Friday, April 30, 2010

Monster-ous Advertising: Monster Energy and violent masculinity

As some readers may know, two of my biggest interests as a feminist are gender and advertising. The messages advertising sends are important to understand. They help reinforce our understanding of the world, especially the gendered aspects. These messages are everywhere and they can hardly be ignored.

I work at a convenience store on my college campus, and a few weeks ago I was stocking a cooler of Monster Energy drinks when the violence associated with their drinks became unavoidable. To start with the name Monster and their logo which is the letter "M" made out of three claw marks. Both the name and the image convey a certain level of animal aggression that carries through to all the products that they market. I took some pictures on my phone to post here.

Notice the product name above (M-80) and how the zero resembles the cross hairs on a sight of a gun (the Khaos drink also uses this tactic).

I think the Monster Assault* was the most disturbing to me. I know that part of my strong reaction was due to the fact that sexual assault has been a very hot topic at my college, so seeing the word assault automatically put some very troubling ideas in my head. I will not say that Monster's choice of drink name in any way was intended to imply anything relating to sexual assault, but that does not free them from the consequences of the choice.

At a very practical level, what is the point of calling an energy drink "Assault"? Not only does it give no indication of the drink's taste, but it is a word with numerous bad connotations. What are we to think about this product? That it helps prepare one for assault?

No. Monster is playing a typical advertising game in which a very aggressive, even violent, masculinity becomes as much of a product as the drink that the company is actually trying to sell.

I make the assertion that the violence being marketed here is masculine for several reasons.

First, violence and aggression are generally viewed in this society as masculine traits. In the gender dichotomy we are taught to think in/live by, women are associated with a timid femininity. Men, on the other hand, are associated with an assertive, agressive, and even acceptably violent masculinity.

Second, if you view the Monster Energy Drink website you will find a section entitled "Monster Girls" that showcases the type of women that men are supposed to find attractive (thin, big boobed, hardly dressed, sexually available -- look at the bios).

Clearly, these drinks are meant to be masculine. They are meant to appeal to men.

The problem, therefore, lies in the violent aggression in the words used on Monster products. Buying into the masculine = violent stereotypes to sell products only perpetuates troubling ideas about gender. If boys and men are taught to believe (from TV, family, friends, magazines, and even energy drinks) that in order to be real men, they must be violent, or at least be interested in violence, the implications are frightening. Such beliefs can manifest themselves in numerous, problematic ways. Verbal violence, domestic violence, sexual assault. All of these are very real problems that are added to when violent masculinity is sold to boys and men everywhere they turn.

In a society where only one kind of masculinity (that is agressive and has no room for compassion or other off setting characteristics) is accepted and being taught to our boys and men, it is no wonder that violence is such a problem.

*On the back of the Monster Assault can is printed the following: At Monster we don't get too hung up on politics. We're not for "the War," against "the War," or any war for that matter. We put the "camo" pattern on our new Monster Assault can because we think it looks cool. Plus it helps us fire up to fight the big multi-national companies who dominate the beverage business. We'll leave politics to the politicians and just keep doing what we do best - make the meanest energy supplements on the planet. Declare war on the ordinary! Grab a Monster Assault and Viva LA REVOLUTION! That's their side of it. I'll leave that without comment, except I wonder what they say about their Monster Hitman energy shooters?


Chelsea Rising said...

Great post, thanks for the insight!

I was never a fan of monster, not aspirational advertising for me, but I'll be on the look out for gender roles in the energy sections now :)

Emily said...

The design on the "assualt" can makes me feel like it's refering to assault rifles, especially as I don't know what the source for their "M-80" name was but I'm pretty sure it's the model of a 50-caliber sniper rifle.

So, it really creeps me out because it brings to mind a couple specific guys I know with anger issues and fascinations with high-powered firearms that makes me seriously worry about my safety at work sometimes =(

Amelia said...

I think the association of the Assault can with an assault rifle is a fair reading of their product packaging. I was unaware of the possible connection between M-80 and a sniper rifle. That is troubling...

Either way, whether this message was intended or not, the fact that it can be read in such a troubling way is really not right.

Also, Emily, if you are worried about your safety at work, I suggest you talk to someone at your workplace about it. Bring up specifics instances, etc. You should not have to feel unsafe at work for any reason.

Let me know if I can help.

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous.

The word "assault" carries a LOT MORE MEANING THAN SEXUAL ASSAULT.

I mean, it's one thing if it said sexual assault, but it doesn't.

You're.. this is ridiculous.

I can't even take you the least bit seriously. It's too laughable that you'd equate an energy drink with sexual assault.

Take a lesson from Feminism 101: IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU.

Amelia said...


Let me quote the actual post that I actually wrote so you can get a better idea of what I actually meant:

"I will not say that Monster's choice of drink name in any way was intended to imply anything relating to sexual assault, but that does not free them from the consequences of the choice."

Take a lesson from Blog Commenting 101: Actually read the post before you make yourself look like an idiot.


Tiberius said...

I look forward to the day when someone can criticize a liberal/conservative viewpoint without trying to accuse or demean the proponent of that viewpoint.

I totally agree with your comment about advertising and violence in America. It's really obnoxious how much this kind of imagery pervades our culture, although sometimes it's so over the top I think it's just funny (i.e. "300").

Wounded Soul said...

Taking on Failblog and now energy drinks...clearly you have your priorities in order. Thanks for being a voice for those affected by energy drink labels. You truly are a champion!

Amelia said...

Thank you, Wounded Soul.

You clearly have better to offer, seeing as how you linked to your own blog that you run in addition to being a full-time student, holding a job, and working in several feminist organizations (and a feminist radio show) on your college campus.


Anonymous said...

Gee, Wounded Soul. Bog forbid that anyone public post an opinion or cultural criticism on a subject that is not on the list of Appropriately Important Topics(TM) as identified by theReally Real Internet Feminists Association

Amelia said...

So yeah. About that violent masculinity that men are being indocrinating into through all possible means in our society... (Possibly provocative comment trying to get other comments back on track)

Amelia said...

****indoctrinated*** I need spell check on my own comments.