Colt 45 and the ‘real men’ myth

In late 2008, Colt 45 Philippines launched four 15-second advertisements featuring a group of men in different situations. The ad campaign intends to reintroduce Colt 45 as the “strong beer for real men.” The marketing blitz however contains highly insensitive gender stereotypes.

In the first ad, a man is shown as making comments about an unseen woman’s fashion style even while his peers are drooling over the lady’s “sexy” body (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGvR6AWq7k8). In the second advertisement (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qvspk7PzWcU), a man is seen walking away from his buddies who are all watching a wrestling match on TV to make sweet talk to his girlfriend on the phone. The third advertisement (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8iH_ffdVG4) shows a man weirdly wiping a glass with his hand towel even though he himself is already sweating. The fourth and last installment (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAH530XP4yQ) shows a man using a facial oil wipe.

After doing those “unmanly” acts, the deviant received uneasy looks from his peers before being obliterated by a Colt 45 giant bottle from above. A husky-voiced narrator will then say: “Men should act like men. Strong beer should truly be strong.” The media falls under what Louis Althusser describes as cultural ISA (ideological state apparatus)[1]. According to Althusser, social institutions “use suitable methods of punishment, expulsion, selection, etc., to ‘discipline’” individuals who refuse to abide by the ruling ideology.

The catchphrase “men should act like men” mandates that all men have to act according to socially-established gender rules of conduct. This include not showing a “soft” even to his girlfriend, not allotting so much time to clean his face, and not making any comments about a woman’s fashion style. Men who do not observe the standards of heteronormativity are regarded as “hindi tunay na lalake,” or worse, labeled as “effeminates” and “gays.”

One way for people to know about these gender prescriptions is through the media. We are constantly bombarded by the media with messages essentially dictating everyone how they should act in accordance to gender norms. The media is the main arena where the dominant ideology asserts its authority on one hand while on the other; this is also where marginalized ideologies fight for greater acceptance or inclusion into the mainstream.

Men should always be stoic, dominant, and unyielding even when proven wrong. There are also activities they cannot engage in as well as TV programs they can’t watch (Glee, for instance) because it is unmanly to do so. The media therefore becomes the platform by which a battle of gender symbols (ergo, what is manly vs. what is not) takes place.

However, as mentioned by Marxist intellectual Antonio Gramsci, the status of the dominant ideology is perpetually challenged since not everyone readily accepts it[2]. Nowadays, the media no longer have qualms about featuring men who does not conform to the so-called standards of being “tunay na lalake” (e.g. metrosexuals, effeminates, and men having sex with other men) in films, television shows, and the like. One manifestation of this is the proliferation of independent films that focuses on a gay’s life (e.g. “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” and “Lihim ni Antonio”).

Meanwhile, some TV programs like GMA News TV’s Best Men put men who are extra conscious about their appearance in a better light. These attempts represent efforts toward making compromises as regards the dominant thinking of how a man should act. Despite these attempts, the ruling ideal for “real men” still remains and has to be reinforced. Hence, we have the abovementioned series of Colt 45 ads.

colt 45 strong beer for real men
Colt 45 positions itself as a “strong beer for real men”

Having this kind of heterosexist message constantly being harped upon in the media will affect an individual’s self-identity, especially for those who grew up not meeting the standards of being a “tunay na lalake.” A young boy for instance who is used to being told by his mom to bring an umbrella all the time might end up believing that he is not man enough just because of it.

The whole concept of “men should act like men” goes against the central thesis of queer theories, which says that sex, gender, and sexuality are “fluid continuums in which identity based on fixed categories is a meaningless concept[3].” In short, being sweet and extra-conscious of how you look will not lessen a man’s masculinity since everything is in a constant flux to begin with.

This alone, as Michel Foucault argues[4], means that drawing clear cute demarcation lines between gender and sexual identities are impossible. More importantly, these definitions are mere social constructions to begin with. In conclusion, it can be said that since the media plays a significant role in shaping a person’s gender identity, it should be extra careful in setting baseless standards like what “real men” should do. It is good to note that the Philippine Commission on Women two years ago blew the whistle against Colt 45’s gender insensitive advertising campaigns[5].


[1] Althusser, Louis. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatusses. Marxist.org (http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1970/ideology.htm). Retrieved October 9, 2012

[2] Storey, John. (1993). An Introduction to Cultural Theory and Popular Culture (2nd ed.). London: Prentice Hall.

[3] Jagose, Annamarie (1996), Queer theory An Introduction, New York University Press, New York

[4] Dollimore, Jonathan, Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault ,The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1991).

[5] __________. Beer ad pulled out for derogatory women portrayal. Philippine Commission on Women website (http://www.pcw.gov.ph/article/beer-ad-pulled-out-derogatory-women-portrayal). Accessed October 9, 2012

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About Mark Madrona 1191 Articles
Mark Madrona is a prize-winning blogger, online journalist, and educator from the Philippines. Previously a book editor, he is now teaching communication subjects for two public universities in Manila. His blog The Filipino Scribe won 3rd place in a blog competition organized by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). In 2015, it was one of the finalists in the 2015 Lasallian Scholarum Awards for Best Online Feature Article in Youth and Education. He also won the Best Blog Award during the 2011 Population and Development Media Awards, the youngest recipient of that recognition. Know more about him here: http://www.filipinoscribe.com/about/.

4 Comments on Colt 45 and the ‘real men’ myth

  1. Excellent post!

    Beer, sports, online games, and even unhealthily sized hamburgers are engendered as MALE products and are ads promoting their consumption are thus targeted to capture the fancy and caress the ego of male audiences. Advertisements cater to stereotypes since stereotypes are… well, created by people to make the world easier to understand.

    I agree that advertisement companies should stop feeding people with twisted notions about sexuality or human nature in general, but then again advertisements are extensions of human society — or rather, agents also stuck within a structure that other agents have also crafted (Giddens, A.).

    It’s REFRESHING to see that another Filipino blogger shares these sad sentiments that I have also been harboring against mainstream media. Personally, I feel that congress should exercise police power and regulate advertisements for the sake of Filipino society,

    • Hi Garvanguelle,

      Thank you for your compliment. Getting acknowledged by my readers for what I do is simply priceless. The MTRCB should be the one monitoring these advertisements but I don’t know how exactly they deal with gender insensitive ad campaigns like this one. Recently, I saw another disturbing ad on TV. I just can’t recall the specifics right now. Anyway, please feel free to read my other entries. Salamat!

      Mark

      • The thing is, the MTRCB is only an administrative body and can only regulate tv ads in accordance with the policies laid out by Congress. Kaya there should be a law by Congress that prohibits these sexist ads. Kaya nga lang, suntok sa buwan talaga na magkaroon ng batas na ganun given the current state of the Legislature :(. You’re welcome! I actually find it idiotic that ads actually encourage men to forsake their health and eat these horrid, cholesterol-pumped burgers, beers, and other carbo-overloaded junk. It’s not only insensitive — it’s downright BAD advertising.

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