Valentine’s Day has not always been associated with love, red hearts, bouquets of roses and a box of chocolates. In fact, the first celebrations of Valentine’s day, which date all the way back to Roman times, were not linked to romance at all (Butler). The initial appearance of gift-exchange occurred during the Medieval Period, when knights would lavish roses upon maidens to express their “courtly love” (Butler). This gift giving practice continued to grow in the following centuries (Henderson). However, the exchange of chocolate and candies was not yet in practice since sugar was still regarded as a highly precious commodity (Butler, Henderson). By the Victorian Era, commercialization of the holiday had begun (Henderson), and the practice of exchanging elaborate and highly decorated gifts had become routine (Butler) .
Richard Cadbury and the Heart-Shaped Box
Richard Cadbury was one of the first entrepreneurs to fully take advantage of the love-crazed commercialized frenzy (Butler). Through industrialization and technological advancements, Cadbury had discovered a cheaper way to produce what was referred to as “eating chocolate” (Butler). Cadbury, being the commercial genius that he was, began to design elaborate heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates to distribute during Valentine’s Day (Henderson). The boxes were extremely successful that even to this day, Victorian Era Cadbury boxes, such as the one featured below, still exist, are wildly popular, and “are treasured family heirlooms and valuable items prized by collectors” (Butler).
Valentine’s Day is compelling in the ways it reflects changes in Western society regarding the introduction of exchanging sugar and chocolates and a movement towards industrialization and commercialization. Currently, however, it is also most indicative of the ways in which society hasn’t changed, according to the continued gender-biased and heteronormative nature of the holiday.
Advertisements Across Time
Looking among different chocolate advertisements celebrating Valentine’s Day, common themes emerge based on assumed gender roles and heteronormativity that remain constant throughout time and across companies.
Since Cadbury is the founder of the heart-shaped box of chocolates, I thought it only appropriate to look at the content of their advertisements over time.
This vintage Cadbury advertisement really speaks to the roots of heteronormativity associated with Valentine’s Day. The ad is centered around the simple fact that she loves him, he loves her. The assumptions of heteronormativity are all too clear.
This Cadbury Valentine’s Day Commercial from 2017 shares many of the same sentiments as the vintage ad. He loves her. She loves him. And they both love Cadbury chocolate. Although only hands are featured in this commercial, the hands are clearly gender specific. The woman’s hand is feminine, with pink painted nails and of course, hers is the hand that is receiving the chocolate. While there is some playful teasing and banter throughout the commercial, at the very end it is made clear that it is the man who is giving the chocolates by his hand signing the card with a simple “be mine”.
Cadbury, however, is not the only company that has perpetuated gender stereotypes and promoted heteronormativity. The comparison between these two ads from 1943 and 2013 shows that while some aspects of their marketing technique have been updated, fundamental concepts surrounding gender roles and heteronormativity remain the same.
This Whitman’s ad is from 1943 and demonstrates the evident gender biases of that time. The ad implies that all women care very much about being recognized on Valentine’s Day and that men are expected to actually forget Valentine’s Day because they care so little about this particular holiday and receiving a gift. There is also the reoccurring theme that a man is able to win over a woman’s affections by giving her chocolate. In my opinion, this concept somewhat objectifies a woman and implies that her love may be bought with a simple box of chocolates.
This 2013 Whitman’s Valentine’s Day Commercial does not really show many differences from the printed ad from the 1940s. The language may be updated and the message appeals to a more modern man, who is interested in sports (football), but in the end, the message remains relatively the same that, “men, don’t be the forgetful, careless tough guys that you usually are; go out and buy your caring, sensitive ladies some chocolate… that’s all they truly want on Valentines Day”. Not only is this an extremely gender-biased message, it is also a message of heteronormativity. The ad directly addresses men and directs them to buy something for their special woman.
Many other chocolate brands, including Godiva and Ferrara Rocher, have released recent Valentine’s Day ads that continue to reveal how gender bias and heteronormativity are still very much ingrained into American society.
There are some advertisements, like this Dove commercial, that actually change up the narrative a little bit. However, while it does not subscribe to heteronormativity, it also does not actively combat it. Furthermore, while the ad dispenses of some of the assumed gender roles, such as the man always being the giver of chocolate, it still plays into others. It was particularly notable to me that the recipients of the chocolate were all still women. While commercials like this do perhaps show more progress, I do not believe they are up to standards with the claim to dispense of gender stereotypes and support LGBTQ communities. I struggled to find advertisements that included gay couples or advertisements in which a female romantically and earnestly gave a box of chocolates to a man, who is ready to decadently indulge. I really think that this lack of representation on Valentine’s Day may speak to a larger problem that we, as a society, may not be as progressive as we think we are.
Realities of Valentine’s Day Chocolate Exchange
These issues of perpetuated gender stereotypes and heteronormativity are not just depicted in the advertisements we see, but are also being played out in real life through the Valentine’s Day chocolate exchange. In 2006, an article entitled “pulse point’ revealed that “while 75 percent of chocolate purchases are made by women all year long, during the days and minutes before Valentine’s Day, 75 percent of the chocolate purchases are made by men. Over $ I billion of chocolate is purchased for Valentine’s Day” (p. 9). Furthermore, a study conducted by Otnes, Cele, Ruth and Milbourne revealed that men are not necessarily buying these chocolates because they want to. Many men expressed an intense pressure to buy chocolates for their significant other and actually stated that on average, they experience much more pleasure from gift-receiving than gift giving. The practices of modern day chocolate exchange during Valentine’s Day still reinforce gender roles that men must be the givers and women must be the receivers and gender bias that women care much more about the gift giving than men. Furthermore Otnes, Cele Ruth and Milbourne discuss the novelty of their study, in that it looks at the opinions and attitudes of men on Valentine’s Day rather than women, who historically and stereotypically claim the holiday; however, I could find no study on LGBTQ groups and their opinions and attitudes towards the holiday. Throughout this exploration, it has become very evident to me that the LGBTQ groups are vastly underrepresented during this holiday. While it is concerning that Valentine’s Day chocolate exchange does not seem to represent the progressive and open-minded society we feel we are a part of, perhaps the holiday is actually an indication that our society as a whole is not as updated and progressive as we ought to be.
Butler, Stephanie. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day With a Box of Chocolates.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Otnes, Cele, Julie A. Ruth, and Constance C. Milbourne. “The pleasure and pain of being close: men’s mixed feelings about participation in Valentine’s Day gift exchange.” NA-Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21 (1994).
“Pulse Points.” Journal of Property Management, vol. 71, no. 1, jan/feb2006, p. 9. EBSCOhost, ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=19533678&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Block, Tara. “Valentine’s Day.” POPSUGAR Love & Sex. N.p., 07 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. www.popsugar.com/love/photo-gallery/21966615/image/21966645/Valentine-Day
Chocolate at the Disneyland Resort is found in nearly every retail and food location in and around the resort with it primarily being portrayed with the same innocence surrounding the founding of Disneyland and its characters (Marciodisney, 2011): yet the marketing of the chocolate that primarily uses Disney characters and images to sell its products while delightful is tainted because a theme of secrecy, sex, and exclusivity exist in and around the resort where chocolate is concerned.
Chocolate and products that contain chocolate surround most of us in our daily lives as consumers (Allen, 2010). As I contemplated what to write about in my final post on chocolate for this class I could not think of another place that I desired to explore how chocolate is used, influences, and motivates behavior than at the Disneyland Resort, a place that holds a special place in my heart. In order to fully explore the relationship between chocolate and Disneyland I traveled to California and spent two days “researching” how chocolate is used, where Disney sources the chocolate they use, and the role that marketing plays in the production and sale of chocolate at Disneyland. What I found was that chocolate, like many other foods and products at the Disneyland Resort is influenced by many factors both positive and negative. Several of the factors used to motivate and guide consumer behavior to purchase chocolate in Disneyland are enjoyment, food, and it is an outlet for consumers to entertain themselves, however it appears that some of the motivation is driven under the often subtle guise of providing a source of supplemental income for the resort at the cost of violations of morals and stereotypes that fuel and drive consumer behavior.
History of Products in Disneyland
Nestled in Anaheim California, Disneyland is advertised as the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland, 2014), but is more than a tourist destination, it is a beacon American capitalism generating more than 3 million dollars per day in revenue (Disneyland Resort Public Affairs, 2012). When Disneyland opened in 1955 Walt Disney proclaimed that “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America” (Disneydreamer, n.d.), with no hard facts more true that those of capitalism and marketing. Since the beginning Disneyland has incorporated products and businesses into its operational structure to offset costs and guide consumer behavior, a strategy that is still used today as evidenced through my exploration of how chocolate is used and sold in the park and how the success of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop
Image Source, personal photo, May 7, 2016
continues the trend of outsourcing products and brands for profit. In addition to bringing in the popular chocolate brand Ghirardelli to the resort (Disneyland Resort Public Affairs, 2012), Disneyland sells several products that capitalize on the characters and animations that they have developed and created often using these in seductive and sexually enticing ways, ways that are often copied by other companies as they attempt to capitalize on the success of Disneyland (Coe & Coe, 2013).
Exploring the Chocolate Selection at the Disneyland Resort
Throughout the Disneyland Resort several shops sell a variety of chocolate items that are both prepackaged and “made” at the resort. The items that are available include chocolate bars, prepackaged chocolate items such as nuts and non-perils, items hand created out of chocolate including dipped apples, a variety of desserts at restaurants, and other chocolate items where chocolate is used not as a main ingredient but as a decorative and supplemental additive such as when it is drizzled on fruit and used as a tool to write a message on a plate. Several products are available throughout the resort and most of the stores that sell them all have similar if not an identical selection available no matter where I shopped for chocolate.
As I was shopping throughout the resort for chocolate I noticed a striking similarity, in addition to all of the products being similar and identical in every store all of them, including the products sold exclusively at the Ghirardelli Soda and Chocolate Shop, shared the common characteristic of not being sourced as to where the chocolate originated. Additionally, the packaging on both the prepackaged and in-house packaged chocolate items (see figure 1)
Figure 1, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
made no representation as to where the chocolate originated nor where it was processed aside from where the final product was made (see figure 2).
Figure 2, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Even upon further investigation and asking employees where the chocolate originated I was left unfulfilled in my quest to find out the source of the chocolate that the use in their products. At one register I inquired if the cashier knew where the chocolate came from and she stated that it “came from the chefs in the back” of which I asked her where the chefs get it and she said it was all made at the resort (A. Cast member, personal communication, May 7, 2016), something that I knew was not accurate because I believe that they would advertise if Disneyland was a bean to bar operation, therefore I believe that they are operating a type of chocolatier making and selling items originally and repackaged.
Disney cast members making chocolate items, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
Exploring the Originally Produced Items
A large variety of items are offered for sale throughout the resort that are produced by hand and not mass produced. Many of these items are quite unique and include a variety of chocolate covered apples, various items dipped in chocolate including nuts, peanut butter, fruit, marshmallows, and candy (see figure 3 & 4).
Various items available for sale in Disneyland, Figures 3 & 4, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
While these items were unique and quite tasty with a desirable aroma, good color, and a flavor characterization that merged into one another in a seamless manner (Presilla, 2009) based on empirical observations conducted using several taste samples, all of the chocolate products shared similar characteristics. The similarities that existed centered around three common themes, the first was chocolate items that represented Disney cartoon characters and other fictional characters such as Darth Vader and Tigger (see figure 5 & 6).
Figures 5 & 6, source personal photos, May 7, 2016
The second theme was several products were created to represent and celebrate the 60th anniversary celebration that is underway at the Disneyland Resort (see figure 7).
Figure 7, source personal photo, May 6, 2016
The third theme that was observed throughout my shopping adventures was that traditional items that are not associated with any Disney specific character or event itself were also available for purchase. In addition to the in-house made chocolate items available for sale several already packaged items were offered for sale as well that included chocolate bars, nuts, and other items all packaged and sold as products that depicted either a Disney character or promoted the Disneyland Resort itself (see figure 8)
Figure 8, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Exploring the Prepackaged Items
The prepackaged items that were available for sale fell into two categories, those that were formal and directed toward any audience and those that attempted to use humor by portraying Disney characters or Disney quotes in an attempt to grab the consumers interest and motivate them to buy. Within the products that attempted to use humor some were funny, some were silly, and some were offensive and portrayed women in sexual ways that I thought were inappropriate. Some examples of the items that I found to be funny was a chocolate bar that portrayed Mickey Mouse as Sorcerer Mickey with the title “And now I will make this chocolate disappear”(see figure 10). A chocolate item that I thought was silly was a milk chocolate caramel item that was titled “Mood Chocolate” and stated “If you’re feeling Grumpy, it can make you Happy. But don’t be Dopey and eat too much… or you’ll have to see the Doc!” using a portrayal of the Dwarfs from Snow White (see figure 9)
Figures 9 & 10, source personal photos, May 7, 2016
The chocolate bar that I was offended by featured a picture of Jessica Rabbit from Roger Rabbit wearing a low cut dress and showing a great deal of her animated breasts with the caption “I’m not bad I’m just drawn to chocolate” (see figure 11).
This chocolate item in particular is one that Disney is crossing the barrier from cute to sexism because they are using sex to sell chocolate. Despite the overarching theme of innocence in most Disney characters, having this chocolate bar puts Disney into the same category as many other chocolate manufacturers who use sex and sexual innuendo to sell products by reinforcing the dominate ideologies that classify women as sexual objects (Robertson, 2009). While the marketing is at times distasteful and offensive one cannot argue its success with the lines at the chocolate shops often stretching a dozen or more people at any given time of the day or night which not only promotes marketing of this type it reinforces it as well financially.
In addition to the creative and sometimes distasteful marketing that exists surrounding the chocolate for sale at the Disneyland Resort many other concerns exist regarding the price point of the products for sale. Because the Disneyland Resort only sells their own chocolate with the exception of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop they are free to set whatever price point they desire for their products. Because many consumers who visit plan to spend disposable income on food and beverage purchases a market of willing consumers pays for the privilege to buy the chocolate offered for sale with no possibility of free market competition to help regulate the price market demanded for some of their items. Because this situation exists several chocolate items are priced well above traditional pricing normally found for similar items sold outside the gates of the resort. An example of this can be found when looking at the chocolate covered apples available that are priced between $10.99 and $13.99 apiece (see figure 12).
Figure 12 & 13, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
These prices coupled with 16 ounce box of assorted chocolates being sold for over $23 and a variety of items at Ghirardelli offered for sale over $30 makes buying chocolate at the Disneyland Resort a potentially pricey scenario, all for chocolate that is not sourced, described, or explained outside of its affiliation with the Disney marketing on the packages and the availability to only purchase many of the items inside of the Disneyland Resort after admission is paid which varies but averages $100 per person per day (Disneyland, 2016).
Summary of Chocolate at the Disneyland Resort
During my two-day chocolate consuming adventure, I learned several things including the chocolate at Disneyland is geared toward an American pallet using a formula and process that is very similar to chocolate commonly found produced by mass American chocolate companies (Coe & Coe, 2013). The second thing I learned was that despite the commonality of the chocolate, where the source is kept secretly hidden and the “nothing unique” thoughts I had about its taste, I loved the presentation and the creativity that is put into the manufacturing of the items. Disney does a great job of having their employees visible to the general public as they are producing and packaging many of the chocolate items that they sell. As a consumer I found this to be delightful because I could see for myself how many of the items I purchased were being made. This added a great deal to the experience and motivated me to spend even more of purchasing items to see what they tasted like as I had just seen them being made and was curious.
Aside from the unique items produced in-house at the Disneyland Resort I found many of the prepackaged items to have a similar taste as the in-house made items despite them being produced in a factory. Overall the quality of these items was good and the only drawback that would dissuade me from purchasing more of these items would be the price. In addition to the items available for purchase in the store the restaurant original items that were themed and created were wonderful and would be a motivation for me to return to the park again with friends because the flavors that Disney used created a chocolate taste that mixed fruit, nuts, and cake to make unique flavor combinations that would be perfect to share as a way to bond and come together as we consume items that perhaps may not be the best for us nutritionally but would fill social needs (Mintz, 1985). Even though the price was high for most items, the marketing was somewhat offensive on one item, and the variety between and among brands was lacking I would still recommend sampling items available at the Disneyland Resort because it is one of the most unique chocolate adventures and tastings one will ever have.
Source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Allen, L. L. (2010). Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers. New York: American Management Association.
Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.
Chocolate has fallen from its archaic divinity; as industrial chocolate manufactures, such as Hershey, Ghirardelli, Cadbury, Mars, L.A. Burdick and the multitudes of other small and large confectionary manufactures have strategically subverted religion and evaded the creation of a static definition of what can be classified as health food (Off, 2008). This has been done on a global scale (Allen, 2010). Yet, for all of the exploitation of natural and human labor resources in the mad capitalist race to net exponentially larger profits, methods of chocolate consumption have changed. Chocolate has invaded every home in America and continues to spread into even the most remote regions of the world were chocolate is merely grown as a exported market good (and the farmers have never tasted the finished product) (Leissle, 2012) (Martin 2016) (Stuckey, 2012). Modern chocolate consumption has continuously increased and transformed from a relished delicacy into an addiction, one that has fostered a cultic fanaticism in its omnipresence in American culture (Martin, 2016). Chocolate addiction has been fostered by dynamic consumption practices, various health benefits, ideals of beauty, sexualization of female chocolate consumption, and the reframing of sales advertisements to secularize and/or create holidays revolving around chocolate consumption (Leissle, 2012) (Howe, 2012) (Robertson, 2009) (Martin, 2016). Addiction is an all encompassing cultural mindset which has gone further in the continued liminal state of chocolate’s meaning to contemporary American society (Benton, 2004) (Robertson, 2009). Average American households often are not aware that their chocolate consumption is irrevocably linked to the various external methods of ideological implantation of chocolate as a religious iconographic good. A brief ethnographic analysis of an average New England household, comprising of my future in-laws, engenders a radical deviation from chocolate as a coveted, addictive necessity and furthers chocolate’s ideological transformation by coming full circle to again reify chocolate’s worship as a physical manifestation of divinity.
Cacao, or Kakawa, is a substance similar to maize, corn, in its purveyance in Mesoamerican culture and religious iconography (Coe & Coe, 2013). Cacao is also shown in Mayan iconography to have been conflated with the Maize god, this has rendered archaeological interpretations of cacao as the food of the gods (Coe & Coe, 2013). Ancient associations of cacao with the food of divinity has not been lost in modern methods of advertisement (Leissle, 2012). Even analyses of chocolate advertisements can be interpreted to illustrate that chocolate and divinity are intrinsically linked. Capitalism has not so subtlety transformed and secularized religious holidays by constructing the consumption of chocolate as a ritualized activity, in which participants (consumers) will be glorified and feel euphoria through acts the giving and receiving chocolates (Martin, 2016) (Robertson, 2009). Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and even the forty days of Lent have all become associated with chocolate consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). Lent is the most indicative of chocolate’s association with divinity, through its construction as a vice (particularly for women) which should be avoided so as to liken oneself to the divinity of Christ’s fast and then temptation by Lucifer in the desert. My fiancée’s (F) family is traditionally Irish-Catholic, like much of the greater Boston area, and has their roots firmly set in the nomenclature of religious etiquette. However, like many religious followers, they merely retain a religiously linked ethnic identity. This is not to say that they do not follow a set of religious rituals that underpin their daily lives, but the god (chocolate) to which they devote both cognitive and subconscious worship, is revealed through the family’s vocalization and ritualization of chocolate consumption. Through almost a year of total emersion into their household I have observed both passively and actively their emphasis on the importance of ritual chocolate consumption. By cooking, and baking, with the father (FD); observing F’s sister’s food habits (FS); and through consensual approval to inquire about their chocolate habits during informally structured interviews, I have captured a snapshot of the ethnographic phenomenon by which chocolate has been re-deified.
Anonymity Disclaimer: all proper names are changed to protect anonymity and personal privacy.
The demographic biological sex ratio in my fiancée’s family, including myself, is three females to two males. I entered their household in June 2015, as it was the most convenient way to save up money for our wedding and attend school. My fiancée and her sister both have severe cases of mental illnesses, and have self-proclaimed themselves vegetarians, which has inhibited their ability to consume a wide variety of food products. Prior to my debut, F’s family cooked for and brought FS any food that FS desired, while FS was unable to leave her bedroom due to severe agoraphobia. During this period and into the first several months of living with the F-in-laws, the father (FD) and mother (FM) brought FS mass quantities of sweets (per her request)- the vast majority of which contained chocolate in some form. These sweets were then incorporated into FS’s daily diet through both home cooked treats and purchased delicacies. So pervasive was chocolate into the kitchen and pantry, I could not open the refrigerator without stumbling upon 8 out of 10 items containing chocolate. Even F considered pancakes unsatisfying is they did not contain chocolate chips, accompanied by chocolate milk, and chocolate croissants, from FD’s crafting or purchased from the local French bakery. Upon my alien perspective into this near total emersion of chocolate into every aspect of nutrition, as I prefer recipe purity without the forced inclusion of chocolate, F’s mother (FM) made it quite clear that the extant to which chocolate was considered medicinal. Even long-standing family recipes, such as their grandmother’s scone recipe, that originally contained fruit changed to substitute chocolate chips; this was celebrated not only by F’s immediate family but the extended relatives as well. F, FD, and FM prefer dark chocolate; FS prefers milk chocolate. Methods of dietary consumption are among the easiest to witness, but also the amount to which F’s family purchases or crafts feminine hygiene products known to contain cocoa butter, and the amount of objects, utensils, and other paraphernalia used in the consumption, production, promotion, or distribution of chocolate.
Saying that their mass consumption of all things chocolate is a product of the historical engendering of chocolate as healthy for dietary consumption limits the extent to which FM’s concept of medicinal use resonates with the subjectivity of healthy consumption (Albritton, 2012) (Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FS suffered tremendous weight gain from overconsumption of carbohydrates and sugars (Albritton, 2012), most in the form of chocolate pastries and confections, but FM continued to supply these “medicinal” chocolates. In accordance with popular conceptions of the medicinal use of chocolate, it historically has been linked to a healthy state of mind and postulated to aid the treatment of mental illnesses such as “hypochondriac melancholy“(Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FM’s utilization of chocolate as a medical ritual to expedite the healing of FS’s mental faculties echoes: the Mesoamerican use of cacao as a restorative of the deities, the early European adoption of cacao as a similar but secularized restorative devoid of divine embodiment, and contemporary literature on chocolate’s ability to illicit pleasure responses from the brain. Contemporary concepts of chocolate’s medicinal use illuminate the chocolate industry’s persistent norms of advertisement and the increase of processed sugar consumption and sugar additives into nearly all forms of processed foodstuffs. Yet FM’s use goes beyond these analyses and parallels the sentiments that “‘chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea, and universal medicine'” (Coe & Coe, 2013: 206). While FM’s use may be a product of the historical connections of chocolate and sugar with pleasure and medicine, through the incorporation of chocolate into the entirety of the family’s diet, chocolate has been ritualized and elevated beyond the simple medicinal binary to that of a religious deity, with whom daily worship will foster inner-peace, health, and happiness in its followers. FM’s deification of chocolate retains striking parallels to the Christian description of a personal daily relationship with God, as advertised by the Bible.
F’s family’s ritual utilization of chocolate’s medicinal benefits are the product of historical polemics concerning the increase of sugar consumption, the socio-economic shift of chocolate from Mesoamerican stable to European luxury to plebian stable, and subliminally engendering advertisements (Coe & Coe, 2013). Sugar has been directly linked to diabetes, obesity, and increasing addictive behaviors, akin to drug addiction, through it’s association with pleasurable reinforcement as a reward (Benton, 2004)(Mintz, 1985). The historical shift in utilizing sugar as a preservative (Goody, 2013) directly led to the chocolate industry’s use of sugar as a stabilizing agent which also happened to increase sweetness aka. desirability, and thus “unintentionally” producing a method of engendering consumer addiction for chocolates at a early stage of industrialization (Brenner, 1999) (D’Antonio, 2006: 107) (Mintz, 1985). By keeping in context the link between sugar and addiction, the increase of sugar in chocolate opened new possibilities of advertising. Not only was chocolate now sweet, it also had been historically constructed as medicinal; it could now be produced in vast quantities previously unavailable until the industrial revolution (Brenner, 1999) (Coe & Coe, 2013). Chocolate could now be produced cheaply, containing adulterated products and sweeteners, masking the purity of the roasted cacao bean’s savory nature, and enabled new advertising strategies, informed by chocolate’s newly found socio-economic versatility (Stuckey, 2012) (Allen, 2010). These advertising campaigns have been able to pander to chocolate’s versatility in its ability to render multiple positive responses from consumers. F’s family utilization of chocolate as a restorative “cure-all” is the product of sugar’s addictive qualities, but their daily, weekly, monthly consumption of chocolate as a dietary necessity (only in the manner to which it produces a mental release of endorphins via the sugar and the Pavlovian association of chocolate with sugar) goes beyond this sweet binary to echo the mental and physical rejuvenation that religious ritual produces (Benton, 2004).
Mars’ Snickers campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry, Snickers Satisfies” illustrates the multi-faceted approach that the Mars company takes in its marketing (Brenner, 1999). Mars’ advertisements embody the concept of satisfaction through one of it’s original marketing strategies to simply make a larger candy bar cost the same as the competition’s small one, through the incorporation of peanuts, caramel, and nougat (the primary ingredient of two of these is sugar)(Brenner, 1999). The campaign simultaneously engenders the concept that the Snickers’ bar will satisfy the physical manifestation of hunger and that the consumption of the candy will elevate the psyche back to normalcy (Benton, 2004). This engenders the ritualization of chocolate consumption as a divine facilitator of both inner (mental) and outer (physical hunger) peace; thus similarly paralleling the act of taking communion at Catholic Mass, this advertisement reifies a foodstuff to miraculously facilitate the divine restoration of the mortal self. F’s family reflects this theological embodiment of chocolate consumption as a canonized ritual, yet this advertisement does not alone explain why the three women are so captivated by chocolate’s allure.
Hershey’s Dove chocolate campaign (above) has a clear agenda engendering a gender stereotype of women being the primary consumers of chocolate (Robertson, 2009). F’s family represents this as the three women (F, FS, and FM) are the primary consumers of chocolate, while FD is the primary facilitator of consumption through his production of meals and snacks that prominently incorporate chocolate. This stereotype of women as chocoholics is rooted in historical contexts and has long been debunked as an “[addiction not] to chocolate but to sugar” (Robertson, 2009) (Coe & Coe, 2013: 260) (Benton, 2004). However, no matter the scientific or psychological realities of sugar addicts (Benton, 2004), this advertisement embodies chocolate’s reconstructed relationship with divinity by directly linking the consumption of Dove chocolate with the Mesoamerican concept of deification of oneself through the consumption of divine foodstuffs: particularly in their artistic conflation of the Maize god with cacao trees (Coe & Coe, 2013: 39), and through Mayan recipes mixing maize and cacao (Tokovinine, 2015). The Maya considered all objects to be of divine embodiment (Tokovinine, 2015), particularly those containing maize, which they believed was the physical embodiment of their physical selves as they were created from sacred Maize, stated in their sacred origin text the Popul Vuh, and were also divinely given the sacred crops of maize and cacao for consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). By conflating the Maize god with a cacao pod the Mayans set a ritual precedent for the divine consumption of chocolate as enabling humanity to transcend into a divine state of epiphany. The Dove advertisement then conflates this ancient cultic practice with the more modern concept of women as the primary consumers of chocolate. Women, constructed in the advertisement as the downtrodden and oppressed gender (Bourdieu, 2001), can escape this existence through consuming chocolate and experiencing their own “moment” or existential epiphany outside of this oppression (Robertson, 2009). F’s family’s near unilaterally gender-stratified consumption of chocolate represents the religious epiphany of transcendental existence, which also reinforces the earlier discourse concerning chocolate as a parallel of Communion. Chocolate consumption now enables modern humanity to embody divinity.
Hershey furthers this gender binary of chocolate consumption through Dove’s “Only Human” advertisement campaign, which in chocolate consumption provides and escape from being female (Benton, 2004). The women are shown to be weak and “Only Human,” but Dove chocolate then provides a “real” comfort from the harsh realities of femininity (Benton, 2004). Going beyond this advertisement’s sexist engenderment, chocolate can now be associated with another of religion’s coveted abilities: the offerance of sanctuary. Chocolate makes the difficulties of human existence tolerable by offering brief sanctuaries, at the ‘moment’ of consumption, meta-physically separated from the human experience. The sanctuary that chocolate provides in these ‘moments’ parallels the sanctuary offered to praticioners of prayer, which provide a ‘moment’ with divinity meant to rejuvenate and make right the pain of a human existence. F’s family’s incorporation of chocolate into nearly all foodstuffs is now clearly representative of ritual prayers for protection from the evils and difficulties of a modern human, explicitly female, existence.
Other modes of ritual chocolate consumption are woven throughout the family’s daily lives: that of hygienic products. It has been well documented that cocoa butter, made from hydraulically pressing cacao liquor (Coe & Coe, 2013: 255), is highly effective in the treatment and prevention of various skin, and hair ailments. Placement of cocoa butter into hygienic products echoes both Baptism and the Catholic ritual of the Anointment of the Sick. Both of these religious rituals engage in a ritual purification of the body and soul. Chocolate can be religiously vindicated through the purification of the human existence, and divinely heal the physical manifestations of the human condition. Dissenters, who would disagree with this statement, are to be reminded of the Christian Science movement, whose belief in the healing power of prayer is thought to heal all physical ailments (thought to be sins’ physical manifestations), and scientific medical treatments are spurred as sinful disregard of God’s will (Norton, 1899). Thus a conflated argument to be made is that the consumption of chocolate is equal to prayer, regardless of the science behind cocoa butter’s ability to remedy topical ailments of the skin and hair. Even through dissent, contemporary chocolate consumption has reified itself as divine through F’s family’s hygienic self anointment with sacred cocoa butter.
Ritual can be identified easily through archaeological interpretation of material culture- that is to say, the artifacts by which rituals are carried out with. Chocolate manufacturing has built megalithic structures dedicated to the continual production of chocolate, such that entire communities sprung into existence to support its cultic fanatical production. Milton Hershey’s factory communes illustrate this quite succinctly (Brenner, 1999)(D’Antonio, 2006). Even the consumption of chocolate has ritual implements, such as: stylized porcline serveware, chocolatière, and the appropriated Mesoamerican molinillo (Martin, 2016). F’s family does not have all such ritual implements as modern technology’s updated versions of the chocolatière and molinillo (serving kettle and whisks), but they do have stylized ceramic ware for the sole consumption of chocolate, indicated by the imprinted logo of L.A. Burdick (a chocolatier company). F’s house has designated chocolate cabinets for the storage of preserved “instant” chocolate beverages, edible chocolates, and hygenic cocoa products; while this cabinet space is shared with similar items for drink, eating, and hygeine, the totality of chocolate’s combination with these other products merely increases the variety by which chocolate’s ritual artifacts are incorporated into daily life.
Chocolate’s transtitional state speaks to the originial liminal state by which the Mayans contextualized their existence around divinity. Chocolate has come full circle in the historical utilizations and perperonderances by which chocolate consumption has been stereotyped, redefined, and ritualized. Through the analysis of F and her family’s cultic ritual habits of chocolate, they are revealed to be the ultimate by-product of a centuries-long polemic that has created a new world religion focused on the ritualized production and consumption, based on an engendered, constructed faith that chocolate is divinely able to elevate the human condition out of the mire of oppression, through psychological and physical restoration of peace, harmony, happiness, and self-satisfaction.
Albritton, R. (2012). Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry. In Food and Culture: A Reader (3rd ed., pp. 342-352). S.l.: Routledge.
Allen, L. L. (2010). China and Chocolate: East Meets West. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 7-39). New York: American Management Association.
Allen, L. L. (2010). Going the Distance: China’s 10L Chocolate Race. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 201-223). New York: American Management Association.
Allen, L. L. (2010). One Country, Three Centuries. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 1-6). New York: American Management Association.
Presilla, M. E. (2009). The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes (Revised ed.). Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter One: ‘A deep physical reason’: Gender, race, and the nation in chocolate consumption. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 18-63). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter Three: ‘There is no operation involved with cocoa that I didn’t do’: Women’s experiences of cocoa farming. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 91-131). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter Two: ‘The Romance of the Cocoa Bean’: Imperial and colonial histories. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 64-90). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Power. The ultimate aphrodisiac. It is intangible, yet felt, immeasurable, but detectible. We yearn for it, crave it, dream of it; it arouses us without hesitation. Each and every day we strive to empower ourselves, whether it be through education, exercise, style or socialization. From how we dress and walk, to what we eat and with whom we talk, all of our actions are rooted in an inherent desire to become more influential. As history has progressed, this universal appetite for power has been reflected in the societal standards of both the past and present. Consequently, we venerate the wealthy, distinguish those of status, and yearn for the sexual. Few possessions in the world display wealth, status, and sexuality more poignantly than chocolate. From its inauguration, chocolate has influenced the social issues that are both etched in our textbooks and echoed from our TV screens. Classism. Sexism. Racism. Capable of being both the “food of the gods” in one era and the “food of the masses” the next, chocolate has both widened and bridged the gap between the wealthy and the poor, the elite and the forgotten, and the pristine and the sexualized. Therefore, chocolate—both as an exotic luxury and a ubiquitous treat—exemplifies American society’s ongoing struggle between equality and empowerment.
Dating back as early as the Mesoamerican period, chocolate has played an integral part in the both construction and preservation of social classes. In fact, our understanding of the Mayan use of cacao is predominantly found etched upon elegant vessels unearthed in the tombs of the elite (Coe & Coe, 2013). Furthermore, some of these excavated vases contain chemical traces of alkaloids found in cacao, suggesting that their contents once were liquid (Coe & Coe, 2013). Thus, from both glyphs and painted scenes on these Mayan vessels, it is evident that chocolate was drunk both by kings and nobles (Presilla, 2009). However, evidence from concurrent excavations suggests that chocolate was used across all classes, particularly during rites of passage. Nevertheless, only the elite used and buried themselves with drinking vessels resistant to decay, symbolizing the dignifying effect of chocolate (Presilla, 2009). In addition, apart from regal furnishing in burial chambers, chocolate was a crucial element of opulent feasts amongst the elite; hosts of these feasts were obliged to present their guests with the finest vases they could afford to consume chocolate (Presilla, 2009). Cacao also was linked with many sacred Mayan traditions, such as fertility rites, marriage rituals, banquets, baptism, and rites of death (Martin, 2016). For example, during marriage negotiations in Mayan society, cacao drinks were essential during royal marriage and cacao seeds were often used as legal currency for marriage dowry (Martin, 2016). Furthermore, in Mayan warfare, cacao—due to the stimulating effects of theobromine—caused warriors to feel energized, stronger, even invincible. Therefore, for the Mayans, chocolate served as a medium of communicating power, distinguishing the common man from the noble through wealth and status in both life and death.
Similarly, the Aztecs also use chocolate to illuminate the power of the elite. Instead of being accessible to all people, chocolate was reserved only for nobility, lords, royalty, and the warrior class (Coe & Coe, 2013). For example, in Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana, the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún describes the significance of cacao as unmistakably an elite food, recounting that it was proverbially called “heart and blood,” to be drunk by those of wealth and status (Martin, 2016). Additionally, cacao served as a cure to the skin eruptions, seizures and fevers, as well as illness that often were attributed to the Aztec gods; a number of botanical remedies included cacao in their recipes. Thus, cacao was viewed as a divine gift, a tangible, measureable embodiment of power. Such a treasured substance was the birthright of the distinguished; if one of the common people drank it without sanction from their superiors, it would cost them their life (Presilla, 2009). Thus, cacao was also referred to as yolloti eztli: the price of blood and heart. The severity of the crime for simply consuming cacao as a commoner exemplifies the conflict between equality and power observed hundreds of years before and after; for equality to exist, the elite must give up their divine gift, an unfathomable option. Consequently, those who dared to bridge the gap between the elite and the forgotten by—in this case—consuming cacao were met with indiscriminate punishment.
Thus, due to its immense value in Aztec society, cacao evolved from prestigious commodity and divine medication to a form of currency. Ranking amongst gold and precious gems, cacao reached the rooftops of imperial storehouses due to its usage in tributary offerings (Presilla, 2009). For instance, Motecuhzoma II (reigned 1502-1520) reportedly banked 40,000 xiquipilli or 960,000,000 cacao beans. Everything from avocados to full-grown turkeys could be priced by cacao (Martin, 2016). In effect, to simply drink cacao exhibited immense wealth and proved to be the ultimate display of power during the 16th century.
This marriage of wealth, divinity, and status through cacao subsequently was embraced by European nations. Arriving in the New World during the zenith of Mesoamerican chocolate culture, the Spanish deeply embraced the history of cacao consumption dating back to the Mayans. As a result, the central aspects of chocolate use in ancient Mesoamerica were preserved and disseminated throughout many of the Latin American colonies and as far as the Philippines (Presilla, 2009). Recognizing the power inherent to cacao, the Spanish conquistador Cortés wrote to the emperor Charles V requesting a grant of land for a Pacific Coast plantation containing two thousand cacao trees (Presilla, 2009). Not only did the farm prove immensely profitable, but it also catalyzed cacao’s entrance into Europe; both chocolate and cacao quickly became pillars of the Spanish economy. Naturally, people in Spain adopted the custom of drinking chocolate. However, just as in Mesoamerica, the relationship of the elite and the consumption of chocolate remained inseparable; arriving as an exotic luxury, chocolate was experienced first by the powerful (Presilla, 2009).
Requiring special pains, paraphernalia, and acutely roasted beans, chocolate consumption amongst the Spaniards was an elite privilege. However, as the production of cacao grew extensively amongst every rank of colonial society, chocolate closed the gap the elite and common man. Eventually, by the 18th century, chocolate drinking became routine from the top to the bottom of society (Presilla, 2009).
However, this ubiquitous consumption of chocolate that is observed today did not occur naturally. Rather, the growth in cacao production was largely the result of the African slavery and forced labor. From 1500-1900, between 10 and 15 million enslaved Africans were transported to the cacao growing regions of the New World in order to substantially increase cacao production (Martin, 2016). However, although the repercussions of African slavery included racism, racial characteristics did not factor into the decision of Europeans to use African slaves (Martin, 2016). Rather, due to geographical proximity to European nations seeking cheap labor, Africans and their descendants were condemned to enforced labor. Working painstakingly in 18-hour shifts, African slaves were forced to not only cultivate cacao, but also cotton, tobacco, rice and sugar (Martin, 2016). The labor that produced these commodity crops funded the development of capitalism in European society, poignantly illustrating the dichotomy between equality and power; unwilling to relinquish their newfound accumulation of wealth, the Europeans preserved slavery for centuries. As the widespread consumption of commodity goods, such as chocolate, bridged the gap between the lower-middle class and the elite, slavery readily became standardized (Martin, 2016). Subsequently, as chocolate lost its luxury status, European classism gradually diminished while racism rapidly took its place. Once European consumers tasted the power that had been locked behind the doors of being born into an elite family, abandoning slavery was a laughable proposition. Therefore, as Eric Williams, author of Slavery & Capitalism, states, no country thought of abolishing the slave trade until its economic value declined considerably (Martin, 2016). Ultimately, as Mintz (1986) elaborates, the power of chocolate led to it “being supplied to so many, in such stunningly large quantities, and at so terrible a cost in life and suffering.”
The greatest cost that slavery deferred to society was racism. Following slavery’s abolishment in the 19th century and the rise of big chocolate production on a global scale in the 20th century, the chocolate industry perpetuated the inequality across race and class observed a century before. Most notably, in order to display the power of both the company and their white consumers, many chocolate companies during the mid-20th century created ads that reinforced the 2nd class status of African Americans (Robertson, 2010). For example, in 1947, York-based chocolate company introduced a marketing character named “Honeybunch.” A caricature of Africans, Honeybunch’s broken dialect is drawn from stereotypes of black speech, turning her into a minstrel character.
This cartoon, as shown to the left, is juxtaposed with real images of a white mother and her children who speak perfect English. Thus, the use of imperfect language by a black character is intended to amuse the white audience; the advertisement reinforces the idea of the supremacy and power of the English language, and more broadly of whiteness (Robertson, 2010). Conversely, Honeybunch’s depiction emphasizes ignorance and the lack of power in blackness. Nevertheless, following the progressive steps towards equality during the Civil Rights Movement, chocolate advertisers began to adjust the tone of their racist beliefs, specifically through sexuality (Robertson, 2010). As Oscar Wilde states, “everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” Hence, drawing upon the exotic origins of cacao, and thus of Africans, chocolate companies pushed forward the idea that vanilla and chocolate serve as cultural metaphors for both race and sex (Martin, 2016). Accordingly, chocolate is to blackness as vanilla is to whiteness. More specifically, whiteness exemplifies power in the old-sense: regality, purity, and wealth. However, in order to appeal to a more diversified and less discriminatory consumer base, advertisers began to promote sexuality, the most modern form of power. Hence, blackness embodies desire, impurity, and craving.
As a result, sexual depictions of black men and all women have been used both to sell chocolate products and maintain both the inequality of races and disempowerment of women in America. As detailed by Robertson (2010), the stereotypical depictions of black men and women of all races in the advertisements are not novel. Throughout the history of chocolate consumption and production, femininity and blackness have been used to create spectacles of the exotic and erotic for profit.
This blatant objectification and simplification of black men and women not only mocks the consumers of chocolate, but also its producers; many African men and women invest their lives in the cacao production process (Kawash, 2016). Thus, the constant juxtaposition of beautiful women and chocolate along with the belittling of black men as exotic, physical specimens illustrates society’s ongoing struggle between equality and empowerment. Since the chocolate industry has forced fed the idea that sex and empowerment are two sides of the same coin, the inherent sexism and racism of these advertisements is largely disregarded. Although there has been public outcry in response to the most extreme versions of these advertisements, such as Honeybunch, those of the modern era profit by constructing a relationship between race and sex that masks racism and sexism through the power of beauty. Therefore, just like the Aztec elites and the proletariat of 19th century Europe, modern American society has chosen the allure of power over the altruism of equality.
Ultimately, chocolate is one of the most powerful commodities in the last millennia. Due to its divinity, luxury, and sheer necessity, chocolate has played a significant role in shaping the socioeconomic atmosphere of multiple continents. Due to its divinity, chocolate immortalized the Mesoamerican elite in death; due to its luxury, chocolate granted immense wealth to Conquistadors; due to its necessity, chocolate closed the gap between the European elite and middle class. At the same, chocolate left in its wake classism that ravaged the Mesoamericans, racism that enslaved over 10 million Africans, and sexism that objectified men and women across the globe. Consequently, due to its ability to empower, chocolate has seduced generations into embracing social norms that perpetuate inequality across race, class and gender.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times. Web. 08 April 2016
Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Web. 26 April 2016.
Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 2: Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods’.” Web. 26 April 2016.
Sex sells. It is a phrase, a method, and/or a motto that is used to advertise certain products. From cars, to Carl Jr.’s burgers, to chocolate, there is always a sex appeal to advertisements for their products. I can remember when I was little girl that I would usually see these advertisements between commercials of my favorite TV shows and/or in magazines. Since I was young, I was also naïve and not really aware of what was going on. I would mostly look at the chocolate rather than the actress in the advertisement. While watching Univision, a channel that’s in Spanish, with my mother advertising it but then my mom would say sometimes like “okay, that’s ridiculous”. The next time I would see the commercial,I would try to pay more attention the actress in the commercial.
In Figure 1, you see a woman relaxing on a white couch, planning to eat an entire box of chocolates alone and she looks like she’s taking immense pleasure of eating chocolate. In my opinion this picture looks silly. First of all, I would never eat chocolate on the couch that way. That just seems like you’re asking a chocolate accident to happen. But this picture does have context and is relatable from its original source. This picture came from an article by Mirror UK, stating the 10 reasons why chocolate is good for you. They state, “ One theory why we love chocolate so much is that a brain-active chemical called phenylethylamine in cocoa allegedly stimulates the same reaction that we experience when we’re falling in love”.
The model in the photo does seem to be in love with her chocolate. Maybe that’s what the marketing team was going for when they were trying to find a picture to match this article.
In Figure 2, This is an ad for Godiva chocolate that was found in a magazine. This displays a beautiful woman laying down somewhere in a not so casual pose but emphasizing the piece of chocolate that is among her chest. Why is she not eating it? Godiva Chocolate is really good it shouldn’t just be on your chest is someone else going to eat it? Is that what they’re trying to sell? That there can be a lucky person looking at the magazine can find a beautiful woman with a piece of chocolate on her chest that they can eat from?
Figure 3 is a very different kind of advertisement compared to the others. A lot of what these advertisements show the slogan that sex sells. We are seeing woman experiencing some sexual euphoria when she eats or is around chocolate. We don’t learn exactly where this chocolate came from, where it came to be, and where was the Cacao from. There should be more marketing telling us more about the process of chocolate and its history. Figure 3 is an advertisement for Divine Chocolate. They have a more campaign ads similar to the one I selected that represent more about chocolate where it came from and who’s producing it.
In figure 4, I chose to recreate an ad to something simple, an image of what eating chocolate is really like without the ludicrous sex appeal. Chocolate can be a dessert or a snack that can be either consumed alone or with friends but I am not completely consumed by the thought of eating chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate alone and relish in immense pleasure from it. I eat while I’m doing my homework or writing papers or blog posts. Chocolate can take form in memories. Some of my memories of eating chocolate is sharing it up the movie theaters with friends, or growing up with my mom making Abuelita hot chocolate from Nestle.New memories of chocolate include taking this chocolate class.
I wanted to open this blog post with a witty sentence introducing my topic, why the era of sexualizing women in advertisements needs to end, and googled ‘sex sells’ for inspiration. The second hit had the following description:
Here is the cold hard truth, “Sex Sells.” Hate it or love it, sex attracts the eye more than any other type of advertisement (Ovsyannykov).
In lieu of this, here is my introduction, albeit angrier and less witty than I had originally intended:
Here is the cold hard truth, we live in a patriarchal society: women currently earn $0.79 to every dollar made by men and it will be another century before gender equality is achieved in top management positions if we continue at the current pace (Bloomberg). Hate it or love it, barriers and obstacles to gender parity are rampant in society, one of the most pervasive being the presentation of women in advertisement as sexual and trivial beings. “Sex sells,” it attracts the eye, capturing the attention of audiences, but it is not the only means of effective advertising. In fact, for products or services that have nothing to do with sex, sexual advertisements can be less effective than non-sexual advertisements (Lynn).
The chocolate industry is plagued by marketing campaigns that marginalize women, depicting them as sexual objects unable to resist the temptation of chocolate. By portraying women in this light, these advertisements are helping to maintain gender stereotypes and harming the mental health of young girls. The chocolate industry, particularly as a non-sexual industry, has a moral obligation to move away from using gendered stereotypes in advertisements.
Chocolate Advertisements: A Gendered Portrayal
In “Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History,” Emma Robertson discusses the portrayal of women in the chocolate industry versus the reality of their position. She traces chocolate from the harvest of the cacao in Africa to production in factories to consumption, and offers that advertising “failed to represent the actual economic, political, and social conditions in which Rowntree and Cadbury products, and ultimately profits, were produced” (Robertson, 19). Women were fetishized as housewives and mothers, shown as irrational narcissistic consumers, and objective as “sexual objects to maintain male morale” (Robertson, 30). Prior to WWII, they were solely depicted in the workplace during wartime although they were responsible for the production of chocolate bars in factories during peace times.
For more examples of the sexualization of women in chocolate advertisements, check out this web page from Carla Martin’s “Bittersweet Notes: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.”
The Sexualization of Women: Dramatic Effects
By depicting women in such a sexualized way, the chocolate industry is subliminally enforcing the antiquated stereotype that women are objects. This bolsters the current societal inequities and provides supporting evidence to stereotypes. This has a couple noteworthy implications for the workplace: it may make people less likely to inherently trust and support the rise of women in managerial positions, and also can serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly bombarded by the idea that women are meant for the house not office, women can internalize this message and consequentially not try to rise the corporate ranks or stand up for themselves and demand an earned salary/position.
In 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a study that found that the sexualization of women in the media has negative effects on young girls who are exposed to it, effecting cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development (Zurbriggen). Research finds a strong linkage between sexualization and eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression, three of the most commonly diagnosed mental problems in girls and women (Zurbriggen). This means that the take away for young girls viewing the sexy chocolate ads described above is not the product advertised but the characteristics of the oftentimes female model.
Changing the Dialogue: Our Kit Kat Advertisement
In hopes of changing the focus of chocolate advertisements, we chose to recreate a Nestlé Kit-Kat advertisement from the “One-minute break” campaign created by Zoopa, an Italian agency in 2008. Inspired by the “One-Minute Sculptures” of Erwin Wurum, this ad campaign features various professionals in silly positions with a Kit Kat bar. Unlike the featured men who are shown in appropriate workplace clothing, the woman is shown in a revealing skirt with a high front slit even though skirt suits generally have a small slit in the back for the sole purpose of allowing for greater leg mobility when walking. While the painter is shown with brushes and a ladder, the doctor with a stethoscope, and the businessman with a laptop, the woman is shown solely with a rolling chair, an object that does not increase productivity whatsoever, particularly as standing desks become more and more popular in the workplace.
Our advertisement (below on the right; the original advertisement is below on the left) is empowering: we clothed our model in a pantsuit just like the other members of the campaign. The laptop she carries and the added tagline, “Two perfect presentations down, two to go. Have a break, you earned it”, not only stress her professionalism but also the role of Kit-Kats as an enjoyable midday energy-booster. With her head turned, the focus is on the Kit-Kat bar, not the model, with the red packaging standing out starkly against the light backdrop. These changes keep the main intended message from the original advertisement intact, “Have a break. Have a Kit Kat,” while dramatically improving the subliminal message – that women can be powerful agents in the workplace.
Moving Forward: A Moral Obligation
The portrayal of women in advertisements has not naturally followed nor kept pace with the changing social roles of women, and it is time chocolate companies, particularly the Big 5, transform their marketing practices. To encourage change, governments should follow the European Union, who in 2008 passed a resolution urging Member States to honor the ‘European Pact for Gender Equality’ by tackling marketing and advertising (Van Hellemont and Van den Bulck). Specifically, they called on Member States to ensure:
“by appropriate means that marketing and advertising guarantee respect for human dignity and integrity of the person, are neither directly nor indirectly discriminatory nor contain any incitement to hatred based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”
Although enforcing this type of legislation can be difficult, it can create incentives for change. The resolution suggested Member States create public awards for companies and campaigns that create advertisements emphasizing gender equality. This incentivizes companies by providing them with the opportunity to gain free media attention across a large population. The legislation also starts a dialogue, and public pressure can be the strongest catalyst for change.
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is known for featuring beautiful, scantily clad women draped across its cover. But do you know about the woman who was featured on the back cover for six years in a row, from 2009-2014? If you guessed a seductively posed green M&M, you’re right!
(Listen to Green talk about her experience “modeling” for the back covers here.)
When Mars Inc. decided to create characters for the different colored M&Ms featured in their ads they made the bold choice to feature four male personalities and one female. Each M&M is named after their color, and their personalities are as follows: Red is a self-confident leader, Yellow is an oblivious goofball, Orange is neurotic, Blue is cool and smooth, and Green (the female M&M) is a purring seductress (“Characters”). This blatantly sexist gender imbalance was partly corrected in 2012 when Mars Inc. launched the character Ms. Brown, a savvy businesswoman (Newcomb), but most of Green’s Sports Illustrated back covers were published before Ms. Brown was created, so I’m not going to take her character into account when assessing the female image M&Ms was promoting in these advertisements.
So, without further ado, here are the covers:
Six pictures of a piece of chocolate posed like a bikini model, that’s a lot to take in! We can begin to process what is happening here by thinking about the history of gender and sexuality in chocolate advertising.
There are a few groups chocolate ads have historically targeted. 1) The housewife looking to provide wholesome food for her family 2) Men looking to win over a woman in a heterosexual romance and 3) a woman looking to indulge a guilty pleasure (Robertson 22-35). These pictures of Green fit into categories 2 and 3. Because the chocolate here has come to life as a woman, which isn’t typical in chocolate ads, the implicit message is a little less straightforward than it usually is. Green sits as the embodiment of the stereotypical female obsession with chocolate. But, with her steady gaze and placement on the back of a magazine geared towards men, she also exists as a male-directed suggestion that M&Ms will improve your chances of seducing a woman.
I tried to create an ad that would avoid falling into these stereotypical categorizations. The most egregious problem I have with these covers is that they play into a trend in chocolate advertising of women being seduced by the treat. (This trend was pointed out by Professor Carla Martin in a funny blog post you can reach if you click right here.) These ads make the statement that an M&M without its shell is nude, and that the chocolate underneath is a sensual temptation. In these M&M ads this seduction is being performed more overtly than in most advertisements. Chocolate, here, is not a passive temptation. These back covers show Green stripping down to her chocolate inner while making eye contact with the camera, aware that the viewer finds her chocolate alluring. The unabashed way Mars Inc. in these ads correlates chocolate with sex appeal, and the way they put the burden of sexual appeal on their female character is alarming.
So the ad I created seeks to change the way the viewer perceives the character Green, while being an effective and persuasive advertisement that falls into the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit theme.
I kept Green recognizably female. I want to show that representations of gender can be made effectively without stepping into a sexist mode of portrayal. Green gets to keep her high heel boots (despite their impracticality as beach shoes), and I gave her a hot pink beach towel to relax on. I want to show that women can be traditionally feminine without their gender performance relating to their sexual availability.
I used a classic M&Ms advertising phrase “Melts in in your mouth, not in your hand” to tie the product into the Sports Illustrated beach theme. Green has a handful of M&Ms and is giving a thumbs up to show that they are holding up under the hot sun. She is selling the product here, not a sensual experience.
“Characters.” M&M’S® Official Website | Home. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
Newcomb, Tim. “M&Ms to Introduce New Character, ‘Ms. Brown,’ at Super Bowl | TIME.com.” Time. 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Images from “Ms. Green Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Appearances.” M&M’s U.S.A. Facebook Page. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
Race and chocolate have been intertwined throughout history and the marketing of chocolate follows this race connection, sometimes by accident and bad taste, other times on purpose. There exists a dichotomy of “chocolate is to blackness: vanilla is to whiteness” and their respective flavors, chocolate and vanilla, or in this case, white chocolate, as cultural metaphors for race (Martin, Slide 12). Take, for instance, the chocolate ice cream bar brand, Magnum. Magum ice cream bars are eaten all over the world, but they have had some recent marketing snafu’s that have made the brand seem all but worldly. Of course, racism in ads is nothing new to the chocolate industry as Emma Robertson pointed out in her book, Chocolate, Women, and Empire, which traces the origins of this “commodity racism” back through time, pointing out notable advertising cultural metaphor issues such as Honeybunch and Rowntree Cocoa. However, the fact that this overt racism and using race as a cultural metaphor has been observed before and over the years, makes it even more shameful that these racist chocolate advertisements still permeate popular culture today (Robertson 36).
Rowntree Cocoa ad, 1950 which shows Honeybunch as a stereotypical “black” young girl, entertaining the British white family. The racist ads of the past, but now the racist ads focus on luxury of race and color and chocolate.
Unlike the racist chocolate advertising of the past, such as Honeybunch, which portrayed Honeybunch as a stereotypical uneducated young black girl with broken english, “folksy dialect… the use of such language by infantilised black characters was intended to amuse the white British audience,” the advertising of today is centered on a new take of an old idea that companies use “images of black people to enhance their luxury status” of their chocolate (Robertson 36). In the following advertising images I will explore how Magnum has used race to highlight and sell their chocolate products as luxury goods.
Magum Chocolate advertisement featuring a “cracked” black skinned woman, revealing white underneath.
This first Magnum chocolate advertisement blatantly features race, black and white, as a selling technique. The woman featured in the ad is very dark, with typical stereotyped lips accentuated by lip-gloss, looking sensually over at her “cracked” skin which reveals a white flesh or skin underneath. We can’t help but question why a person is portrayed as the chocolate ice cream bar here and ask why is she looking at her cracked shoulder in this way. With the little facial expression we see, it appears as if she is ashamed of the crack with the white showing through, an ode to the white culture that seems to “dominate” the past of the chocolate industry and still permeates through it today. Here is where we can see the selling of “luxury” that Robertson has mentioned. The woman in the ad looks soft and well groomed, although hairless, and without a blemish. Her lips are perfectly luscious and a deep red – a color that evokes a certain luxury. It seems as if Magnum is selling their chocolate as “pure” and “smooth,” just as the woman is – words that normally describe and portray high-end luxury goods.
Magnum Chocolate advertisement celebrating white chocolate but questionably celebrating the white race. Why can we not celebrate “dark” or “milk”?
This Magnum ad seems cute and tasteful from the outset, my roommate even looked over and said, “that’s cute!” thinking that it was the ad that I had created. Unfortunately, to me, it looks like an awkward celebration of white people over black. Why can we not celebrate white chocolate and black chocolate? The Magnum brand even created a hashtag for the event in 2015 named #CelebrateWhite. This ad seems to furthermore highlight race in chocolate advertising, but from a hyper-white perspective rather than the hyper-black perspective racist ads. Again, the luxury in this ad can be seem as the luxury of white but with hints of gold and platinum as accent colors, rather than flat white. The colors together evoke a certain class of luxury goods and metals.
Sadly, this is not the first time white chocolate has been ill conceived in advertising. This ad is reminiscent of a highly controversial 2013 ad by Ferrero Rocher chocolate advertising their new white nut chocolate:
The ad advocates for Germany to “vote white” and for white nuts to stay. This ad was criticized highly in Germany for referencing racial purity and was ultimately pulled. In the ad the crowd is chanting “white nut remain” and the giant white chocolate box is preaching to the crowd, “We want White Ferrero Kusschen forever.” The supporters in the crowd are also holding cards that translate into “Yes White Can” and “Germany Votes white.”
Another very recent chocolate advertisement is Magnum’s “Brown is in” ad, which features a prominent Indian Bollywood actress sensually eating an ice cream bar and pouring it on the guests below. At the party there are no people of color, and everything that is white or light turns brown. The ad directly sells the ice cream bar as a bar of color – brown. And directly relates this brown bar to the Bollywood actress, a “brown” Indian woman. This ad again furthers the argument that even in 2015, color and race is still being using to sell chocolate to consumers, but in a luxurious manner. The party is obviously extravagant with high-class wealthy individuals and the woman’s dress, although she is Indian and of “color,” is goddess-like and chiffon, she looks of luxury as well. She is luxury, she is eating luxury, and she is spreading that luxury.
Recent Magnum Chocolate ad featuring Bollywood Indian star, Kareena Kapoor. “Brown is in” referencing Indian skin and color.
However, Magnum did have a brief moment of glory when they explored creative ads, which featured their famous ice cream bars exploding out and showing their contents and colors. This was lauded in the advertising community as a very catchy and unique ad, a different “Magnum” than the earlier ads, but these ads have since disappeared. They focused on the product, rather than race or gender to sell.
Magnum Chocolate ad featuring creative explosions of chocolate, lauded in the advertising and marketing industry for being beautiful and artistic. A different spin on the typical chocolate advertisement featuring people, sexuality, or race.
In contrast to the Magnum ads I have presented above, I have proposed diversifying Magnum’s image as they have done in the past and in fact using part of their past art ads as part of these new ads. The two new mock-ups I have created maintain Magnum’s tagline: “For Pleasure Seekers,” but offer a new idea of what that pleasure is. Rather than the sexual desires or pleasures that this tagline normally would evoke and has in the past, these new ads see the “pleasure” as true good, fun, and healthy pleasurable activities. When Magnum first came out with their Explosion Art Ads, they were a big hit in the creative world. I think this would be the perfect way to market Magnum as different and fresh, but also stay true to its past of focusing on “pleasure.” Most importantly, these ads would focus not on race or gender, but on the activities and the beauty of the chocolate art and the backdrop. The silhouettes of the people make it more accessible for people to imagine themselves in these scenarios and feel the pleasure that such simple, but rewarding activities provide. Furthermore, because Magnum offers so many flavors and fillings inside the chocolate, the company could run a whole ad series for each flavor. For example, the controversial “white chocolate” ad featured above could instead be the white chocolate exploding and forming the snow of a mountain that climbers are trekking along, or even something as simple as an explosion into a white comfy pillow/bed or white sofa (a homey depiction of pleasure). These ads would shift the paradigm of “pleasure” for the chocolate eater.
Image created by author.
Image created by author.
(APOLOGY: If I had any sort of artistic ability these ads would be a lot more seamless – the art photo of the Magnum Chocolate is supposed to mesh into the background of the sunset image. The explosion of colors and flavors/ingredients is supposed to form the sunset image itself – coming out from the Magnum ice cream bar stick)
It is apparent that Dr. Carla Martin was correct in stating that “chocolate can reveal our cultural blindspots in relation to racism and inequality” (Martin, Slide 20). Magnum Chocolate has had many issues with these cultural blindspots specifically in regard to race and appropriating race to their chocolate ice cream bars. The company must recognize their faults and blindness to their seemingly casual racism and combat that with new adverts that focus on the beauty of their product and not on the race their product could be associated with. While the use of people and color in chocolate advertising has a long history, our current society must work to inform each other that this commodity racism is no longer accepted as normal (Martin, Race Theory).
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Martin, Dr. Carla. Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements. Lecture.
Rowntree Cocoa: Screenshot from Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
The overt sexualization of women is pervasive in current chocolate advertising. This is likely an artifact of the portrayal of chocolate as sinful, which has been common in western culture since its introduction to the European market. Chocolate advertising is, and has been for a long time, problematic in many ways, but the sexism and clear sexual innuendo in its advertising seems both the most frequent abuse as well as the most curious. Chocolate is mostly an impulse purchase in the U.S. and Europe, and is most often purchased by women, so chocolate advertising, understandably, targets women (Martin, Lecture 2016). At the same time, however, the portrayal of women in chocolate ads is often incredibly sexist, and sexualizes them in a way that is expected of ads targeting a mostly male audience.
I have selected three chocolate advertisements that use this form of marketing. The first is a frame from an advertisement for a Cadbury flake bar, in which the viewer intrudes on a young woman eating a Cadbury chocolate flake bar in her bathtub, and presumably having an orgasm. Really, the imagery is so apparent that we don’t actually have to presume that much, if at all. It is understandable that a company would want to advertise a product to women as capable of giving them orgasms, at least on the level of ‘sex sells,’ yet ads like this portray the women as obsessive and sex-crazed, at best, and objects akin to a piece of chocolate at worst. Emma Roberts points out in her book that there is a clear link in advertising between women and sex, and that such advertisements “perpetuate western sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption” (Robertson 2009), yet this is often used to sell products to men. In fact, advertisement research on the topic has shown that women in general respond more negatively to sexual advertisements than men (Dahl, Sengupta, & Vohs 2008). Why would ads for women cross the line from selling sex to women, to selling sex to men and falling into sexist stereotypes?
Below are two more ads that fall into the category of sexualization in a way that targets women and is at the same time offensive to them. In the advertisement of Filthy chocolate, the sinfulness and obsessiveness that often ties women and chocolate together is explicitly written in the text of the advertisement. Further, we can see the woman, clothed in chocolate, in a state of what seems to be intense pleasure, but with her body contorted in an extremely unrealistic way, and which portrays sexuality but not ‘properness.’ That is, it buys into a typical representation of women for male audiences, that aims to portray them as sexual objects, but with some degree of resistance to that sexuality, because are not intended to embrace their sexuality as openly as men can. In the advertisement by dove, it is hard to discern any traceable attempt to appeal to women, other than the fact that a woman is eating the chocolate. The woman holds her mouth and consumes the chocolate in an incredibly sexual way, but is disembodied, without any character, and shows no sign of enjoyment of the action, which the other ads, though problematic, at least are able to achieve. This ad strikes me as completely nonsensical, as it only sexualizes the woman but fails to deliver any convincing evidence that the chocolate will maker her happy.
In our advertisements, my group partner and I decided recreated these advertisements with men eating chocolate in the absurd way that women are portrayed as eating chocolate in many of these ads. It is intended to point out the completely flawed thinking that goes into ads that target women at the same time as stereotyping and objectifying them. First, and most apparently, nobody actually eats chocolate the way that these women are portrayed as eating chocolate. It is actually accepted in the media as not being absurd because people are used to this overt sexualization of women, but our ad points out how absurd it is by showing people very different from incredibly attractive, likely airbrushed, women eating chocolate in this manner. These ads include an attempt to portray the contorted, sexual-yet-shy body language of the ‘Filthy’ chocolate ad, to the apparent orgasm that eating chocolate can give a person. In the context of young men doing these things instead of young women, they seem ridiculous.
“As Britain’s Sexiest Chocolate Ad Hits 40 … It’s Joss – Only the Sultriest, Funkiest Flake Girl.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
Bui, Quang. Filthy Chocolate Ad Campaign. Digital image. 22 May 2011. Web.
Dahl, D., Sengupta, J., & Vohs, K. (2008). Sex In Advertising: Gender Differences And the Role of Relationship Commitment. Journal of Consumer Research, 215-231.
Mauss, Marcel, and E. E. Evans-Pritchard. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. New York: Norton, 1967. Print.
Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 9: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Aframer 119x. CGIS, Cambridge. 30 Mar. 2016. Lecture.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010. 1-131. Print.
The below video is a Dove commercial of a woman experiencing different “senses” as she eats a piece of Dove chocolate. This advertisement epitomizes the sexualization of women in chocolate advertisement as discussed by Emma Robertson and Dr. Martin. With an advertisement I created, I attempt to push back on this type of advertising and present a woman eating chocolate in a different context: while working in a non-stereotypically feminine job. The analysis of my advertisement shows how companies can take a different approach to chocolate advertisements that is less likely to alienate women. Advertisements similar to the one I created provide a multi-faceted view of women as people, rather than women as sexual objects without control of their emotions.
I took some screenshots of key moments in the video to aid in my analysis (with the time in the video included); below is one such screenshot. The woman is depicted sighing as she is draped in a silk chocolate cloth. The sound of her sigh is sexual in nature and she seems not in control of her responses. Robertson explains how women in advertisements “were pictured apparently lashing out” (21-22). Robertson is discussing the idea that women are often depicted in advertisements as out of control and this advertisement is one such example.
The Dove commercial becomes even more sexual and problematic towards the end, specifically with the scene shown below. A nut explodes at the same moment that a women yells “Oh!” in a manner similar to an orgasm. Robertson describes this trend in Aero chocolate advertisements: “In each advert a different woman is depicted taking a bite of an Aero bar. Some look a little guilty at being caught in the act, while others look sexily at the camera at the camera. The orgasmic pleasure brought about by their ‘urges’ being satisfied is revealed in the projected responses…” (Robertson 35). In this commercial, it is implied that the woman’s response to eating Dove chocolate is an orgasm. This is extremely sexual and problematic. It presents women as sexual beings incapable of controlling their responses.
Below is my advertisement that attempts to push back against these depictions of women. A woman is pictured eating chocolate while working, specifically programming. Many people, men and women, use chocolate as a quick snack while working, so this is a more realistic view. Additionally, the woman is not posed in a sexual manner and is focused on her work rather than the chocolate. Robertson discusses how there was a trend to fetishize “women as housewives and mothers” (Robertson 20). This advertisement also challenges this trend because it shows a woman working, and on a stereotypically “male” task.
Leissle writes about Divine’s attempt to place female cocoa farmers in a more realistic manner: “… the Divine women – cocoa farmers who appear in a fashionable, cosmopolitan aesthetic – provide visual evidence of African women’s participation in luxury consumption, while at the same time offering the idea that such African consumerism is possible, and inviting its repetition” (Leissle 134). My advertisement does the same; it attempts to provide visual evidence for a woman’s levelheaded consumption of chocolate in a non-sexual context. As Divine’s advert attempts to provide something that is a “realistic of African women’s lives,” my advert attempts to do the same for American women’s lives (Leissle 136).
The Dove advertisement is clearly meant to suggest a sexual connection between women and chocolate. Sexual music with women sighing and yelling “Oh!” plays in the background throughout. My advertisement attempts to place women’s relationship with chocolate in a more realistic light. In decoupling women’s relationship with chocolate and sex, it provides a less problematic way for advertisers to connect with women and sell their products.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010. pp. 1-131
Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in DivineChocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139
Dove “Senses” commercial: embedded video
Two still images of video: computer screenshots taken of video