to do with food, especially fast food. The whole advertisement is absolutely ridiculous in thought and nature, whether you are discussing its chosen setting, background music, super enhanced sandwich eating sounds effects, its sandwich promoter, or the unrealistic actions that occur within it.

Examining just the behavior of this ad, educated viewers can easily see how much this ad lacks any true sense. First, the model shown is dressed quite scantily until she becomes wholly topless. She also eats the sandwich she is promoting in a far-fetched, bogus manner. What normal human being consumes a sandwich in a cat-like position on one knee, by arching backwards in a sexual manner, or while slowly spreading their legs open to reveal, well, the personal anatomy of the down-there area?

Additionally, several times during this brief advertisement, Agdal is shown spraying sunscreen all over her body without any food being in the picture. She suggestively rubs sunscreen on her chest in one segment while she sticks her butt out, rotates it around closer to the camera, and sprays protectant all over it during several other moments. Is this necessary to include in any commercial that is supposed to be promoting a chain restaurant’s food options?

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However, looking back on Carl’s Jr. advertising history, this bizarre tactic is not too surprising. Most, if not all, of Carl’s Jr. ads within the past ten years or so have possessed extremely similar themes: nearly-naked famous models, unfitting sexual behavior, fancy cars, beautiful beaches, and/or bedroom shots. In previous commercials, well known names in the entertainment world like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and Kate Upton were featured, just to name a few.

Just like the Nina Agdal advertisement, all of the other ads were hyper-sexualized and utilized gorgeous, thin, sexy models to exhibit their food. Also, these women are typically wearing revealing clothing, little evidence of clothing, or no clothing at all. They each show their models eating burgers in sexual ways as well – yes, it is indeed possible – or shoving them into the mouths of gawking, star-struck males. Crawling around like an animal on all fours, showing impressive cleavage, touching their bodies, ripping at their clothes, licking drink straws, and “writhing” in expensive automobiles are all quite common.

So why does this international company feel the need to do things like this in the first place? Well, for a span of a couple years several years ago, Carl’s Jr. experienced a significant drop in sales, likely due to competition from more prominent fast food chains like McDonald’s. Seeking to attract business, to boost their popularity, and to make people remember their company’s ads (whether they wanted to or not), Carl’s Jr. marketers chose to air sexualized, interest-capturing commercials on television. In fact, the ads are so racy that several have been banned from being shown on public T.V. They are really more like soft porn rather than food promotions.

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In terms of intended audience for these advertisements, the company’s executive vice president of marketing Brad Haley claims the ads are meant to target both “young, hungry guys” and “young, hungry gals.” However, the content of these commercials are clearly more appealing towards fairly young, stereotypical sexed-up males. Women typically do not enjoy seeing other members of their gender being objectified, used as sex symbols, being photo-shopped to creepy levels of perfection, or seeming to be useful only to attract men. The commercials are blatantly sexist and degrading to women, so why would females want to watch them? Unless they are suggesting to women that by eating their food they will look and feel like the people shown in the advertisements? Perhaps, but likely not.

Begging the question, why does Carl’s Jr. not include perspectives from the male side? Why does the company refuse to create ads that clearly appeal to women or that utilize men as the main models? Is it because they believe women are typically less likely to buy their food, so they just advertise to men? Perhaps it is because unhealthy food is not commonly associated with women in today’s world. Since women are apparently meant to be thin, beautiful, and obsessed with eating only healthy food to stay skinny, fast food is not included in that ideology. In fact, the company actually experienced major controversy when they aired an X-men themed commercial that basically implied that women are not meant/able to “handle its meaty burgers.”

Also, the company might believe that showing males in the same sexual manner as the women in these ads actually might make men less likely to buy food at Carl’s Jr. Men seeing other men doing bizarre, inappropriately sexual things on television typically just makes guys uncomfortable, not willing to run to the drive-thru. How sexist and ethically/logically flawed is that?

To get the real audience they are reaching out towards, Carl’s Jr. marketing purposefully objectifies women as food and includes typical bro interests, like cars, burgers, bars, and – of course – hot, nearly naked girls. Sex sells, and this company certainly realizes that.

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Interestingly enough, these particular advertisements are often shown on television late at night, on sports channels, and during the Super Bowl. Acknowledging the desired viewers (males from teens to middle age) and that food and sex are the main focuses, choosing these time slots does not seem coincidental in the least. In general, nighttime T.V. is often more sexual in nature since children are usually in bed by then and only adults are watching. Plus, night is typically just a sexually active/conducive time anyway. Also, it is important to realize that as the night continues, dinners have been digested. Seeing food onscreen stimulates the hunger-inducing cells of our brains, making people more likely to go out and buy food that they see shown on television. Advertising tactics always seek to reach the largest audience and to utilize the most effective, most widely shared psychological connections amongst their viewers.

This leads to the acknowledgement that Carl’s Jr. is absolutely not civic in its business actions and motives. Just like any other company that advertises, they are obviously trying to sell their products, but they are doing it incredibly immoral ways that are not even slightly reminiscent of what they are actually selling. This food chain is simply trying to gather attention to itself, and it has certainly worked/is still working in regards to recent outbursts about the inappropriate sexual nature of these ads. Additionally, Carl’s Jr. does not seem to give the slimmest care what kind of attention they are receiving as long as they are getting attention in the first place.

Concluding this argument is a statement that perfectly epitomizes the immoral and rhetorically befuddling advertising tactics at hand. According to New York Daily News regarding both this commercial and Carl’s Jr. modern popularity levels, “What burger? Nina Agdal is the reason why millions will want to eat at Carl Jr.’s.”

 

 

 

Further reading:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=893867

http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-carls-jr-women-cant-handle-burgers-20140409-story.html

http://money.cnn.com/2005/05/24/news/newsmakers/carls_ad/

http://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/viral/utah-sisters-launch-hashtag-campaign-end-racy-carls-jr-ads-n194896

http://universe.byu.edu/2014/09/17/carls-jr-facing-criticism-for-ads-again/

 

 

Sources:

http://www.carlsjr.com/company/releases/paris-hilton-to-star-in-much-anticipated-spicy-burger-ads-for-carls-jr

http://girltalkhq.com/non-profit-tells-carls-jr-cut-crap-sexist-commercials/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/25/paris-hilton-carls-jr-commercial_n_5621747.html

http://jezebel.com/5990397/put-it-in-my-mouth-a-history-of-disgusting-carls-jr-ads

http://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/viral/utah-sisters-launch-hashtag-campaign-end-racy-carls-jr-ads-n194896

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/nina-agdal-stars-carl-jr-s-super-bowl-ad-article-1.1255619

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/07/24/paris-hilton-carls-jr-hardees-fast-food-restaurants-hannah-ferguson/13095483/

Ice Princess: Views from a Real Skater

Have any of you ever watched the Disney movie Ice Princess? Well, as you can expect from any Disney film, Ice Princess is a lofty, totally unrealistic story of trial and triumph that concludes with the protagonist becoming a competitive, qualifying figure skater (despite only being on the ice for a matter of months). She reaches her goal of becoming an amazing skater, ditches her chances at being an Ivy League academic, and gets the cute guy (who also happens to be the rink’s Zamboni driver and the son of “ice bitch” coach Tina Harwood).

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Synopsis:

According to the Disney franchise:

“Though she longs to become a graceful champion figure skater, gawky Casey Carlyle has always been just a brainy high school misfit. And with a strong-willed mother pushing her toward a top university, it seems as if she’ll never get the chance to be like the elite skating prodigies she sees at the rink. But when Casey uses her head and follows her heart, she’ll find herself transformed beyond her wildest dreams!”

The film tells the story of Casey Carlyle, a high school physics genius with intentions of going to Harvard. At the persuasion of her physics teacher, Casey decides to apply for an elite physics scholarship that will surely improve her future academic pursuits. After struggling to find a topic for her project, Casey finally sees the light while watching competitive figure skating on television (noted by the absurdly geeky statement, “You know, I bet there’s a precise aerodynamic formula involved with figure skating”). She then stumbles into her local ice rink and begins videotaping several high-level skaters, much to the annoyance of coaches and parents. Eventually. Casey decides to put on a pair of skates and experience physics herself, leading to her miraculously becoming a gifted ice skater. She goes on to compete in numerous high level events (most of which are horribly mistaken qualifying competitions) and places in the top spots along the way.

Best quotes:

“You know, I bet there’s a precise aerodynamic formula.”

“Tres harsh.”

“Look, I’m sorry, but when the CIA wants to learn new dirty tricks they observe figure skaters and their moms.”

“I’m the Jumping Shrimp. My mom had it copyrighted.”

“She’s got eyes in the back of her horns.”

“Just can’t keep off the ice, can ya?”

Reception:

The movie got a 52% “rotten” score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6/10 on IMDb, so its reception was a bit iffy. According to a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer, “There are far too many cringe-inducing clichés and gaping plot holes.” Another states, “It’s formulaic stuff, but the film treats the conflicts seriously and possesses a sweet demeanor.” However, some viewers had a rather negative stance not just on the plot line, but on the film’s message as well. A flustered contributor stated on Common Sense Media that “this movie is pretty innocuous on the surface, but the message is incredibly wrong for this era’s young people. A very intelligent girl – highly gifted in math and science – is portrayed as making a good choice to pursue a VERY unrealistic dream of ice skating, mostly to flaunt what is percieved as her mother’s dream that she go to Harvard.”

From the perspective of a legitimate ice skater, this movie is absolutely ludicrous, from its view on the skating world to the life of a world-level figure skater. There is absolutely no way that these events could happen in real life. Plus, for being super smart, Casey does some pretty dumb things. Walking onto the ice during a busy, high-level freestyle session? I don’t think so.Videotaping an argument between a coach and skater? Common sense, Casey! Skating while the Zamboni is cutting a new sheet of ice? You will get yelled at (and squished to death).

The competitions this movie portrayed were also terribly researched. You don’t need to qualify for Regionals. Anyone can go and compete. However, while competing in Regionals, you qualify/don’t qualify for Sectionals. Then from Sectionals, you can qualify for Nationals. Then Nationals to Worlds – or the Olympics if an Olympic year. Also, there is no such thing as Junior Regionals, Disney! You already went to Regionals anyway, so what are you doing competing there again in the same season?! So wrong in so many ways.

Furthermore, I have no idea how they roped Michelle Kwan, a 9-time Nationals champion and a freaking Olympian, into doing this movie. She played the part of a commentator and looked pained the entire time. I can totally see her thinking, “The money I’m getting for saying this shit better be worth it, man.” *rolls eyes as she tries not to gag*

Clearly, my opinion about this movie is extremely hater-esque, but that’s because I’m a part of this awesome fantasy world of ice. If you enjoy painfully sappy movies with artistic movements and ice thrown into the mix, Ice Princess could be the perfect film for you!

 

Sources:

Ice Princess (film)

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/ice-princess

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ice_princess

http://movies.disney.com/ice-princess

An Interview with an International Ice Skater

This week, I was fortunate enough to interview 19-year-old Jack Newberry, an international ice skater representing Great Britain. Jack lives and trains in London, England at the Lee Valley Ice Centre. He is coached by his father Christian Newberry, the 1989 Great Britain national champion (also famous for his on-ice back flips) and skates along with his brother, 15-year-old Graham Newberry.

Check out this brief glimpse into an international skater’s world:

How old were you when you first started ice skating?

I was 1.5 years old when I started skating.

How many hours a day do you train, on and off the ice? 

I train on weekdays mostly. 3 hours on ice, and any where from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours off ice.

What’s it like having your dad as a skating coach?

It takes a lot of pressure off me as coaching is one of a skater’s biggest expenses, so I can take a lot of lesson time without burdening my family.

Favorite jump and spin? Are you more of a jumper or a spinner?

I prefer lutz jump, personally. Camel spin is my favorite. I prefer jumps as spins can be boring.

Favorite song to listen to while practicing?

I don’t have any preferences to what I listen to while skating. I’m normally focused on my skating, not the music.

Do you have any special routines or “good luck mantras” that you practice before you compete?

Before I compete I just do my program in my head repeatedly. I can visualize the entire 4:40 program perfectly and see and count even the smallest steps I’ll take.

What do you eat the day of a skating competition?

I don’t eat much before I compete as nerves make me sick. I can eat oranges though for energy and usually consume them about one hour before I skated.

Out of all your competitive programs, which one is your favorite and why?

My favorite program has been my long program from the 2013/14 season. It was parts from the New World Symphony and I love that piece of music.

Who designs your competition wear?

I currently use Revella Skate Wear for my competition outfits.

Where have you traveled to compete? 

I have traveled across Europe many times to complete. I’ve been to Germany, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, and Poland to compete. 

Have you had any injuries to cope with in your skating career?

Yes, I have had injuries. Most notable is my broken femur, which I did not know was broken. The bone chipped away and floated and moved behind my knee cap. After one year of pain from that, I had two surgeries to remove the bone pieces. I was 16 at the time.

Who do you admire in the skating world? Do you channel them in anyway?

There isn’t anyone in particular I admire. I compete against some of the top skaters you see on TV. I do respect them as my competitors, but I don’t admire them.

What’s your most embarrassing and your most glorious skating moment?

My most embarrassing moment would be when I first went internationally and competed. I used up all my energy for a four-minute program in less than two minutes (a rookie mistake) and failed the rest of the program. My most glorious moment was achieving the world qualifying scores for long program. I was the first British skater to ever achieve those scores at an ISU international event.

If you weren’t an international skater, what would you be?

If I didn’t skate, I don’t know what I’d be. I play piano at a relativity high level as just a hobby, so maybe somewhere with music. But I’d like to be a teacher as well. I’d love to travel abroad as an English teacher.

Do you have any particular thoughts that get you through tough programs and practices?

On bad days, I just clear my mind from any negative thoughts that a bad day would give you. Holding on to them just makes for more bad days. It’s important to remember that bad days happen to everyone and you just need to tough them out as best you can.

Many thanks to Jack for his willing participation!

Penn State Reads: Americanah

 

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Chimamanda.com

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s culturally enriching novel Americanah was a truly fascinating read that provided new perceptions on America’s “race issue.” This story as a whole, I feel, really opens readers’ eyes to a completely different perspective on the United States’ ideology, stereotypes, lifestyle, and cultural norms. Being citizens of the United States of America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, I believe we can easily get caught up in our own national ego, thinking that we are the best, most influential, most popular country in existence and that everyone reveres us in an admiring and sometimes envious manner.

Yet, as Adichie exposes in her enlightening book, this common opinion we share as the collective community of America is definitely not shared in the same manner by other nations around the globe, particularly those who immigrate to the U.S. in search of further education, job opportunities, improved safety, or cultural experience.

In Ifemelu’s situation, when she leaves her native Nigeria to attend school in America, she soon realizes that her expectations of this great, magnificent, opportunistic country were not true in reality. The education system was weaker, yet more unnecessarily cumbersome than the schools she attended back in Africa. The beautiful, upbeat, bustling environment she expected to experience was really an unyielding, stressful, eternally strung-out atmosphere that caused feelings of worry, hopelessness, and depression (the term/diagnosis of “depression” did not even exist in Nigeria). Despite never believing that depression was a legitimate illness, Ifemulu soon begins to wonder if she is experiencing the disease herself just from living the “desirable” American lifestyle.

Additionally, Ifemelu is both surprised and disgusted by the fact that all black people (or really anyone who did not have white skin) were placed under only one category: black. No separate terminology or ethnic acknowledgment existed, like Ethiopian, Algerian, Mongolian, Somalian, Ghanian, or Nigerian. Everyone was simply considered “black,” and was often discriminated for this mere aspect of differing skin pigmentation.

Ifmelu’s (and Chimamanda’s) perspective on black people born in America versus black people born in countries outside of America (Africa) was also interesting. She termed the former “American Africans” and the latter “non-American Africans.” Again, the United States has the horrible tendency to categorize all people of darker skin under one label: black, or in America, African American. The term “African American” really is not even true in its denotation. Just because there are black people living in America does not mean they are American African (or African American), despite the commonly widespread notion. The only “African Americans” in this country are those who were born from America’s slavery practices. Everyone else still possesses their ethnic identity of whatever native country they came from originally.

This novel was truly an awakening to our nation’s racial, ethnic, and cultural ignorance. Additionally,Americanah blatantly exposed the United States’ unfair and uninformed stereotyping and discrimination tendencies as well. Living in a country where we are obsessed with the individual and the menial makes us blind to the other issues we are surrounded by – and committing ourselves. We Americans are really not as cultured, knowledgeable, philanthropic, and amazing as we think we are. In fact, we are pretty unintelligent, unaware, and foolish about certain topics, particularly in regards to race.

Supplementing my increased appreciation for diverse cultures, reading this beautiful story made me want to shout, “Wake up to your obliviousness and change, America!” This impactful piece of literature also inspired me to want to spread awareness about this unexplored issue throughout my community, country, and world. Of course, doing either of these given options might not be sensible or feasible, so for now I will just promote everyone to read this book, to think about its content/meaning, and to suggest the novel to their friends, thereby creating a chain reaction of potential revelation and the opportunity for change.

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