more on the ‘get a mac’ ads and stereotypes

In response to a bit of discussion going on about the ads reinforcing stereotypes, mainly started by Jill, who kindly linked to my last post on the topic:

The Mac is one sort of instantly recognisable, vaguely urban, effortlessly cool white American guy, the PC is another, deeply unattractive, old economy nerd sort of (much whiter) American guy. Yes, because they’re stock characters, they’re ‘stereotypes’, and so is the supermodel in the ‘better’ results’ ad.

My issue was more basic than that, but also more problematic, if that makes sense. It’s simply that at this level of communication, when a human body is made to represent a global brand community via the process of standing in for the whole computer system associated with that brand (including its design and its ‘thingness’, its GUI, its applications, its users and its cultural meanings), that body has to be white and male.

Jill says:

If you were in any doubt that men are the default and women the aberration (or, on occasion, the creation or possession of men as in this ad), you might want to note how men’s naked bodies are “human anatomy” while women’s naked bodies are “female anatomy”

But in the specific context of the ‘get a mac ads’ it’s not just ‘by default’, it’s not really possible any other way, except in first year communication studies ‘commutation test‘ posters. That’s the first thing. The second thing is what kind of female and ‘non-white’ bodies can appear at all, and what kinds of technologies they get to be* when they do appear.

It’s all so obvious and completely expected and even making comments about it makes me feel like I’m writing a first-year communication studies essay, but that’s why I wondered if, instead of being just crap, it’s ‘really’ super-clever and an invitation to parody? Otherwise I’m just depressed.

*In fact the supermodel only gets to be ‘content‘ anyway, whereas at least the cute young Japanese woman got to be a fun little digital camera. We could say the counselor (sic) is a particular construction of ‘mediation’ where communication is disarticulated from ‘technology’ altogether, but that’s going way too far, even for an eager undergraduate essay.

See also how to dress like a mac.

10 thoughts to “more on the ‘get a mac’ ads and stereotypes”

  1. That last link’s helpful, innit?

    “Ladies? I apologize, I don’t know a whole lot about women’s clothing, and it seems like Apple doesn’t either. Any suggestions?”

    As the lady bloggers say, ‘Le sigh…’

  2. ok, now i am crying!!!!!!!!!
    she is all of the first year students who walked out of my lecture yesterday, boo hoo hoo…
    tear out hair…

  3. Oh god… I’ve been a Mac user since about 1988 but I am completely out of this demographic. Rusted on, so why would they bother to appeal to me? They know that I’ll be updating my G4 whenever I can afford it anyway.

  4. you are the demographic! The Mac is for everyone, as the neat diversity of the Switch advertisements demonstrate.

    But I’m still stuck on the spoof potential. I’ve seen one somewhere that took on the political economy of computer manufacture (something about near-slave labour), but can’t remember where I saw it. We need to take the youtube fratboys and fanboys on, and do a hilarious, rather than humourless, critical spoof video. Maybe we should have a spoof video competition with a funky website, featuring web 2.0-style rounded corners and glassy reflections. Guidelines would include the following:

    1. Yes, when the mac and pc hold hands, it looks like they’re gay. But it’s been done.
    2. Yes, male geeks like to use their computers to watch porn. But it’s been done.
    3. Yes, Linux is a viable third character, who would be _really_ nerdy, not office-corporate-beauracrat geeky, like the current PC. But it’s been done.
    4. None of the above are actually that hilarious.


    Hmmm…what would the prize be?

  5. But see how difficult it is to make a new and hilarious spoof? I really don’t see these ads encouraging anything but the most superficial and stereotypical responses. They strike me more along the lines of the kind of sexism that passes for “irony” so often these days. In other words, it’s hard to play with something that’s been presented as already well-played.

    Incidentally, when we talked about them in class, people were quite torn between thinking the ads were “stupid” and “clever”. Now what does that suggest?

  6. Difficult, yes, but possible, I’m convinced! Don’t crush my Pollyanna-like cultural optimism!

    I do think they already have certain anticipated responses built in, and you’re right, those responses are the most superficial and stereotypical. Which is precisely why i think there’s plenty of room to create unanticipated responses. Just, obviously, no motivation. Because it’s fanboys who make spoofs of the texts that circulate within their own communities, not people who are excluded by or don’t give a shit about those fan communities.

    I’d be very interested to know what about the ads was “stupid” and what was “clever”?

  7. ‘The mac is for everyone’. People who were first attracted to Macs in the 80s might be in their 50s and 60s now. And they’re often quite well off. (I refuse to use the overused b.b. appellation.) How do the ads include them? Except by appealing to their peterpan selves. 🙂 Do any spoof ideas germinate there?

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