Seeing: Cultural Artifacts Contemporary Commercials Have Presented Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Seeing: Cultural Artifacts

Contemporary commercials have presented the viewer with some truly startling and sometimes graphic images. In recent years, Carl's Junior/Hardee's commercials have made heavily sexualized commercials their veritable calling card. However, as this paper will demonstrate, these commercials do more than simply show sexy girls handling the products of this fast food restaurant chain. Rather the two forces at work are a fragmentation of the models in the commercials, along with a fragmentation of the meat, and both are sliced up into bite size images which objectify them and splinter them from entities with a complete that have authority to a compilation of snapshots essentially. This fragmentation helps to unite the models with the meat in the commercial, making them synonymous.

A cultural relic that has been garnering some attention is a Carl's Junior and Hardee's advertisement which shows two hot girls in a barbeque cook off: they're both wearing skimpy cut off shorts and bikini tops as they grill burgers and pulled pork side by side. During the commercial, one can argue that the image of these girls and the image of the meat they are grilling (and the product which is essentially being sold) have both been changed by photographic reproduction. In this example, it's in both the literal and figurative sense. Literally these two products, the girls and the meat, have been photographed and videotaped and reproduced through television and the internet to audiences all over the nation. However, there's another aspect of reproduction also at stake. The camera is fragmenting and reproducing parts of the girls and the meat for the spectator. For example, the camera scans the butt cheeks, their breasts, their lips and stomachs, in quick cuts to the viewer, or in long lingering shots. The same is done with the meat presented: images of plump pieces of pork slathered in dressing or round, curvy beef patties sizzle on the screen in short cutaway shots, or drawn out images. By fragmenting both the girls and the meat in this manner, there's a removal of authenticity and a distortion. "When the camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of the image. As a result it's meaning changes. Or more exactly, its meaning multiplies and fragments into many meanings" (Berger, 19). In this commercial, the creators are making the sexy girls and the hot meat into synonyms for one another: there's a roundness, ripeness and juiciness which has been instilled onto both the girls and the meat. In this sense, one can argue that the commercial creators have reproduced the girls via the meat and the meat via the girls. Both entities are being copied and distorted. The fragmentation of the camera shots which both cut up the girls into splintered images of breasts, butt cheeks, and lips furthers this distortion. "Reproduction isolates a detail of a painting from the whole. The detail is transformed. An allegorical figure becomes a portrait of a girl" (Berger, 25). This is akin to how the fragmentation of the young girls (and even the meat) on screen has become distorted into something verging on pornography, and is fundamentally a celebration of lush body parts or meat.

Another Carl's Junior and Hardees commercial which promotes their cod fish sandwich, features a hot, young bikini model on an isolated beach. In this commercial too, the model is fragmented, the camera seizing into her lush body parts, though in this commercial the reproduction which occurs truly helps to isolate a detail from the whole -- transforming the entire girl into an object of the male fantasy. The commercial shows a far away tropical island with a lone girl. The camera voyeuristically follows the girl through her body parts -- her butt cheeks bouncing as she walks on the sand, her torso and breasts swaying as she sprays herself with tanning oil. This fragmentation helps to transform this girl simply from a lone girl on a lone beach, to a more sexualized scenario, a lone girl on a lone beach waiting for the viewer who longingly ogles the screen images. This notion is even furthered by the fact that when the girl does bite into the enormous cod fish sandwich, she does so while crouched on all fours -- as if she's a participant in some sexual position and just needs a partner -- the viewer of course, would be an ideal partner -- this is implied of course, by the commercial. This sense of rampant sexualization and the male fantasy incarnate is even furthered by the appearance of a male personage on screen, who says, "nice sandwich" and is immediately dismissed. This handsome male is clearly sunburned, except for where his sunglasses are: he looks silly. This silliness is strategic: it allows the male viewer to have his fantasy of the lone girl on the lone island to himself. As one critic explains, "So, good for Carl's Jr. Its advertising has found its voice, its groove, its gimmick. It has a style in which the male is both hero and buffoon." (Neil). The sunburned man essentially disappears and we return again to the shot of the girl's butt walking out to the ocean. The commercial returns to the theme of fragmented parts of the girl's body, another means of reproduction. This is comparable to a phenomenon in the reproduction of painting that Berger discusses. "In a painting all its elements are there to be seen simultaneously. The spectator may need time to examine each element of the painting, but whenever he reaches a conclusion, the simultaneity of the whole painting is there to reverse or qualify his conclusion" (Berger, 26). The women of these Hardee's/Carl's Jr. commercials are consistently splintered and fissured with the camera zeroing in on certain sexualized body parts, forbidding them to be considered as a whole. The camera is either zoomed in on their butts, or their breasts, or their lips or torsos. By this means the camera reproduces them, forbidding their images to maintain a certain authority the way a complete painting would.

Furthermore, the words of the commercial seek to create a synonym between the girl's body and the idea of a charbroiled fish sandwich. The voiceover proclaims, "Sometimes you don't want to get fried. That's why the new Charbroiled Atlantic codfish sandwich from Hardee's and Carl's Junior comes from the charbroiler, not the deepfryer." Throughout the entire commercial, the viewer has seen splintered images of the not just the model's prime body parts, but her tanned and sunned body parts, now evocative of the broiled fish, the voiceover seems to suggest. This is comparable to the manner in which paintings are forever altered when they appear with wall text in museums. "It is hard to define exactly how the words have changed the image but undoubtedly they have. In this essay each image produced has become part of an argument which has little or nothing to do with the painting's original independent meaning" (Berger, 28). This is comparable to the way the voiceover suggests that one doesn't want to get fried, but wants to be charbroiled, just like this lovely model. This suggestion works to forever alter the woman in the commercial, no longer viewing her as simply tanned and sunned but as a piece of broiled meat.

Another commercial where this striking though somewhat bizarre transfer of meaning occurs is via the Hardee's/Carl's Jr. commercial presents her at a drive in alone. The commercial features some sort of bizarre limbo where Kate Upton is in some sort of time warp, where for her it is the past, as she's in a vintage car with a vintage automobile and yet the cars surrounding her are from the present day. Upton begins to eat her burger but the whole experience is sexualized:…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1980. Print.

Neil, Dan. "Seduced by a burger: Carl's Jr. advertising finds its groove." LA Times. LA Times, 14 Apr 2009. Web. 12 May 2013. <>.

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