The scene opens with a lanky, half-naked teenage boy in front of a bathroom mirror, spraying himself with the standard amount of Axe body spray – way too much. He rests the bottle of Axe Dark Temptations on the sink and the camera pans out to reveal he has now turned to solid chocolate. A catchy tune rifts in the background as this “chocolate man” goes about his day, the object of every woman’s sweets craving and sexual desire.
“As irresistible as chocolate, new Axe Dark Temptation”
The video above is one of a series of commercials and advertisements released by Axe Body Spray to promote their chocolate-scented cologne line, Axe Dark Temptation. This particular ad even went on to win Gold at the Cannes International Film Lions Festival in 2008. Though not an ad for a chocolate product itself, this chocolate cologne commercial speaks to the warped perception that women find chocolate irresistible and somehow derive a sexual satisfaction from the food product. But perhaps even more disturbingly, it promotes the idea that a woman’s sexuality could easily be manipulated with something as simple as cheap body spray.
Since the mid-90s, advertisements for chocolate and chocolate related products have capitalized on the sexuality of women to promote their products to the masses. The misogyny and prejudice in the representation of the female gender is rampant. “Woman as consumers of chocolate have historically been depicted as obsessed by the product….chocolate has supposedly addictive properties which women are unable to resist.” (Robertson, 2010). Within this trend, a common method frequently used by advertisers is the “fetishizing” chocolate. “One misconception about chocolate that is exploited by contemporary advertising is that it is an aphrodisiac” (Fahim, 2016). This idea manifests in a variety of ways in popular media – the depiction of women finding solace in chocolate and not men, women having “a moment” with their chocolate, women exhibiting irrational and animalistic behavior to obtain said chocolate, etc.
In the above scene of the Axe Dark Temptations ad, two women are ravenously licking the chocolate boy. Their euphoric expressions elude to the idea that the action provides them more than just satiation of hunger.
The two ads my group mates, Jared Cowan and Alison Stein, and I have created in response to the Axe “Chocolate boy” ads are intended to parody the notion that women cannot distinguish between consumptive and sexual desires. When one replaces the food product “chocolate” with other delicious food products, it becomes explicitly obvious how flawed the logic used by Axe in the Dark Temptations is. We hope to show that encouraging men to spray on chocolate scented cologne makes just as much sense as encouraging men to spray on “pasta” or “burger” scented cologne. If women are truly as brainless and undiscerning as Axe makes them out to be, then surely, by the same logic, pasta and burger cologne should be just as effective?
Taking a step back, it is easy to write off the misogyny in commercials like Axe as humor or simply a joke made in poor taste. But the manipulation of a woman’s sexuality in such a context ultimately speaks to an imbalance of power. In Marcel Mauss’s “Essays on the Gift” (1967), he notes that the exchange of chocolate is typically from a powerful entity, a parent or a man, to a less powerful entity, the child or the woman. To equate sexual desires to chocolate cravings, as is the case in many of these advertisements, is to suggest that sexuality can be “controlled” or manipulated through a commodity. Whether chocolate is used to coax an angry lover out of her tantrum or, in this case, lure a gym full of woman to you, it is wrongfully depicted as a tool of control. This stereotype is harmful because it diminishes a woman’s right to choose who/what she is attracted to and in which way.
Fahim, Jamal. “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing.”Oxyscholar. Occidental College, 2010. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.
Mauss, Marcel, and E. E. Evans-Pritchard. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. New York: Norton, 1967. Print.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010. 1-131. Print.