In my first installment of my Girls & Game Ads series, I commented on a disturbing phenomenon in the portrayal of men versus women:
Another thing evident in this particular line-up is something Iâ€™ve noticed as another feature of video game advertising: images of women tend to have the large boobs as a focus (either by showing lots of skin or by having skin-tight costumes), while images of men tend to focus on the face, or show a heavily armoured (or clothed) man. While there are obviously exceptions to this (armoured/small breasted women, scantily-clothed men, etc), I posit that this dichotomy is one that is typical in advertisements for the gaming industry.
Enter GQ and its “Man of the Year” winners. With AOL News’ tagline Aniston Joins the Guys one would expect the cover to show a confident, strong Aniston with a focus on her head/face. But GQ, unfortunately, has chosen to take the same approach to the portrayal of men and women as I described above.
Aniston is the typical female (hero or villain) found in video game ads. Of the three covers, her face is the smallest. Her body shape is the most prominent display – showing clearly that it fits into the “normal” female shape (ie. skinny with round breasts). 50 Cent is the shot that is typical for knights, paladins, and dwarves: the primary focus is on his muscles and outfit, but his face is still large enough to convey distinct individuality. Vaughn shows the typical hero portrayal with the entire focus being on his face.
The reasoning behind these three candidates being chosen given in the AOL article furthers the “masculine” versus “feminine” dichotomy. All emphasis is mine.
Aniston, 36, earned the 2005 title, Healy says, because she “exhibited a lot of poise, unbelievable amount of grace and good humor this year.”
Okay, now 50 Cent:
That the 30-year-old rapper has the year’s top-selling album, a best-selling autobiography and a new video game is just the start of his appeal. Now, he is crossing over into movies with the just-opened Get Rich or Die Tryin’. “He’s one of those public figures we’re endlessly fascinated by.”
And, finally, Vaughn:
With the summer’s movie hit, Wedding Crashers, Vaughn, 35, nailed the honor. “Once again, he was hilarious, charming and smart.” Editors do recognize that there are more well-known stars, “but there’s not one who better represents who our (readers) think is cool than Vince,” recently photographed enjoying a weekend in Chicago with Aniston.
Aniston is defined by the words “poise”, “grace”, and “good humor”. What kind of image does that call up in your mind, ’cause I know the first thing I thought was that they felt she was some sort of prim princess who takes everything with a smile. I don’t know anything about who Aniston may or may not be, but it seems like an insult for a woman who often plays strong minded, ambitious, and talented women in films to be described solely by words that belong in a decorum class rather than a discussion of the defining admirable talents/traits of a person.
The justification for 50 Cent’s inclusion seemed rather weak to me, but the selling points seemed to be what he had accomplished. He is defined by his “good” works (or what GQ deems is good, I suppose…) – the things he has done actively, and continues to do actively. To call him someone who posesses “poise” or “grace” (and perhaps even “good humor”, depending on context) would be an insult, or at least not be enough to qualfiy him for being a “man” of the year. Yet in Aniston it makes her the paragon of womanly virtue. Or something.
Finally, there’s Vaughn. He gets the highest praise of them all, with the adjectives “hilarious”, “charming”, and (most importantly) “smart”. No one calls Aniston (The Woman) smart, though her insistence to not be defined by the men in her life seem to imply that she is able to think for herself, or 50 Cent (The Black Man), which would be appropriate praise for someone who seems to have some entrepreneurial skills. No, Vaughn has “earned” the honour by playing a jerk who takes advantage of the wrong girl in Wedding Crashers. I could accept his performance being called “hilarious” and “charming” (because a character who’s a sexual predator seems to be the funniest thing ever to so many of the guys I know *sigh*), but smart? Come on. But maybe I’m being too harsh; Vaughn may have actually done something intelligent in his personal life to earn it.