Upon first glance, this advertisement for Advil, an anti-inflammatory drug, appears harmless and even endearing. Pictured on it is an African-American woman who is smiling while one of her children playfully covers her eyes. She is quoted with her testimonial, “I take Advil because my kids deserve a mom without a headache” and below in fine print one learns that her name is Sunshine and that she is a mother of three. The advertisement appears in black and white (with the exception of the word ‘Advil’ which is in bold yellow letters) perhaps to frame the image of the mother as timeless and unchanging. However charming the advertisement may seem, the image and the accompanying text are deeply problematic.
Advil as well as many other pharmaceutical and drug companies are attempting to sell not only their product, but also a set of social values, namely regarding gender, to their consumers. The visual focus on the African-American woman is the brand’s attempt to appear inclusive and progressive, yet the depiction of her as a mother is entirely backwards and unprogressive. In essence, the subtext of the quote highlights traditionalistic notions of gender roles. Advil enforces a set of social expectations in regards to women and how they must adhere to their nurturing tendencies. By treating her headache, Sunshine can return to her role of being a good mother. If one considers the reverse, the advertisement suggests that not taking medication will result in a woman who is lacking or deficient in her feminine abilities because she chooses to dwell in her ailment or take care of it in other ways. The very idea of a headache being a bodily and natural condition goes out the window; the advertisement implies that it is a feminine failure to take a sick day from all activities, especially those to do with being a mother. The benefit of the medication is then not intended for the suffering individual, but rather others around her. My jamming will address how, in fact, it is not really ibuprofen that Advil is selling, but rather an aggressive campaign of framing women as mothers and NOT in regards to their careers, interests, hobbies, etc.
My jamming philosophy for this advertisement was one of irony and sarcasm. By replacing Sunshine’s original quote with my own interpretation, I wished to highlight the satirical nature of the image of the woman’s eyes being covered. I made a point to repeat the word “blind” twice to accompany the image and the themes at hand. Firstly, the term “blinded” is used to emphasize how society and major brands blind people into adopting their social norms and values. And secondly, the term is used to underline the original issue at hand that Advil is meant to be addressing: blinding headaches. The quote attempts to encapsulate the pervasiveness of gender roles being enforced: not taking Advil will result in the perception of a maladjusted woman fleeing her mothering duties.
In addition to this quote, I added two speech bubbles to give Sunshine a sarcastic, but telling voice. In the first, Sunshine reveals how the advertisement and by extension, society, wishes to depict her solely as a mother and in no other light. The second speech bubble ironically addresses the ways in which Advil accomplishes two things: curing a headache and advocating for traditional gender roles. I made a conscious choice to leave the brand’s slogan “Take Action. Take Advil” the way it was as I thought it further evidenced my argument. The terms “take action” seem to indicate a notion of a proactive woman who will do whatever it takes to return to the roles outlined for her by the media and society. By using a sardonic tone throughout my jamming, I wanted to stress how the messages of women measuring themselves to these values were wrong and unjust and disempowering.