Dennis K. Vargas
"How Years of Macho Food Marketing is Killing Men"
College Writing 2, Dr. Ana Roncero-Bellido
The main reason I chose to write about this article was because of how outdated it is. Being a relatively current article, one would expect the information in it to be applicable to our culture, but it's not. Even now we see ad campaigns like Old Spice's "Men Have Skin, Too" and Gatorade's decision to have more and more women in their marketing. I just find it baffling that someone would be writing an article about the effects of a problem they acknowledge will no longer be around, and giving it a clickbaity headline to boot.
Excerpt from “How Years of Macho Food Marketing is Killing Men”
“In the end, what one can take away from Sax’s article is that the era of extremely shallow “manly” marketing will soon be considered a bygone era. No matter how much this style of marketing affected men’s health back in its heyday, its relevance today is slim to none. Now they only serve the purpose of being laughed at by people like Sax who look back on their days as a kid buying Mr. Bigs at the convenience store. We can only hope that there will never be another era of “manly” food marketing, but if there ever is, people like Sax and Parkin will be there to put it back where it belongs, in the past.”
“How Years of Macho Food Marketing is Killing Men” - Rhetorical Analysis
by Dennis Vargas
Taking a look at food advertising, past and present, has always made me wonder about what goes into the ad. Why is NFL star Peyton Manning hanging out in a Papa John’s? Why is Macho Man Randy Savage aggressively telling me to snap into a processed meat stick? And what’s the point of marketing these terrible foods with athletes, who probably never even eat the food they're promoting? The reason behind the last question: because athletes have a great impression on male consumers. In David Sax’s 2016 article “How Years of Macho Food Marketing is Killing Men,” Sax takes a retrospective look at food marketing, more specifically how it’s marketed towards men. Sax’s look backward into the field of advertising examines how food companies advertise to men and how the industry had created a “manly” food culture to appeal to their male consumers, as well as examining its impact on men health wise, physically and mentally. The goal of Sax’s article is to make the audience more aware of the tricks companies use to promote food to men, and he does a really good job in doing so. To do this effectively, Sax has to connect to his audience and adequately critique the advertising he talks about in his article. Sax bolsters his article, in this regard, in a few main ways including outside sources, a humorous tone, and personal experiences with the subject at hand, culminating in a well written article but, at the same time, one that somehow only touches on the point it’s trying to make with its headline.
The first way Sax appeals to the reader in his article is through an introduction to the subject of food advertising. He does this by telling a personal anecdote from his childhood: an average day in his life when he’d mosey his way around town on his way home from school, picking up snacks and sweets along the route. This anecdote builds up to his memories of buying a Mr. Big bar, an extremely large chocolate bar which often came with the tagline of “When you’re this big, they call you Mister,” introducing our first example of a food company appealing to men. Sax’s audience for this article is mainly men and that is shown through this anecdote. Like many other men, Sax gets to look back on a childhood experience where he enters convenience stores buying sodas and candies which is something most men did as kids, and something I’ve seen a lot of guys doing at my age as adults. Just like Sax, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of the male audience reading this article can also relate to the example of “manly” marketing presented by Mr. Big. Whether it be Randy Savage snapping into a Slim Jim or Michael Jordan eating a Big Mac, “manly” marketing, in all its forms, was probably something Sax’s audience experienced. By including this anecdote, Sax is presenting a sense of ethos to his audience as it makes him relatable. His male audience which has experienced the same thing as him, or similar, will take this anecdote as a sign that Sax is in the same boat with them and be more willing to listen to his critique and examination of food advertising, making for a really strong introduction that establishes his credibility with the audience.
The second way Sax supports his examination and critique is through the use of outside sources. Sources from experts are used in the article to explain why “manly” marketing works and what its effects are on men. This starts in the tenth paragraph when he mentions Parkin’s book Food is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. Ernest Ditcher, a student of Sigmund Freud, is quoted in the book as saying that many people categorized the sex of food which, according to Sax, is the reason why the marketing industry will push certain foods as “feminine” and other foods as “manly” in their advertising. Sax also uses outside sources when talking about the effects of “manly” marketing. When bringing up the consequences of “manly” marketing, Sax cites the American Heart Association and the Kaiser Family Foundation, two very reputable sources when it comes to health and wellness. In the articles linked by Sax is evidence backing up his claims of higher rates of heart disease and obesity in men. Sax attributes these consequences, in part, to the foods marketed as “manly” being very unhealthy for you and not promoting wellness. By introducing reputable outside sources Sax is, again, able to build trust in his audience as well as introducing logos in the form of statistics around the health and wellness of men. Outside sources presented by Sax do a great job of supporting his critique of these companies' advertising and offer explanations as to why food is marketed as “manly”.
The third way Sax supports his critique is through the use of humor. Throughout the article Sax pokes fun at a lot of the examples of “manly” food whether it be through crass language or comedic simplifications. Comedy, in Sax’s article, is used to get the audience to laugh at what some would call the stupidity of “manly” commercials. An example would be a Gatorade commercial mentioned early into the article in which J.J. Watt pushes over a Gatorade vending machine, as to say something like only manly men can drink Gatorade. The stupidity of the commercial is apparent to anyone who watches it and it’s not the only advertising mentioned by Sax. Mr. Big bars are basically “chocolate penises” and a protein yogurt mentioned later on in the article could be considered the “ultimate ad campaign for semen”. The inclusion of humor by Sax stands as a critique of the “manly” marketing. By simplifying it down to its basic components, Sax shows that this marketing is just plain dumb. Sax’s comedy also works really well at connecting to the target audience, as crass and inappropriate humor is usually the type of humor that men like, aka the target audience. Pathos, via way of humor, works really well in Sax’s article as a way to critique the ads and connect to the audience.
However, with the culmination of all these supports, ethos, logos, and pathos, one would expect Sax to end his article with a definitive statement about “How Years of Macho Food Marketing is Killing Men” but he really doesn't. In fact, near the end of the article Sax starts to stray away from his original notions about the effect of “manly” advertising. He begins talking about how men today aren’t as susceptible to this kind of advertising as nowadays “the male foodie is increasingly the norm.” Sax takes extra effort to explain that men today actually care about what they put into their bodies and won’t just buy food based on “manly” marketing. The final few paragraphs defeat the purpose of the title and start to undermine the rest of what would’ve been a great examination and critique of food marketing.
In the end, what one can take away from Sax’s article is that the era of extremely shallow “manly” marketing will soon be considered a bygone era. No matter how much this style of marketing affected men’s health back in its heyday its relevance today is slim to none. Now they only serve the purpose of being laughed at by people like Sax who look back on their days as a kid buying Mr. Big’s at the convenience store. We can only hope that there will never be another era of “manly” food marketing, but if there ever is, people like Sax and Parkin will be there to put it back where it belongs, in the past.