Jack in the Box: Satirizing Menopause?

I hesitated to post about this one, because it’s Very Obvious what’s wrong with it. I’m like a goldfish smacking into the bowl, I guess, because I continue to ponder why most fast food commercial ads are so atrocious.

Take this one from Jack in the Box:

I just … words again mostly fail me.

1) Are they really trying to claim health “benefits” to their freaking smoothies?

2) Haha! Menopausal lady is crazy and funny! Hahaha! What a hoot, making fun of what, I’ve heard, is a pretty intense and uncomfortable experience for women all to hock product. WONDERFUL.

3) Sooooo, without the Jack in the Box smoothie, a menopausal woman is “street rat crazy” but if she drinks them she can have a vacant stare and frozen smile? Awesome.

Comments

  1. DNi says

    I was wondering when I’d see this commercial here. And I’d also hate to bring up anecdotal evidence, but when my post-menopausal mother saw this ad she thought it was worth a good chuckle.

    And to me this commercial doesn’t seem terribly malicious, and seems more “Am I right or am I right, Ladies?” than “Ha, look at the funny wuh-man”.

  2. says

    I can see your view of it DNi, but I can also see SBG’s. I actually like that she’s depicted as someone who might kill people for fun at any minute rather than just some ranting but ultimately ineffectual nutjob… but the whole idea that we women go KEE-RAZY when our hormones shift has not done women any favors.

    Example: guys, raise your hand if you’ve ever had all your really innovative ideas on a team dismissed as “are you PMSing again?” Or how about your legitimate beefs with some asshole dismissed as “he’s just on the rag again.” Because I’ve been there, done that, walked out and never spoken to them again. Which I’m sure was also dismissed as my wacky hormones. And of course, this argument works all month long when employed by asshole teams.

    Unlike most of the commercials SBG discusses, this one is (to me) at least mildly amusing if you divorce it from the troubling social context it invokes. For personal amusement, you can divorce it. For social commentary criticism, you really can’t.

    One positive: I think they’re actually targeting middle aged women to buy their product. I can’t get any other read out of the ad. I think it’s even possible they intend the commercial to come across as DNi suggests (an inside joke among women, rather than a reminder of one more way to dismiss us on the basis of our physiology). That doesn’t absolve the ad of all possible wrongness, but if I’m right it marks an interesting change from the usual, “Guys, don’t women suck unless they’re nymphos uncontrollably attracted to your food? Haha, yes, they do! Have a big wad of grease!”

  3. Eileen says

    When I see the burger commercials about the guy who hates his girlfriend so much that he lies about taking her to a steak dinner I think, “OK, this is hateful, but they obviously aren’t trying to get me to spend money in their restaurant. They’re aiming for some hateful young dude that I’m better off avoiding.” And I feel… not good exactly, but OK.

    But when they make a commercial for a product they obviously intend me to consume (because I don’t think they expect their dude audience to drink fruity sweet things) I would expect them to do it without simultaneously telegraphing how much they hate me. They can’t do it though. The effect (to me) is, “Hey, I can’t stand you and would prefer that you disappear, but so long as you have five dollars give it to me.”

    I’m afraid I must respectfully decline that kind offer.

  4. sbg says

    One positive: I think they’re actually targeting middle aged women to buy their product. I can’t get any other read out of the ad. I think it’s even possible they intend the commercial to come across as DNi suggests (an inside joke among women, rather than a reminder of one more way to dismiss us on the basis of our physiology). That doesn’t absolve the ad of all possible wrongness, but if I’m right it marks an interesting change from the usual, “Guys, don’t women suck unless they’re nymphos uncontrollably attracted to your food? Haha, yes, they do! Have a big wad of grease!”

    True, but this is a not-real-food-item and again the chain restaurant is purporting some kind of health benefit from eating it. Even if it’s not “look, ladies, this is low-fat!” it’s still “look, ladies, this’ll keep your menopausal hot flashes and mood swings in check!” which is utterly ridiculous at best. The first option is “save yourself and the world from being fat, because fat is unacceptable” and the last seems to be “save yourself and the world from going crazy on us, you hormonal thing!”

    I dunno.

    *wonders if the JitB ad for their mini sirloin burgers is aimed at little people with modulated squeaky voices*

  5. sbg says

    But when they make a commercial for a product they obviously intend me to consume (because I don’t think they expect their dude audience to drink fruity sweet things) I would expect them to do it without simultaneously telegraphing how much they hate me. They can’t do it though. The effect (to me) is, “Hey, I can’t stand you and would prefer that you disappear, but so long as you have five dollars give it to me.”

    This.

  6. says

    You know, I actually thought they were lampooning the idea of fast food having health benefits, but on second thought, that’s probably ascribing way more sophistication to the ad than is actually present.

    Eileen, on a second viewing, the line “Street rat crazy?” jumped out at me differently than before. Up to that point, I’m seeing it kind of like DNi’s mom did – a joke with women. But then he says “Street rat crazy?” which sounds condescending and dismissive, and suddenly it feels a whole lot more like a joke about women.

  7. says

    I watched this yesterday, then shut down my browser and did other things. It left me with such a stupor of thought that I had to take a day to think about it.

    First I want to second Eileen’s excellent analysis.

    Second, I wonder if this is a reaction to the MILF phenomenon, which our culture is tentatively acknowledging and exploring? I’m thinking of the Justin Timberlake/Andy Samberg “Mother Lover” skit from SNL a few weeks ago. Yes, the skit was a joke and a pretty crude joke at that, but I thought it did genuinely posit the idea that the two women in it, who are quite likely post-menopausal (Sarandon is 62, Clarkson is 59), are truly sexual and sexy, and that their desire to remain sexual is not illegitimate.

    The woman in this commercial has aged gracefully, is attractive, well-groomed, hyper-feminine. She could be a MILF. But one of the messages here seems to be, “Just ’cause she’s a hot older lady doesn’t mean you should seriously go there . Have you thought about the biology of older women? Well, think about it. And then you’ll see that these women should be relegated to gardening, buying our crappy smoothie, and dealing with their totally unjustified and scary rage”–never once acknowledging that women’s rage at how badly they are treated in this world, or that the work they have to do not to go “street rat crazy,” might not be due to fluctuating levels of estrogen.

  8. Pocket Nerd says

    Just for fun, try switching the sexes. If this commercial were making light of, say, erectile dysfunction (“Can’t get it up? Try our new Bacon Grease Burger!”) how would men react to it?

    I think you’d be able to hear the outraged howling from orbit.

  9. says

    Just for fun, try switching the sexes.

    Interesting point, Pocket Nerd. It also makes me wonder if anyone outside the target demographic for this fruity pastel beverage will buy it now. By making this product SUCH a joke, have the JITB dudes ensured that no one unwilling to announce their kinship with almost insane menopausal women will EVER buy this?

    Seriously. How many 40-or-older women eat at JITB? And are they going to start patronizing it because the chain has a fruity pastel drink just right for old ladies? And if the campaign works, and the franchises are suddenly full of able-to-avoid-street-rat-crazy-thanks-to-a-frosty-beverage women, will it become someplace more macho customers want to avoid?

    Because if there’s anything that the PepsiMax rebranding efforts show, it’s that identifying your product with women is dangerous, dangerous, dangerous, and something you’ll have to fix later.

  10. sbg says

    Just for fun, try switching the sexes. If this commercial were making light of, say, erectile dysfunction (”Can’t get it up? Try our new Bacon Grease Burger!”) how would men react to it?

    I’m not sure there’d be howling rage, but I’ll bet you everyone would wonder WTF a smoothie has to do with ED. Unlike here, where everyone (well, not everyone) laughs, points at the menopausal lady and says, “It’s true, women are like that!” without acknowledging the shear ludicrousness of the health benefit claim.

  11. Pocket Nerd says

    I think we would see (and hear) howling rage; men generally expect their naughty bits to be regarded with the utmost gravity, and are easily offended when people fail to treat it as the central pillar of civilization. A vocal minority of men would see such a commercial as an attack. They’d talk about it as such, loudly and often, and the credulous, male-dominated media would repeat it until everybody kinda assumed that’s really what it was.

    I don’t say we’d have rioting in the streets, but the “men’s rights” organizations would angrily point to it as yet another example of the feminists’ ongoing campaign to emasculate our culture. Rush would make some venomous comment about why Jack in the Box is advertising to man-hating dykes who probably don’t eat meat anyway, hur hur hur. Pat Robertson would ask in his pseudo-fatherly voice why reproductive issues are now discussed on commercials that children will watch, and he’d tie it in to his usual “women’s rights are bad for the family” screed. Bill O’Reilly would get some hapless feminist on the show and demand she defend it, then shout her down every time she tried to speak. Eventually, the massive negative publicity would cause Jack in the Box to pull the ad and issue a public apology.

    Of course, Jack in the Box would never run an ad like that, because these are the kind of issues marketing wonks worry about. “Will this offend anybody? Could long-term negative publicity outweigh the benefits of an immediate boost in sales among our target demographic? Does it set our competition up for a strong counter-advertising campaign?” (“Try the new Cojones Grandes Whopper, the burger that isn’t afraid to BE A MAN!”) And that’s the whole point, of course: Making light of something that happens to a woman’s reproductive system as she gets older is fair game. Doing the same thing to men is emphatically not.

  12. David says

    Okay, okay, I appreciate that I’m the first person with a blatantly male name to comment on this post, which may possibly hurt my credibility. But!

    Jack in the Box’s whole thing in their advertising is a weird surrealism. A few years ago they had a campaign centered around anthropomorphic breakfast foods, and the bitter aging-rock-star-style feuds they engaged in.

    If they’d chosen to do a full-on riff on Viagra ads, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I’d probably have found it funnier, since I don’t spend much time thinking about menopause.

  13. says

    David, don’t be silly – being male doesn’t hurt your credibility. And I’m sure a lot of guys would find a Viagra ad funny, but I think PocketNerd is right in believing a very vocal minority would raise every point from “those damned feminists” to “won’t somebody please think of the children” to get it off the air. (These would be the same people who got an ad pulled back in the 90s for some clothing boutique – it featured a beautiful woman showing off her clothes, and then revealed she was a man in drag. I thought it was pretty awesome from a surrealist humor perspective, but oh, lord, no, it was offensive to family values ‘n’ everythang.)

    I will not that your point about JitB going for surreal is irrelevant. The question is not what kind of humor they go for, but whether calling menopausal women “street rat crazy” is necessary enough to the humor of the commercial to justify reinforcing the stereotype, and whether portraying menopause as a choice between being a homicidal lunatic or a zombie constitutes laughing with women or at women.

  14. Ellen says

    I disagree. And I find that kind of funny because I’m usually the first person to see the sexism in popular media.

    I do believe that the primary target of the humor is the ad campaigns used to sell pharmaceuticals. The butterfly in her hands has become a cheeseball cliché and the advertisers are slamming it as such. Well, from one ad agency to the next, it is a slam. In public view, because we care little about it, it is a bit of twitting.

    The ad is a kind of humor that has to push up against the edge of offensiveness. The targets are in a broad array: big-pharma advertising, stereotypical ideas of femininity, and yes, menopausal women. But the woman in the ad is presented sympathetically, overall. She herself is a stereotype. But that is how ads work. They are short little films that rely on stereotypes and other instantly-recognized iconography. So she’s the lovable loon, the nice person who is just about to snap out and become dangerous. And in this stereotype, she’s about to snap about because despite being nice and reasonable herself, she is surrounded by a world that is neither nice nor reasonable. Pardon me if I identify with her. She is sister to the women in those repurposed ads from the last century, the June Cleaver lookalikes sprouting talk bubbles filled with sarcastic comments about ironing or drinking. She isn’t going to drink the shake, she’s going to dump it on your head. And you’ll deserve it. And it will be funny. And she will be empowered by the act.

    Funny, I miss these ads. I’ve moved back east and we just don’t get them, not that I’ve looked at television much these last several years. Not interested in being drugged on such a regular basis. I often enjoyed the Jack in the Box ads, but could never choke down the food they served. At least Sonic has limeade and pickle-o’s, even if I’ll never gag down a burger there or anywhere.

    And I quite like Jack’s tag line.

    Street rat crazy? Nah, try batsh*t crazy. And if you aren’t now, then you haven’t, as they say, been paying attention because it is an entirely appropriate response to current events.

    • says

      despite being nice and reasonable herself, she is surrounded by a world that is neither nice nor reasonable. Pardon me if I identify with her.

      But men live in a world that IS nice and reasonable to them – at least, a whole lot more often than it is to women, and particularly older women. If you think she’s amusing, I get that. But you’re missing the point which is: a MAN, who lives in a world designed to function for him, is calling a woman of a certain age “crazy” because she’s out of sync in a world that’s designed to be out of sync with her. That’s privileged to the hilt, and it’s not okay.

      There are aspects of the commercial which are fine and funny – in isolation. But this one problem is a big one.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>