Monday, March 05, 2007

I am Man: how a feminist anthem became a cry for meaty food

When Helen Reddy released a re-recording of "I am Woman" back in 1972, it soon became an anthem for feminists and tired housewives across America. Now, I'm not a big fan of the track, but I can understand how it worked: in a style similar to the protest songs of the late '60s, the track has a simple verse with an easy-to-follow tune and lyrics that invite you to sing along, building up to a big chorus. The song rejects common notions of the female sex, and lays a claim to strength both as individuals ("I am woman, hear me roar") and as a group ("In numbers too big to ignore"). For the many women sick of being labled as the weak sex and frustrated by being second to the male in society, one can understand how the ideas of the song were appealing.

Last year, a Burger King commercial which takes a spin on "I am Woman" began to roll across American TV screens, and it has recenently come to Europe.

The commercial starts with a camera shot from within a posh restaurant, where a guy is being served a small plate of vegetables/finger food ("Chick food") and he's not happy about it. Instead of "I am Woman", we get "I am Man", and as a MAN he wants meat. He strides out of the restaurant in search of the nearest burger joint, and is joined by more MEN in his call for meaty food.

Where Helen Reddy's song tried to prove notions of the female sex wrong, the BK commercial tries to reaffirm outdated notions of the male sex as "honest", uncomplicated beings instead. And that real men need meat. It has a certain "Me Tarzan, You Jane" feel to it, and while I find some of it funny (the burning of underpants as a parallel to burning bras), more than anything it is quite dumb. I don't know whether the European audience will get the spin on the feminist anthem, 'cause I don't know if the original had any impact over here, but hopefully they'll think their take on the male sex is as silly as I think it is.

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