Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sexy hamburger ads: What are they really saying?

This ad, starring Katherine Webb (Miss Alabama USA 2012) is just the latest in a long line of ads from Hardee's/Carl's Jr. that take the comparison of food to sex to silly extremes. In the one above, Ms. Webb follows in the footsteps of Kate Upton as she basically simulates sex with processed meat on a bun.

But what kind of sex, exactly, is it supposed to be? And how is this ad formula actually selling burgers?

No, I'm serious. What human organ is the burger standing in for? "Burger" has long been a slang term for the vulva, indicating that these ads are borrowing interest from lesbian fetish porn created for straight men.

And why is this appealing? Because it's the ultimate objectified female sexual performance for the male gaze.

From talkingphilosophy.com:
The real reason why the idea of lesbianism so fascinates many straight men is one that is easier to understand if one is. Having some philosophical awareness also helps. For the real reason is closely connected with the phenomenology of sexual fantasy, which works via virtual identification. In other words: it is about imagining yourself into the position of one of the sexual partners. In the case of lesbianism, a straight man seeks to imagine himself into the position of one of the partners, desiring the other woman of the pair – and then can immediately switch into the second woman’s subject position, desiring the first. (This back and forth virtual-switching of identification is especially delicious because of course it tacitly involves the illicit thrill of  being a woman, at the level of imagination, as well as desiring one.)  It works especially for the male fantasist when both the women in question are ‘desirable’ (e.g. porn models, or ‘lipstick lesbians’) and/or when the limbs etc. of the participants are so entwined that it is slightly hard to tell who is who. A man may get very over-excited by rapidly – ‘deliriously’ – switching subject-positions in his imagination, and work himself up in a way that doesn’t have a direct parallel in situations of heterosexual desire.
Not sure I totally agree with all of that (the stereotype I hear is the expectation that they're just getting warmed up for a FMF threesome starring the viewer) but it does raise some interesting thoughts about the ads. What, exactly, are we men supposed to fantasize about that will result in wanting to eat that hamburger? Cunnilingus?

While not every man may not be  as big a fan of the act as Michael Douglas, this seems like a logical explanation of what desires are being compared here.

But then you have to take this kind of thing into account:

Via Adpressive

Waitaminute. The burger is a penis now? This infamous Singaporean Burger King ad seems to invite an image for men of being on the receiving end. But how is that supposed to excite a straight man about putting one in his mouth?

To make all the sexualized burger marketing even more confusing, Hardee's/Carl's Jr. is apparently test marketing a "footlong cheeseburger":

Via OC Register
To summarize:

1) This hamburger is part of a hot threesome that you are about to get involved in by pretending to be going down on one of the women when you eat this hamburger, and

2) This hamburger is a really big penis that you want to put in your mouth.

Or maybe it's this:

3) This hamburger ad is an excuse to make you feel powerful by watching women perform sexually for you, and (by the way) you can eat a burger as big as you wish your penis was.

(I'm being facetious in the post. What's really happening isn't product marketing, it's branding with new product info along for the ride. Turning people on has been proven to create positive brand associations and to impair judgement.)

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