Textual Analysis – Courage Beer: disrupting macho beer ads.

This textual analysis will explore the construction of male gender stereotypes, within the advertisement for: Courage Beer. This image has been placed in the appendix at the end of this document along with other beer advertisements for the purpose of ‘intertextual reference’. Central to understanding the connotation and cultural understanding inherent within the advertisement is the use of a caption, and ‘word play’ within that caption, to reference other cultural contexts and discourses. I will demonstrate through an analysis of the intertextual ‘frames’ of narrative, genre and discourse, in addition to an analysis of signs used within the advertisement, that male disempowerment is being connoted within a framework of duty, to both family and state. This disempowerment is a form of emasculation which, forms the core of the advertisement’s humorous appeal. Beer is viewed as a form of ‘comfort food’ legitimised through a cultural and state sanctioned sense of ‘duty’. The transference of power to the product being advertised, through the use of this discourse, suggests that the young man in the advertisement and other young men should do their duty and drink beer to enable them to do so.

The use of text within the advertisement for Courage beer is very interesting and adds to the cultural referencing that is present within the advertisement. There is an image of a full glass of beer superimposed over the photo which, is disproportionately large in relation to the other items in the room such as the armchair behind it. An intriguiging speech bubble is placed on top of the beer which contains the phrase: ‘Take courage my friend’. The word play relies on cultural understanding that when someone ‘takes courage’ they are being advised to summon their strength and carry on with a pre-destined plan of action. This phrase would be used within the context of giving advice to someone during times of adversity. An intertextual reference can also be made to the very British, “Keep Calm and Carry On” propaganda poster / slogan from WWII, which has enjoyed a resurgence in the last 10 years and has been co-opted for a number of other slogans and purposes including selling merchandise (see appendix 1.5). Media analyst Josteing Gripsrund suggests:

When text is acting as a relay, the text takes over the transmission of the message so that “… some new meaning is added to the image as a whole. The captions in the dialogue bubbles of comics, are a much used example of this.” (Gripsrud 2006, 25).

The beer in the advertisement would appear to be talking to the young man in the image who, is the only person looking directly at the camera. This might suggest that he is looking at us, the viewer for advice. It may also be suggested that the beer is not only talking to the man but is also talking for the audience. This would suggest that both the man and the audience, are sharing a conversation over a  beer. Naturally, a glass of ‘Courage’ beer is being recommended as the best choice for this occasion.

Within this advertisement is a cultural ‘frame’ of Narrative, suggesting inevitability and hopelessness. The denotative sign of a suit jacket, folded neatly over the armrest of the armchair in the room, similar in colour and fabric to the pants that the young man is wearing, suggests he was wearing the jacket but, he is now wearing a hand-knitted jumper made for him by his grandmother. The casual relationship between these signs suggests a narrative of a young man visiting his grandmother in a nursing home. The large expanse of manicured lawns and parkland visible outside the old woman’s room would suggest this. The inherent comedy in the advertisement is primarily derived from an implied and inevitable ‘emasculation’ of the main character providing a ‘comedic trap’ that creates lasting appeal for the intended audience.

The construction of masculinity evident in this genre, is demonstrated by the placement of ‘characters’ and various signs within the advertisement and the hand knitted polka dot jumper is the most important of these signs. This unsightly jumper, juxtaposed to the suit pants and jacket, challenges popular constructions of masculinity within the genre of beer advertisements. The power of the grandmother over the young man is funny, when intertextual links and comparisons are made to other beer advertisements (see appendix 1.1 – 1.4). It has been suggested by media analyst Jonathon Gray that behind comedy or parody, lies the ability of a text to reference other texts, and ‘intertextuality’ informs this process (Gray, J. 2012. p22). Indeed, Gray continues by stating that the audience of any text will group a text into categories of similarity based on cultural familiarity and:

We then carry with us this category in its entirety as a ‘memorial metatext’ to be activated at a future point when we find ourselves faced with another text that may fit this category (Gray, 2002. p22)

The Courage beer advertisement is out of keeping with other advertisements that might be placed in the ‘beer for blokes’ genre. A review of the other beer advertisements in the appendix shows various themes such as: authority and dominance in sporting history / VB, success and achievement / Heinekin and ethical awareness and intelligence / Coopers. Consequently, The Courage beer commercial is funny because it satirises the young man’s disempowerment within the cosy confines of what appears to be a retirement home; the result is emasculating.

The cultural discourse apparent in the advertisement is the assumed power relationship between grandmother and grandson, based on the young man’s sense of duty to family. The grandmother is knitting and looking at the younger man with a happy and hopeful expression on her face. Her eyebrows are raised suggesting, she is hopeful of a favourable response from the younger man, in regards to the jumper that she has just knitted him. Shirato states:

“Discourses produce power relations; they specify what relations are possible and valued in specific institutional contexts. They classify and assign value not only to objects and practices, but to social relations” (Shirato 2000, p9).

The discourse apparent here in this image is the expectation that he should wear the unsightly jumper, out of culturally endorsed sense of duty. The inevitability of this is registered on his face as he looks forlornly into the camera.

In conclusion, the combination of ‘cultural frames’ of, narrative, genre, discourse and an array of connotations through carefully placed signs, suggests comedy through disempowerment based on the responsibility of duty. The causal relationship between the jacket being folded over the armchair, the grandmother looking wistfully at the younger man wearing the knitted jumper all takes place within a cosy domestic scene. The suggested narrative is legitimised by discourses of culture and state. The young man must wear the unsightly jumper even though he doesn’t want to. This advertisement is not one that is typically associated with this genre particularly when it is compared to other beer advertisements which connote themes of: achievement, sporting prowess, success, ethical awareness and intelligence. The result is a comedic trap which relies on the discourse of ‘duty’ both to family and state. The best of course of action suggested by the advertisement is to summon one’s strength, do ones’ duty, wear the jumper and indulge in the culturally endorsed tradition of drinking beer to see one through tough times.

Reference List

Grey, J (2012). Watching With The Simpsons. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com. Created from QUT on 2017-07-11

Gripsrud, J. (2006). Semiotics: Signs, Codes and Cultures in Analysing Media Texts, edited by Gillespie, Marie and Toynbee, Jason. 9 – 41. Berkshire, England: Open University Press in association with The Open University.

Schirato,Tony (2000). Communication and Culture; An introduction. St Leonards. Sage.

Thwaites, T. Davis, L and Mules, W. (1994) Tools for cultural studies; an introduction.South Melbourne, Macmillan

Appendix – Beer commercials

1.1 Courage – The UK (banned)

COURAGE_Jumper 800x400

1.2 Victoria Bitter – Australia

VB_CollectorCans_800x450

1.3 Heinekin – Holland

Heineken_F1_Hero

1.4 Coopers – Australia

Coopers

 1.5 – Keep Calm And Carry On Poster from WWII Britain.

Keep Calm And Carry On

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