In Barthes essay, “Striptease,” he talks about how women use their bodies as an art form to eroticize the idea of sex.  We can see this idea in this Smirnoff commercial advertising two different kinds of vodka. I brought alcohol into this idea because of the discussion we had in class about the different techniques and tactics used in the advertising for these. Barthes describes how décor can be used to emphasize this art form by using  “furs, the fans, the gloves, the feathers, the fishnet stockings, in short the whole spectrum of adornment, constantly makes the living body return to the category of luxurious objects…(85).” Barthes also speaks of the dance itself in the form that it is suppose to be suspenseful, waiting for the body of the female to be exposed.

This idea of using sex as a way of suspense and wanting more is used in advertising quite often. We are sexual humans by nature, so the idea of sex intrigues us and captures out attention.  As Smirnoff does in this advertisement, they use the concept of sex and also the “décor” that Barthes speaks of as a way to intensify the effect. Although the female in this is not actually stripping, the dancers around her are providing the sexual aspect through their movements and clothing. Amber Rose, the main female in the advertisement talks in a very sexual and sensual voice. The words she uses, describing the vodka, provide that she either wants to be “fluffed” or “whipped” both sexual innuendoes.

This advertisement also has a change in the music, going from a more going out type of music to a more hardcore, let’s get this going kind of music that also portrays something might happen after this advertisement closes. The sexual cues used make this advertisement does as Barthes states, ”transports the body into the world of legend or romance” (84). Attraction and sexual curiosities are things that most people deal with throughout daily life. Connecting these actions with a subtle commercial clearly selling vodka in a wise manner, along with creating at least a fraction of the idea that something as marvelous as this advertisement portrays might happen, creates for a successful advertisement. The beautiful women, music, voice tones and movements all portray sex, but also clearly sell the vodka as well. Although this commercial was not as promiscuous as a strip tease, it has many of the same analytic qualities within it that Barthes described while picking apart the French idea of a striptease.

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One response »

  1. Michael K. Johnson says:

    This might be an interesting application of Barthes. It doesn’t fit exactly (as you note), but there may be other elements of the Barthes article that would help you construct a critique of the ad. Barthes is not so much interested in striptease as an art form as his interested in examining it as a kind of cliched form that ultimately delivers the opposite of what it promises. He sees it as a “reassuring ritual” that “negates the flesh,” using a “few particles of eroticism” to present as erotic something that really isn’t. You could perhaps say the same thing about the advertisement, which similar uses signifiers (a few particles) to suggest something sexier than what we actually see in the ad. I think this would work as an essay topic, but we need more of Barthes’s demystification of striptease that takes something that should be erotic (removing clothing) and turns it into something that isn’t. In the ad, we might note the overly elaborate costumes, the suggestively “sexy” tableaux, the cliched focus on lips and putting things (food, fingers) in her mouth. These are indeed “ritual gestures which we have seen a thousand times” (to quote Barthes). I think this ad would work, but adapt more of Barthes’ approach: to demystify the mythology of “sexiness” in the ad.

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