We talk about a lot on this blog about how things that having nothing to do with genitals are, nonetheless, gendered. Some sociologists are noting that a cluster of ideas related to intellectualism–liking school, studying hard, being smart, reading, and even caring about ideas–have become feminized. As a result, boys and men express less interest in and invest less in school, and girls and women are kicking their asses, scholastically speaking.
We previously featured an advertising campaign for Wrangler that told men to “stop thinking.” And this week Monika P. and Kat B. sent in an ad campaign for Deisel with the slogan: “be stupid.”
There’s a whole commerical (embedded below), but the general thrust is that smart people are doin’ smart stuff, but Diesel is “with stupid.” Because “stupid is the relentless pursuit of a regret free life.” And while smart people may have “the brains,” stupid people have “the balls.” Besides, they say, “if we didn’t have stupid thoughts, we’d have no interesting thoughts at all.” Which doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, but whatever.
And in case that doesn’t convince you, they concede that “smart has the authority,” but stupid has “one hell of a hangover.” Sign me up.
Ultimately the message is that smart people are repressed and confined, they have no fun, and nothing exciting ever happens to them. So being smart is framed as (but isn’t) the opposite of all these things. They leave you with the thought: “You can’t outsmart stupid.”
UPDATE! That said, Reader Kyle Munkittrick offers a compelling rebuttal at his blog, Pop Transhumanism.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist — January 27, 2010
Stupid guys (or better known as BOYS) are an extreme turn-off.
Meems — January 27, 2010
In that first "stupid has the ball" picture, the guy is running away from dogs...I'd assume that if he's not fast enough, he may not have balls much longer.
Maybe it's because I do identify as "intellectual," but this whole series of ads is totally off-putting to me.
Beelzebub — January 27, 2010
Diesel, as I understand it, is ridiculously expensive. Be stupid, indeed. Especially when there seems to be some correlation between economic class and IQ?
DJ — January 27, 2010
A fairly recent documentary about stupidity revealed that most people could not even define the word... and if you can't define something, it is hard to think clearly about it.
1. Slow to learn or understand, lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; characterized by mental dullness.
2. Tending to make unintelligent and poor decisions, or unreasoned and careless mistakes; given to foolish, careless, and senseless acts.
asinine, backward, barmy, batty, block-headed, boneheaded, bovine, brutish, buffoonish, cloddish,cretinous, cuckoo, daffy, daft, dense, dim-witted, doltish, dopey, dull, dullard, dumbbell, dummkopf,dunce,fatuous, flaky, fool, gaga, goofy, half-baked, half-witted,idiotic,ignoramus,imbecile,inane,inept,irrational,lamebrain,lumbering,moron, nincompoop,ninny, nitwit, numskulled, oafish, obtuse, pinhead,prosaic, retarded, scatterbrained,silly, simple, simpleton, slow-witted, sluggish, thick, vacuous, vapid, weak-minded
Victoria — January 27, 2010
Too bad Stupid doesn't possess the wherewithal to not get caught.
I hate these ads, of course, especially since I'm going to be a high school English teacher. This is the generation of "stupid" I'm going to have to deal with. The one that glorifies being a useless member of society whose sole mission in life is not to find a cure for cancer or figure out what ails an automobile - it's to regularly elicit laughs that come from the most primitive part of the brain. Yay!
Anyone else reminded of the movie Idiocracy when they see these ads?
Pete — January 27, 2010
Struck by two things:
First, how many smart people were involved in the production of this campaign? What must they have been thinking when they animated and photographed and bought space?
And: this could have been a campaign for the Bush Administration. I'm not saying anything so simple as that they were stupid; that would be sophomoric. In fact, take the word "stupid" out of the picture entirely. You'll find the Bush Administration shared a lot of slogans with this campaign.
Alan — January 27, 2010
The concepts of "questioning authority" and "doubting conventional wisdom" are the fundamental basis of scientific progress; these precede the stupid questions that eventually prove conventional wisdom incorrect. Doing these things purely in the name of stupidity and anti-intellectualism is a different story, and I don't want to make excuses for this stuff, but if you really dilute the message, it can make sense in a different context.
Crab — January 27, 2010
The wolves in the fourth image couldn't look more benign. Anyone who's owned a dog before can recognize the "ooh! I see a biscuit! Gimme a biscuit!" face.
Leslie — January 27, 2010
What's the woman in the last picture even doing? It kind of looks like she's taking a picture of her crotch? I don't understand why taking a picture of your crotch in front of a lion is any more dangerous/stupid than just standing in front of a lion...
srand — January 27, 2010
The thing that struck me most about the video was that the actions and ideas associated with being stupid were ones that I had previously seen associated with being creative, while the actions and ideas associated with being smart were ones I had previously seen associated with being strictly logical.
This is not an uncommon duality. But trying to reframe it was smart vs. stupid ... that strikes me as quite a stretch.
(And the print ads gave me an entirely different feel than the video.)
zhaf — January 27, 2010
The marketers are hoping that consumers will adopt an identity of "stupid" (as they define it) and then show their "stupid-pride" by buying and wearing Diesel clothes.
To me, this process is already disturbing in that, even though they want to sell clothes, they're really selling an identity they're creating out of thin air (or as they call it, "lifestyle"). It's not "buy our clothes because they're a great high quality products"; it's "buy our clothes to show your 'stupid-pride'." I know this happens all of the time for a variety of products. Still, it bothers me.
Second, the way I see it presented here, "stupid" is a rebellious way to stick it to "smart" people. It's a way of exploiting people's fears of inadequacy about their intelligence--the suspicions that "smart" people are oppressing them somehow--in order to get them to embrace Diesel's "stupid" identity. It's the, "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more" idea.
To establish their message, this ad campaign creates a lot of false dichotomies. Stupid is imaginative; smart is not. Stupid is creative; smart is not. Stupid is brave; smart is not. Stupid is active; smart is not. And ultimately, in the final twist: stupid is really smart; smart is very dumb. Of course, not a single virtue attributed to stupid (imagination, creativity, bravery, activity, and intelligence) is something that is mutually exclusive to smart. The marketers are simply hoping you won't pay attention long enough to note that, but are hoping you will pay attention just long enough to let the message seep into your unconsciousness. And maybe, just maybe, indirectly affect your buying decisions.
Diesel sells clothes to both men and women, so I see the inclusion of women in the campaign as a mere nod to their demographics, even if this campaign is directed towards men. The art director for the photos utilizes the men are dumb and active, women are sexy and image-conscious time worn stereotypes that always seems to crop up in this stuff.
Overall, with both the photos and the commercials, it's just dumb marketing crap to push clothes, and lazy marketers are always using stereotypical cliches to achieve their goals.
Maybe consumers will see all of this and the campaign will be a financial failure, but as they say, "there is a sucker born every minute."
Rosemary — January 27, 2010
I have to admit that the only thought I have on this is two words: Darwin Award.
Kookaburra — January 27, 2010
What is that man in the war bonnet doing? Besides appropriating and disrespecting an entire culture that his culture almost wiped out.
carrie — January 27, 2010
yes, frat boys are stupid
A — January 27, 2010
Okay, I've got a completely different interpretation.
Maybe, rather than an anti-intellectual movement, it is an non-intellectual pride movement. That is, a promotion of people who happen to have lower IQs and a lower ability to do what our culture classifies as "smart" AKA going to college or writing verbose articles or reading the right books or going to the right type of concert. I'm not saying that Diesel specifically thought that, but the entire "Stupid frat boy" movement in America could be a form of consolation for people who simply do not have the intellectual resources that our culture values at this time.
The Diesel ads play into this-- They concede that smart people get all this stuff (brains and authority). They are just pointing out to their "stupid" brethren that it's not all bad being dumb.
It might be my mindset right now--A text I was just reading includes the nugget "that not everybody gets benefit from intellectual ability" and got me thinking about how not being intellectual isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just different.
I also just read the post about the plus-size model, and the pro-plus size movement might be akin to the pro-stupid movement. (I am NOT equating fuller-figure women with STUPID; let me explain.) The standard of "beauty" in our media/culture has been thin for decades, but now people are realizing that the average woman does not look like that, and instead they are celebrating something that has been looked down upon in the past, and recognizing it as a different but equal form of beauty.
What is "smart" and useful varies from culture to culture and era to era. So people who embrace their "Stupid" are also inherently rejecting what our culture (somewhat arbitrarily, I admit) values and idealizes, and the "Stupid" people are instead finding personal value in their own assets and abilities. They claim in some ads that they do do some useful things with their stupid (Lunch on an inflatable swan?--I'm in), thus placing weight on different areas than our culture tends to and validating their own self worth. So, really, huzzah for them.
Munson — January 27, 2010
I enjoy the different perspectives at play on this site, but this particular discussion seems a little wayward to me. Diesel isn't marketing stupid. It's marketing that you are smart enough to see past their ABSURDIST storylines to view the clothing. Diesel is making a statement about how ridiculous the stories are throughout the fashion industry. When most of the industry goes for the same, stale gender fantasies, Diesel inserts humor.
Case in point. Their campaign slogans over the years:
Love nature, before it's gone.
For successful living.
All Diesel jeans are tested on animals.
And here's a quote from their art director:
[Joakim Jonason] goes on to stress the underlying philosophy of the whole advertising campaign thus : "The campaign is a satire on the whole advertising business ... At its worst, advertising is full of empty promises". The company's International Advertising Director, Maurizio Marchiori, concludes by stating : "We decided to play a little with the irony around the big problems of life".
--Full story here: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Students/lmg9302.html
Remember to laugh once in a while everybody!
Meran — January 27, 2010
Wh... what? Is a Polaroid of her pubic hair supposed to save her from the lion, somehow?
Valentin — January 27, 2010
This is not very new. Think about Budweiser's commercial.
Bagelsan — January 27, 2010
Advertising exec 1: "Screw it, people would have to be stupid to buy these clothes."
Advertising exec 2: "...hey, we can work with that!"
Grafton — January 28, 2010
Heh. I disagree with a central notion expressed in this post. I do not believe the anti-intellectual 'movement' is gendered. Intellectualism isn't feminized. The reason girls and women are 'kicking the asses' of boys and men in academic pursuits is that women with BAs make the same amount, or less, than men with High School diplomas, and there are fewer job opportunities for women with less education. Women essentially pay an extra tax in time in school and money paid for higher education to get the same chances for pay and job stability that men get for free right out of free public High School. I'm sure more women would blow off college if they could get away with it.
phio gistic — January 28, 2010
When I was teaching semiotics to undergrads I liked to show them Diesel ads. I particularly remember one with a bunch of pigs feasting around a table that blatantly mocked their own consumer base. That kind of attitude isn't new for this company - surreal, ugly, insult-your-audience ads for ugly, overpriced clothes are par for the course.
Duckrabbit — January 28, 2010
anyone notice the hilarious phallus in the "climbing over the fence" image? Bottom right corner...
adilegian — January 28, 2010
I have an MA, own and manage my own business, have been tested as a Verbal Genius, and am a 30 year old man. I have also done a lot of things that would be registered as "stupid" according to these ads, such as climbing a nearly-fully vertical construction crane left overnight in a national forest in order to attain a view over three times the height of the treeline, building flying devices out of explosives, et cetera.
These ads mis-equate "stupid" with "risk-taking." Intelligence should not be misidentified with personality. Plenty of dumb people wouldn't have done half the things that I've done that have been called "stupid," and these things have been regarded as "intelligent" after the fact by those who were nay-sayers at the time (such as starting my translation company in response to a possible big first job).
These ads reinforce a false dichotomy.
Evan — January 28, 2010
I believe that stupid in this case is referring to the recklessness of youth - which is always cool.
Claiming to be above reason, while being sexy and half naked is always in vouge
Grizzly — January 29, 2010
I take issue with the phrasing of the comment:
"girls and women are kicking their asses, scholastically speaking."
You recognize that men typically make more money than women. Would you characterize that situation this way; "boys and men are kicking their asses, financially speaking."?
Rachel — January 30, 2010
I think that some of the ads are really funny, but the concept is weird. Not offensive, just weird. I like how, though it's geared toward men, it has a balance of men and women in the ads, so it's not singling out one sex as stupid. But, doesn't the message here "Stupid people buy this product" or, "If you buy this product you're stupid"?
Sydney_Wooten — February 5, 2010
The ad's are funny. Seeing people do stupid things is funny. But, to put it in an advertisement that teens and kids can see all of the time is stupid. The advertisements are telling teens that it's okay to not care about their education, it's okay to run around and set things on fire. I'm glad that I am an "intellectual" because I sure as hell do not want to have a bear going through my fridge.
Micael — February 16, 2010
è uscita la risposta alla campagna Diesel su
a merito degli happy few.
Robin Levick — February 23, 2010
As usual, the authors of this blog post a reflexive and myopic critique, then have to update it when readers or someone at another blog points out that they have only analyzed the image from narrow, intellectually sophomoric and outdated feminist lense that completely ignores the male side of the ad campign/issue. At least you are willing to post updated and links to rebuttals, but it does not seem to prompt you to broaden your view or push you to increase your research and analytical rigor.
Duckrabbit — February 23, 2010
I really liked Kyle Munkittrick's rebuttal. But I also loved this post, and I think you guys are very intellectually responsible.
I just wanted check in and tell you that this blog is the first thing I go to when I wake up in the morning. Don't let the trolls get you down.
Things that Confuse Me « Tracing Memory — February 24, 2010
[...] out Sociological Images for more on the Diesel Campaign, and Native American Legal Update for more on representations of [...]
jason — March 27, 2010
we are dum it's hard to control what are nuts say to what our minds say its like 50 50 but we get a push but yea
Gigi — May 7, 2010
I just read a blogpost about Diesel launching their brand in Mumbai, India - and the launchparty they threw for attention. I just thought i'd share it with you!
Check out the invites for the party! Themed "fake", and represented by woman faking orgasms, "baby, I'm coming" (because nothing is more fake than a woman faking an orgasm, quote...) or the party merch: "Knee caps for better head." or the condoms distributed, with the text "Smart gets the girl. Stupid attends the orgy."
I'm not from India, but I've lived there and hope to do so again. And I think the way Diesel chose to represent their brand to the Indian upper middle class is really sociologically interesting, regarding the effects of globalization and the changing gender roles and stereotypes in this segment of Indian society.
Oh, and I'm absolutely baffled.
Frances Woolley: Stupid sells. Especially stupid men | Full Comment | National Post — March 24, 2011
[...] many dumb men commercials are targeted specifically at men, such as this Diesel advertising campaign. These ads have a message, sometimes subtle, sometimes not: it’s smart [...]
M.G. in Progress — April 3, 2011
Stupid Man commercials reflect unfortunately what is actually there psychologically and sociologically in most of human beings' minds not exactly stereotypes...The problem is that those commercials just perpetuate those conditions