In an odd way it's like a full circle.
The Evan Williams beauties are like allegorical figures - beautiful embodiment of the whiskey itself like the farm girl reaper of 1860 was the embodiment of Ceres - goddess of grain. But it's just another step away from women being depicted as real people.
It, thus, wouldn't be long until we dispense with any shred of personhood for the woman at all.
With this late 2000s ad campaign from Jim Beam we have faceless tight cropped image of female sexuality posing with the whiskey. Sexuality accents the product like it would in a fashion ad.
A fashion ad?
Yes - like this notorious Dolce & Gabbana pseudo rape ad. It's all about male power and the woman is a silent victim - robbed even of her power to shock or evoke pity because she is so damned fashionable and immaculately put together. Male power is hot and female submission is a style decision - like whether to wear leather.
In this cultural environment it's not hard to see how we might end up in a situation where a whole ad campaign could be envisioned where whisky is a lifestyle accessory for men who completely objectify women; treating them as conquests and obstacles. Indeed, on a recent Dewar's spot... on a dark road late at night with our handsome blond male protagonist being saved by the dark haired Baron. Then ending up in a bar where this lady (on the right in the red dress) comes walking up:
Oh NO! It's an overweight, and thus horribly unattractive woman! She is clearly not at all a part of the century long narrative of female beauty so carefully constructed over decades. That's unacceptable! Who will save our poor male protagonist now?
141falling on the grenade142This grotesque: the cruelty to depict the potential affections of an otherwise attractive person who happens to be overweight is what drove this ad over the line as politically incorrect discrimination.
The controversy over this spot was well documented on Grub Street:
And, perhaps, even better on Malt Maniac Oliver Klimek's blog Dramming:
184Swedish bikini team185
202hosted203Hint: it involves disrespecting women and embracing some very antique notions of behavior. That socialization lesson is underscored by fashion and facial hair cues taken from the Victorian period.
For more on this pulled campaign read this fawning piece:
236The Drinking Man represents the man who is looking not to take life by the horns
Now, thanks to Johanne McInnis (The Whisky Lassie) that particularly offensive ad campaign from Dewars was pulled - but that it was even produced and then released shows that our Zeitgeist is at least partially here: Feminism took whiskey away; whiskey's return means feminism's negation. Women in this ad campaign have no autonomous reality. They are just affirmation for the men in these ads.
Meanwhile, in the real world, women are becoming an important market for whiskey.
Yet, much of the whiskey marketing feels like it's giving life lessons to sadly clueless men. Significantly, women in these recent ads are not about - as they were in the 30s-50s - class, or - as they were in the 60s-70s - immediate sex potential. Now they have become accessories to male empowerment. The point here isn't that women will have sex with you if you give them whisky. It's that women will let you be in the dominant position - as if the women's movement of the 60s and 70s had never happened. Whiskey is presented as a cultural vestige of a time before feminism - and a magical way to transport you there.