I’ve no great issue with Diet Coke adverts, which have made a virtue of women damply watching male hardbodies carry out some hard, sweaty labour with their shirts off.
The arousal of these women is clearly conveyed using a number of none-too-subtle visual metaphors, which see wet lips parted and ring pulls fingered – and only just about stop short of seeing nipples hardening under blouses and hands heading downstairs for a surreptitious fiddle. The coda to all of these ads is quite obviously the gaggle of ladies running to the closest toilets for a furious bout of lavatorial frotting.
All of this is undercut here by a bit of Etta James, the kind of rumpy-pump music that indicates that these women are Liberated and In Touch With Their Sexuality, but also that the ad is A Bit Of Fun. Which, arguably, it is. I don’t really care much about them; for obvious reasons, as a straight man, I have very little interest in any Diet Coke advert.
Just imagine a load of blokes leering over a woman who’s going about her daily routine, though. And then they roll a can of soft drink towards her in the full knowledge that she’ll sprayed with its contents in a manner not wholly unlike a cumshot. Look! It did! Hahahahaha! She’s humiliated! And wet! Dumb slut!
Wait, no she’s not! She’s going to take off her t-shirt! Fuck! YOU CAN SEE HER TITS AND EVERYTHING! The men gulp down their carbonated vegetable extract in sexual hunger, their eyes telling terrible stories about their intentions. She’s asking for it, the dirty little whore! Look at her pouting and posing – she’s loving it!
There’s something deeply ambiguous about the power dynamic here: the narrative of the ad suggests that the man turns the tables on the group of women, but the girls’ delight at the their plan working and the glances of sexual desire from them make this rather troubling.
Do they intend for the gardener to become soaked in coke when he opens the can? In which case do they intend for him to remove his clothes? Or, as seems to be suggested, are they just happy that he coated in gooey gak? Either way it’s not especially benign.
The obvious response to all this is that there’s plenty of objectification of women in the media and, indeed, there is. But not so much in advertising. Generally the only sexism you’ll see portrayed in adverts these days is directed at men, who are frequently portrayed as stupid, ugly and emasculated. While women got a bad rap in advertising – absurdly so – until the 90s, this is a trend that has all but died out.
No doubt this ad is being forwarded to email addresses all over the country and gawped at by ladies enjoying the sort of washboard not seen since The Waltons was last on television. Fair enough, but transpose the genders of all involved and it’s slightly grubby and a bit sad.
Meanwhile I’m left to ponder why the protagonists in cola adverts are all boorish twats – lest I mention the Pepsi Max dicks. The Diet Coke witches seem fairly interested in dicks, perhaps they’re made for each other.