In 2000, one of the American domestic mass-producing beer giants released a television advertisement with some interesting implications. Here's a basic, skin and bones reproduction of this mini-drama.

(This is an approximation of the dialogue. Not the exact words, but close enough.

Dramatis Personae

Trying to Act Cool Man - A man who's just trying to act cool, and get a beer, in a harsh, harsh world of evil and deception.

Sexy Bartender Woman - She's sexy. She's a bartender. She's a woman. She's also sneaky. Oh yeah!

Man walks up to a bar. He's your average, good-looking, suave, male. He approaches the gorgeous female bartender.

Trying to Act Cool Man: Gimme a beer, please.

Sexy Bartender Woman:(coy, sexy smile) What kind of beer?

Trying to Act Cool Man: Definitely an import or a microbrew.

We follow Sexy Bartender Woman over to the tap, wearing a mischevious look and a tight leather tank top. Sexy Bartender Woman holds the pint glass where Trying to Act Cool Man will not see it. She fills it up with Coors Light or some equivalent swill, whichever beer company paid for the ad. She brings the beer over to Trying to Act Cool Man.

Trying to Act Cool Man: Takes a sip Mmm. Yeah. I don't know how people can drink that domestic stuff.

Sexy Bartender Woman: nods, smiling the entire time. She shares the dramatic irony with the viewers.

Okay. First let's look at the basic message this beer company is using as a substitution for, "PLEASE!, PLEASE! BUY OUR...THING!! YOU NEED IT! YOU WANT IT! BUY IT!! PLEASE!? GIMME MONEY!" (Which is, of course, the basic message of any advertisement.)

The beer company's major assertion seems to be that even suave, sophistocated-looking men won't be able to tell the difference between a mass-produced, domestic beer such as Bud Light, Miller High Life, or Coors, and an imported/microbrew beer such as Warsteiner, Sam Adams, Guinness, Sierra Nevada, or Heineken. In essence, I hesitate to assume this beer company wants to slander the various, higher-priced, higher-quality imports and microbrews. Rather, it seems, they're attempting to raise their lower-priced, lower-quality beer to the same station that the others enjoy. They're trying to associate their beer with the quality of beers which are brewed in smaller quantities and with more care.

However, on the surface, they've chosen a wholly unsophisticated way to do so. Consider the target demographic. They can't be aiming at microbrew/import drinkers, since anyone who drinks a microbrew/import beer on a regular basis and has a sense of smell knows the difference between the taste of different beers, and will easily recognize the bland, watered-down quality that your average mass-produced, domestic beer presents. That person will find the commercial hilarious(in much the same way that hard core caffeine heads got a great laugh out of the "We've switched her coffee to decaf... Let's see if she notices" commercials) So their target is people who already drink beers like Miller Lite. People who probably, on some small, hidden level, resent microbrew drinkers as elitists.

From the content, we can also infer that the target is even more specified, male drinkers of mass-produced, domestic beer. Men who will recognize Sexy Bartender Woman making a fool out of Trying to Act Cool Man and fear the same thing happening to them.

The commercial invokes the powerful fear of mockery and thus rejection by a woman, a big part of the common male psyche in our current cultural state. The commercial, like many others, plays on subconscious fears and aspirations, tears them out and reshapes them in an image that suits the desires of the people hawking the Product.

There's also the fact that Sexy Bartender Woman picks that particular brand of beer. You get the feeling that she's done this before. That she knows this beer is the one with the taste and quality to rival the kind of beer Trying to Act Cool Man asks for. They've tied the sexy woman to the product.

Trying to Act Cool Man, himself, although he may seem like a true dunce, doesn't undergo a complete character sacrifice. He gets a slap on the wrist. He gets a "silly boy" from Sexy Bartender Woman. Because he recognizes the good taste of the beer being sold, he cannot be a complete fool or the company will have worked against their product in very subtle ways. The people making the commercial knew this. He's still a clean-cut, good-looking guy. He's still getting attention from the ladies, and that's all that matters, right? Sure. (And the ways of contemporary advertising are subtle indeed) So this commercial, like nearly any other, is a lot more than what we see on the surface. The unconscious, cultural imagery is sophisticated and subversive, and the innocent trickery can be boiled down to heartless manipulation of deeply imbedded fears.

Luckily, anyone who chews their media well before they swallow can get a hearty burst of entertainment by recognizing what a farce it really is.

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