Dr. Helena Liddle
27 March 2015
Analysis Paper 2: Old Spice Commercial
There are seven major schools of literary criticism: gender, social/historical, biographical, psychological, mythological, new criticism, and reader based criticism ("Schools of Literary Criticism." A-41 - A-49). Each school allows for us to “read” the “text” (Old Spice Commercial) through diverse theoretical “lenses”. The question is how can these diverse “lenses” allow for us to focus in on one specific aspect of a work at a time? Gender critics examine “how sexual identity influences the creation and reception of literary works” ("Types of Literary Criticism." 1). This school includes gay-and-lesbian study critics ("Schools of Literary Criticism." A-42). From the gender critic point-of-view, the commercial portrays how a man can be more attractive to a woman by using the old spice body wash. It starts out with a fit man standing in just a towel in a bathroom saying “Hello Ladies” and “if he switched to Old Spice he could smell like he’s me” ("Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like." 1). The product is promoted just for men (even though women can use it too technically). They targeted a female audience, and assume a heterosexual sexuality preference from their audience rather than considering a homosexual may also be intrigued by the commercial and/or product. Social/historical critics examine “literature in the cultural, economic, and political context in which it is written or received” ("Types of Literary Criticism." 1). From the social/historical critics point-of view, they portray old spice as an upper class product. The man in the commercial is on a boat with a shirt tied around his shoulders, and has tickets, diamonds, and a white horse. The caption under the video even states “we're not saying this body wash will make your man smell like a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it” ("Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like." 1). They also used an African American man in the commercial which was produced in 2010. This is now an option due to the new culture that arose in America after the Civil Rights Movement was a success.
Biographical critics “explore how understanding an author’s life can help readers more thoroughly comprehend the literary work” ("Types of Literary Criticism." 1). The commercial was produced by the American Advertising Agency Wieden & Kennedy, whose headquarters originated in Portland, Oregon but are now international. Dan Wieden and David Kennedy are the founders of the company. This product these two men made the advertisement for, is a men’s product, and both men are part of the upper class ("Wieden Kennedy | Full Service Integrated Advertising Agency." 1).
Psychological critics “view the themes, conflicts, and characterizations of a work primarily as a reflection of the needs, emotions, states of mind, or subconscious desires of the author” ("Types of Literary Criticism." 1). From the psychological critic point-of-view, the commercial targets women, because women are more likely to make purchasing decisions or convince men to purchase the product. The man in the commercial is the ideal manly man with extravagant gifts to offer, muscles, only a towel on, and a deep soothing voice. The man is funny when he states “I’m on a horse,” which women find to be an attractive attribute ("Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like."). There is constant eye contact, and frequent questions being asked to keep the viewer engaged. They also play the old spice jingle at the end, which is easily recognizable and catchy.
Mythological criticism “is the archetype, a symbol, character, situation, or image that evokes a deep universal response” ("Types of Literary Criticism." 1). From the mythological critic point-of-view, the boat, horse, diamonds, and tickets in the commercial are symbols of the upper class. The product being bathed in bubbles, shower running, steam, boat, sun, and beach are symbols of relaxation. Water and the color white are symbols that represent purity, cleanliness, and life in some cultures. The white horse could symbolically represent fantasy. The tickets, boat ride, and diamonds could be symbols of unity between a man and a woman. All of the symbols in the commercial seem to be positive symbols for our culture.
New critics are more interested in the structure of a work ("Schools of Literary Criticism." A-48). The camera is focused out and then zooms in on the actors face. They use an ex-NFL player Isaiah Mustafa, who has a deep and soothing manly voice. I think they structured this text around the fact that sex sells in our generation. This commercial was aired on TV, online, and through social media to gain a wider range of buyers through modern technology. From the YouTube site a person can share the link to the commercial through the touch of a button to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Blogger, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Live Journal, Digg, etc. On some of the sites (Twitter for example), an individual can even interact with the brand/advertisement company through tweets. New criticism can be applied to any of the schools of literary criticism mentioned above. I think the text, “Hello, ladies. Look at your man. Now back to me. Now back at your man. Now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me. But if he stopped using ladies scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me,” promotes magical realism. Magical realism combines fantasy or dreamlike elements with reality.
Reader based criticism “attempts to describe what happens in the reader’s mind while interpreting a text” ("Types of Literary Criticism." 1). A female watching the commercial may be offended that the product is promoted just for men, and may not find the man attractive. A man may not even be interested in watching the commercial since it is addressed directly to females, because the actor is only wearing a towel, or because it makes the product seem like an upper class product only. A homosexual male/female may be offended that the commercial assumes heterosexual relationships by addressing a male and female relationship only. A person from an older generation, before the Civil Rights Movement was successful, may be offended that they used an African American male in the commercial at all. There is no limit on the many ways viewers could have looked at this text differently. I decided to focus on the negative views different viewers may have while watching it.
As you can see “in choosing (even subconsciously) what to emphasize and what to ascribe less importance to – even in choosing the questions to ask about a work – literary critics place themselves in a particular school of literary criticism” ("Schools of Literary Criticism." 1). It helps you to realize that people of different political parties, religions, cultures, and generations may analyze a text differently from one another. Reading deeper into a “text” allows for a whole new level of experience when analyzing literature.
"Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism." Web. 26 Mar. 2015. <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/722/01/>. "Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like." YouTube. YouTube. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE>. "Schools of Literary Criticism." Appendix 3. A-41 - A-49. Print. "Types of Literary Criticism." Web. 26 Mar. 2015. <http://hhh.gavilan.edu/kwarren/LitCrit.html>. "Wieden Kennedy | Full Service Integrated Advertising Agency." Wieden Kennedy | Full Service Integrated Advertising Agency. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. <http://www.wk.com/>.