We all know that sex sells—everything from cars, beer, and in this case, chocolate. There are however things that are being sold to us that we are not even aware of. We are not just being sold women as sexual object, but also to create descriptors of class structure. This is nothing new, women as sexual object with voyeuristic suggestions of watching a woman (in this case) eating chocolate. Why? In a word—seductive, the suggestion is that the food of the God’s is as seductive as Eve, so to speak. However, this type of seduction also creates a forum for economic disparity, classism, and gender bias. In this ad the luxury of the brand is for a white woman, adorned with perfect skin, jewelry and silk sheets taboot!
Forbidden, sexy, luxurious, decadent, seductive and invokes feelings of ecstasy, the advertising industry relies on these terms and in fact, helps propagate them. The lighting is dim. The audio is the over accentuated sound of opening the crisp, gold foil wrapper. The audio shifts to the nutty, tumbling, cracking noises of the cacao pods. Where we see a hand emerge and then push the beans down some sort of ribbed shoot. We are only imagining that this woman who is clenching chocolate colored sheets, her head thrown back, her heavily gold shadowed eyes closed, and lips quivering, slightly parted—is in the throws of an orgasm! She is dusted with cocoa powder and then a slight gasp, where she is then dripped with liquid chocolate. She is submitting. Carefully edited in, are the images of pods, dust and liquid material, so that the average viewer’s brain captures a basic message, that ‘this is a product of fine cacao’. The imagery then reverts back to the woman in rapture
Honestly, only after watching the ad several times did I notice all the details. Her shimmering eyes shadow, cacao pods, the roasting of them on an open fire, the cracking of the shells–hence, releasing the nibs. Neck exposed, back arched and she is in the throws of…chocolate! One has to have a sense of humor here, because it is so absurd! Is 1848 only sold to men, or are women that sexually deprived and bought into marketing imagery, to imagine that a chocolate bar is actually going to elevate them to both economic and sexual privilege? There are several boxes that we can check off and none of them are humorous. The stereotypes are obvious – a white woman who goes into irrational ecstasy over her dark chocolate bar, that is as silky as the sheets she is laying on. It is also not a mistake that, the suggestion is that she is nude as we see basically body parts.
“…Advertisements do not depict how men and women actually behave; rather, they serve the social purpose of convincing us that this is how women and men are, want to be, or should be. Such an orientation accomplishes the task a society has of maintaining order”…
“When an advertisement requires someone to sit or lie on a bed, the person is almost always a woman or child“. (Goffman, pg. 84)
Gender and race discrimination of women, fetishization, classism all of these are markers to communicate a series of economic and race messages subliminally. The gold ring on her finger to communicate economic privilege, the clenching of the sheets and pouring of the liquid chocolate across her face communicate fetishization. At the end, she takes a bite and the chocolate, which is stamped with the brand —fade to black. The story being told is one of seduction and sexual dominance, of the woman.
I have portrayed a woman who is of an ethnic background, not a white woman but instead an ambassador of the cacao beans that she carries. Not a dirty, or impoverished stereotype of African women, but instead someone who is engaged in the industry and enjoys the fruits of her labor. Hence, enjoying a chocolate bar. The map behind her gives a point of reference of where the cacao is coming from. This is to communicate purity of product. She is physically in an upright position—not nude or on silky sheets, but instead, in the brilliantly colored native prints of the West African coast. The characterization that I wish to portray is one of economic prosperity based on an indigenous person, who wishes to share her cultural heritage, along with the commodity that is unique to that part of the country. Her eyes are wide open and there is a smile on her face. Her fabric unfurls, to suggest that she welcomes all who will enjoy the efforts of her labor.
Women have played a significant role in chocolate advertising from the start. Earlier depictions were of a mother, who tends to her children’s needs for nutrition, to the images of fulfilling childhood dreams, of togetherness, love and laughter. The present day idea is more of ‘take a break’, an individualized consumer, and where women are manipulated to create brand identity (Robertson, pg.20). Robertson in her book, Chocolate, Women and Empire, explains several other markers, or descriptors that are commonly used, women as narcissistic, irrational, imagery of heterosexual stereotypes. If we dissect this particular video advertisement, we can make a compelling argument for a lot of these markers—the narrative of women as sexual object. She also suggests that the economic divide is that the producers, labor in the supply chain, is almost never the messenger to bring the product to the market place nor do they have the economic ability to consume the final product. (Robertson, pgs. 4-6). Here we also see an economic divide, 1848 is a more expensive chocolate bar, so the luxury descriptor is hyper used. So what’s the story that they seek to communicate? A common narrative—it’s that attractive, white women, of a certain economic stature will enjoy this chocolate. We wouldn’t commonly see a person of ethnicity play this role. Nor would it be a man laying down on sheets in a submissive, physical stance. The branding of these two messages of economic privilege, luxury, go hand in hand with the idea of sexy and forbidden…’food of the Gods’…indeed!
Commercials, Models Tv. “Sexy Chocolate Commercial.” 28 04 2009. Youtube. 01 04 2016 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzOchsY4RhQ>.
Goffman, Erving. Gender Advertisements. London: Macmillan, 1979.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate Women and Empire : A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.