Stiller’s Female Viagra Ad: Sloppy Satire or Misogynistic?

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They’ll call anything ‘comedy’ these days…

Ben Stiller’s spoof commercial that was recently shown on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon got big laughs from the audience members of the show. I’m discounting the laughter as my measure for any kind of comedic value of the commercial, since these were Jimmy Fallon fans. I actually can’t tell if the spoof was meant to poke fun at the old joke that men are inadequate lovers, and fail at deciphering female anatomy, or if it was meant to tear down the credibility of female sexual dysfunction issues and female sexuality in general.

I feel like the ‘comedy’ within the spoof is from another time, like, from the 80s or 90s. Whatever the intention of the commercial is, it isn’t funny. There is nothing new or clever that is said within the script, and I feel like it undermines the seriousness of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which  is what the drug, ‘female Viagra’ (which is actually called flibanserin, or Addyi) is aiming to treat. The commercial brings up the same tired examples of old-fashioned ideas of female sexuality, in that women have sex out of duty and obligation. Now, this could be satirical, calling attention to the fact that women do and can enjoy sex, but if that’s the point, then it is done rather sloppily. My instinct is that Stiller is not a friend of the third and fourth-wave feminist, and that this commercial was produced simply to poke fun at the idea of women’s sexuality and the existence of a female equivalent to Viagra in general, which are perhaps ridiculous ideas to some.

Female hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is a medical disorder, and I don’t think that anyone would stand for a commercial that was making light of male erectile dysfunction by waving around a limp noodle for the entirety of the advertisement. Viagra, in all forms was simply created to help combat the sexual problems that both sexes can experience. For males, the problems are more often physical, but for females, stress and psychological issues can play a major part in decreased libido. The flibanserin pill is meant to balance different hormones within a female’s body to increase sexual desire, and early tests show that the pill can help to combat vaginal dryness and likewise,  increase blood flow and sensation in the genitals. So… I’m missing the joke here.

Even the script of the commercial is sloppily researched. One line reads, “even though 0% of women suffer from erectile dysfunction…” Right. So, women have erectile tissue within their genitals, and the myriads of reasons as to why there is low blood flow to the genitals could be described as some kind of erectile dysfunction. The rest of the line is, “… over 98% of women over 30 suffer from another condition, called ‘not being turned on by their husband anymore.'” The line is so reductive and noninclusive that it makes me think that there is meant to be some satire within the commercial… if only I could figure out the point of it all. Perhaps the joke is that Stiller’s character is the clueless ‘everyman,’ or perhaps they are attempting to support women’s rights. I’m kind of thinking that comedy only works if the audience can figure out the joke… so… good try? Or, maybe I’m over thinking this entire thing, and the commercial was produced with a much more universal, albeit, slightly more sinister agenda for a Hollywood actor; the commercial was most likely produced aiming for the lowest common denominator of a viewer, hoping to garnish some laughs and promotion for Stiller’s upcoming movie.

 

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Playboy Re-brand Astonishes None

Playboy has released their first ‘non-nude’ issue of the magazine, as was promised last October, when Playboy’s marketing team announced they would be making changes to the brand in order to become more accessible to readers (see ‘Playboy Will Soon Be Nudity-Free‘ for all the whats and whys). Now, this description of ‘non-nude’ models is a misnomer for me. Alright, technically the models are wearing some clothes, but this is not anything different from what the models wore in the previous design of Playboy! Below, the picture of Miss March, model Dree Hemingway is wearing a sheer top…

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… which seems like a very similar concept to a 2007 shoot of actress Garcelle Beauvais, shown below.

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I’m failing to see the difference, other than the out-dated feel of this one. I know that Playboy was notorious for portraying models in a much more erotic manner, but trying to market themselves as ‘non-nude,’ when they still have this content is just misleading.

Playboy announced their change last year, apparently to become a more family friendly ‘entertainment’ magazine (as opposed to pornography), and therefore, become accessible to people because of the less offensive concepts they are designing. Perhaps the new shoots are more tame in comparison, but I say that the fact that their new magazine is boring will be the most offensive thing by far to their readers.

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This image is a part of Hemingway’s photo-shoot. I don’t find anything about this photo visually interesting to look at. I would also argue that this contradicts Playboy’s -non-nude’ policy. She looks pretty nakie to me. Well… Ok. She’s wearing shoes. You win this round, Playboy.

I feel as if Playboy has missed their mark on their quest for a re-brand and increased revenue. They spend thousands of dollars on on concept teams, wardrobe and lighting, and the series that I have seen are all tired. Sheer tops and and underwear? Cheeky bedroom scenes?

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This has all been done before, and in fact, I think that I have have even seen more interesting photos on amateur models’ Instagram pages. From what I see, this change for Playboy has not been worth the hassle.

On Why I Can’t Stand Chelsea Handler (‘s Comedy)

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So, I have never been a fan of Chelsea Handler’s brand of ‘comedy;’ I don’t find shock-value comedy entertaining, and call me old-fashioned, but I think that comedians should find witty, unexpected, or dare I suggest, intelligent ways to recite their anecdotes. I also need to find something relatable in someone’s character, something likeable in a performer for me to root for their success. I have watched and read several of Handler’s works, and have found her to be lacking in all of the areas previously described. Recently, I watched her racism episode on her new Netflix series, Chelsea Does, and my opinions of her changed from a mild discontentment in regards to her brand of humor, to a general dislike of Handler as a person.

The Chelsea Does episode failed in so many ways for me; comedy can be used to address racism and discrimination when used appropriately ; satire would be my first (and possibly only) choice. The episode involved segments of multiple, well-known comedians to discuss racism within stand-up comedy and within the entertainment industry itself. This is not done well; hardly any of the comedians has anything of substance to say. I feel like there is no ‘real’ dialogue happening; each comedian is ‘on,’ constantly trying to one-up each other with their witticisms and shock value comments. I guess the lure of potential capital from their exposure on Netflix was too enticing to pass up for these comedians; they treat the time that they have on-camera as if there were an invisible brick wall behind them.

Another segment within the episode involves Handler discussing her comedy with a panel of academics and media-related personnel. I get the feeling that Chelsea was quite nervous to participate with the group, with good reason. A discriminatory comment against the Asian community is soon brought up, and Chelsea begins to laugh her own joke that was made in the past. Her laugh seems forced to me, like she is overcompensating, and attempting to defend her work by proving to the panel that she should be given permission to make these comments, because of how hilarious they are. Handler is later told: “[s]tereotypes are created for a purpose. They don’t fall from the sky. They always are attached to a political agenda. It’s about certain groups being able to dominate other groups,” which should be enough for most to reevaluate their standards. The only response that Handler can come up with is that African-Americans are known for being well-endowed;  therefore, stereotypes can’t be all bad, then… right? Her dim-witted remarks about genitalia are answered thoughtfully, and with more patience than what I would have been able to muster. Chelsea still doesn’t get it. Her general defense of her work is that she makes fun of ‘every group,’ so it must be OK.

I am really, really done with this chowderhead.