A few days ago, Stuart Elliott who writes the “Media Decoder” blog at the New York Times announced a new ad campaign for Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats. The headline read “Ads Promote Butcher Shop’s ‘Sultry Poultry’.” The tweet addressed to me that alerted me to this simply said, “Borrrrriiiinnnnngggg.” (Thanks @benjamin2971!)
The theme of the new ads, to help promote the opening of a second butcher shop, is “Lust for better meat.”
Elliott explains that “The campaign uses a burlesque theme, replete with puns and double entendre.” He continues, “One poster ad, showing a chicken in lingerie, carries the headline ‘Sultry Poultry’ and declares, ‘We love our breasts all natural.’ Another poster ad presents a lamb performing a can-can dance; the headline reads, ‘Hot for Ewe.’ A third poster ad depicts a steer performing a fan dance, dubbed the ‘rump and grind.’”
I have not seen the specific images for this ad campaign. But their description reminds me of numerous examples that I have been sent over the years and that I feature in the sexual politics of meat slide show. Examples like these (from the sexual politics of meat slide show):
In this new ad campaign discussed by the Media Decoder, at least three levels of The Sexual Politics of Meat are functioning.
First, the obvious: Packaging dead animals as sexy females who want to be eaten, and emphasizing fragmented body parts that have been sexualized like “breasts” is the most basic aspect of the sexual politics of meat; it’s been around for ages. The question of who actually is in possession of those breasts disappears. “Our breasts”? We know for sure that is not a chicken or turkey speaking, especially since what exists for sale can only exist if the chicken or turkey is dead.
Selling meat as though as it were female—that’s old news.
Then there was the Turkey Hooker; now there is a chicken in lingerie.
Then there was a stripping pig, now there is a “rump and grind.”
These dead animals want to be wanted; they want to be appetizing, delectable, and devoured.
There is really nothing new here.
Yet, ostensibly, the Media Decoder is tracking new trends, and how businesses connect with consumers in a digital age. If packaging dead flesh as consumable female flesh is not new, what is new?
That’s the second aspect of the sexual politics of meat: The ad campaign isn’t from inside the p.r. industry; it’s from students. Here’s the thing: six students in teams of two developed ad campaigns. We don’t know what the other two teams came up with for ad campaigns; they didn’t have the winning entry. But what all six took away from this exercise is that old truism, “Sex sells.”
What’s new from the Media Decoder’s point of view? There will be an app for iPhones and stickers in the neighborhood that emphasize a “peep” show approach. And here’s the third level of the sexual politics of meat: The Media Decoder’s “gee whiz” approach to the ad campaign’s fundamental commitment to the sexual politics of meat. He lives within that framework, too, and unquestioningly re-presents it.
Ostensibly, this campaign is emphasizing the transparency of the butchers. Here’s transparency: “We sell dead animals. Sure, they might have wanted to live longer, but, hey, your appetites are more important than their lives. All of your appetites…that’s right; if it helps you feel better about their deaths by imagining them this way, well, we all benefit. As long as we accept the basic rules of the sexual politics of meat: It’s about us, not them; if we want to sexualize them to feel better about what we are all doing, that’s fine.”
It’s a sign of a fragmented and fragmenting culture that this ad campaign gets lifted into the stratosphere of the Times. But that’s the strength of the sexual politics of meat—its seamless adoption throughout all levels of culture, from menus to television ads, from your local butcher to the paper of record for the United States.