As far as beer commercials are concerned, women might as well be blow-up sex dolls — as long as they’re pretty dolls. But in what looks (at first) like a win for feminism, Newcastle Brown Ale is running a TV commercial featuring a female brewmaster. The commercial goes on and on about her skilled hands, showing them sifting through barley and such. But wait for the punchline:
“Why do we focus so much on our brewmaster’s hands? Because she’s not an attractive woman.”
Yes, beer companies aren’t known for subtlety, but come on. It almost makes me nostalgic for the days when they just showed pretty women but didn’t come out and say “we won’t even look at any female who doesn’t make us pitch a tent.”
I may be giving the fraternity of beer and advertising executives too much credit here, but maybe they are feeling threatened by the growing number of successful female professionals (there is one in their midst: they employ a female brewmaster) and are lashing out with a reminder that however successful, talented, or smart we are, to them we are still no more than sex dolls.
I call for a truce in the war on Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers just long enough to require Newcastle to advertise only on his show. They deserve each other. Currently, and inexplicably, the commercial is running on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” To give them a shout-out about the ad, call The Daily Show at 212.468.1700. (They suggested I call Comedy Central Viewer Services at 212.767.8642, but that number got me to a full voicemail box.)
Then take a moment to let Newcastle (owned by Heineken) know how you feel. I called customer service at 1.877.522.4577. You can also email the company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: Heineken’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Tara Carraro, contacted me after reading this post on BlogHer.com. She said that Newcastle’s intent was to call out the “BS” in “typical beer ads that only show attractive women.” The company thought it clear that the hands of the actor playing the brewmaster in the commercial were male, and therefore clear that the comment about the brewmaster not being “an attractive woman” was tongue-in-cheek.
The problem with this explanation is that, as Ms. Carraro confirmed, the script refers to the brewmaster as “she.” The line “she’s not an attractive woman” makes no sense if the brewmaster is male. It does make sense that the unattractive woman has mannish hands like those in the ad.
I applaud the company’s prompt response to my post and the message Ms. Carraro says Newcastle meant to send. But they didn’t send that message. Changing one pronoun in the narration would make a world of difference; otherwise, the commercial should be pulled. As it stands it is not a wry commentary on beer commercials’ blatant sexism but an example of it.