Man Up: The CEO of Light Beer Takes Issue With Miller Lite

Tom Higgins doesn’t want Miller Lite using his beer in their commercials.

This piece is part of a special series on the End of Gender. This series includes bloggers from Role/RebootGood Men ProjectThe Huffington PostSalonHyperVocalMs. MagazineYourTangoPsychology TodayPrincess Free ZoneThe Next Great Generation, and Man-Making.

Jon Bois is an associate editor at SB Nation. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky. You can tweet at him at @jon_bois, and you can read his work on SB Nation here.

Starting last football season, a series of “Man Up” Miller Lite commercials has aired. These ads suggest, or in some cases explicitly state, that drinking another brand of beer is “un-manly,” as are such actions as wearing tight jeans, singing karaoke, and carrying a “man-purse.”

I am certainly not the first to take issue with these commercials. They’re insulting, they’re hostile, they disparage men who would dare violate gender norms. And they do so with impunity, because the hard truth is that most of us are fine with this.

As a prop, these commercials feature bottles of beer labeled “LIGHT BEER.” Below is a series of emails from the concerned CEO of Light Beer, Tom Higgins.

♦◊♦

FROM THE DESK OF TOM HIGGINS
CEO, LIGHT BEER

Dear MillerCoors,

I was watching football this afternoon when I saw your newest Miller Lite commercial:

Firstly, I would like to thank you sincerely for granting us some free product placement! I’m not sure what motivated you to make such a gesture, but I suppose there is honor among brewers, eh? :-) We at Light Beer are dedicated to offering an alternative for those who prefer beer with “less taste” as opposed to “more taste”, and I would certainly be happy to discuss the possibility of us working together in the future.

However, I must say that we at Light Beer were puzzled by the commercial itself. The bartender was dismissive, insulting, and even a little angry at the gentleman simply because he elected to wear a scarf. While such a scarf may indeed be labeled “women’s” on the rack at the store, we should not feel beholden to arbitrary gender rules.

More importantly, we should never attempt to shame someone for disregarding such socially limiting rules. He would like to wear the scarf, and so he is wearing it. This commercial suggests—check that, explicitly states—that this man is less of a man for doing so. By extension, you are validating oppressive gender norms.

But, heck. I bet this was just an honest mistake, and I’m sure you didn’t mean it.

Cheers (beer term!),

Tom

CEO, Light Beer

 ♦◊♦

FROM THE DESK OF TOM HIGGINS

CEO, LIGHT BEER

 Dear MillerCoors,

We just completed an extensive re-branding campaign in which we changed our flagship product’s logo and slogan, and I was delighted to see that these changes were reflect in yet another complimentary product placement in your Miller Lite ad!

Once again, though… I don’t mean to be a Nitpicking Norman, but I couldn’t help but notice that once again, your commercial is… well, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that you were leveraging already-existing gender biases to try to shame men into drinking your beer.

This ad explicitly defines the drinking of Light Beer as “unmanly behavior.” Far more discouraging, though, is the insinuation that being “unmanly” is inherently undesirable. Did you know, sir, that there are many human beings who are not men? Did you also know that there are many men who have no interest in the contemporary pop-culture definition of “men,” and that we have no call to shame them simply for being who they are?

I understand that in a company as large as MillerCoors, plenty of things could easily get lost in the shuffle. You may, however, want to consider hiring a new advertising agency. This one doesn’t seem very nice.

Happy suds,

Tom

CEO, Light Beer

♦◊♦

FROM THE DESK OF TOM HIGGINS
CEO, LIGHT BEER

Dear MillerCoors,

I had the misfortune of catching your latest ‘Man Up” ad, and the greater misfortune of seeing that once again, you have chosen to associate our Light Beer product with your unfortunate message.

I pointed this out to my friend. You know what he said? He said it was “no big deal.” He said I’m taking things far too seriously, that I’m reading too far into it, that I’m just being the PC police. He told me that it was just a joke, and said that I should get over it.

That is precisely the reason I feel that it’s important to take issue with these commercials. They attempt to mock, emasculate, and shame people for the grand crime of being themselves. And yes, these are just 30-second commercials, but if commercials did not leave an impact, they would not exist. They help to shape and validate opinions.

If taking something too seriously is indeed the worst crime I commit, I count it as a good day, another day in which I didn’t make men feel like shit for being the people they are.

You know how much power gender norming holds in our society? You’ll willing to lean on that lever even if it means, slowly but surely, uprooting people from their confidence, from their identities, from their pride in themselves. And you’re doing it to sell beer, for all the darn reasons.

Please remove all LIGHT BEER products from future advertisements. They are breaking my heart.

Tom

CEO, Light Beer

♦◊♦

FROM THE DESK OF TOM HIGGINS

CEO, LIGHT BEER

MillerCoors bros,

Please ignore the letterhead at the top… we’re still sort of in the takeover process. Higgins took the buyout, but he asked us not to “continue beating the general public in the face with gender limitations” or something… whatever. He was a real “PC police” kind of dude. Guy was just annoying.

Anyway, yeah, tell the agency that you bros can go ahead and keep using Light Beer in those commercials from here on out. Oh, and hey, while you’re at it, tell them I had an idea for an ad: get a dude and have him sing Kelly Clarkson on karaoke.

And then he goes to the bar and orders a beer, and the bartender says he shouldn’t sing that song because he’s not a girl. And he’s just ashamed, dude. So ashamed that when his next turn comes up to sing, he lies about it.

That would be so sick, bros. God. I hate it when people are themselves.

- Stevens

—Photo tsuacctnt/Flickr

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Comments

  1. With a big thanks to Jon for linking my angry letter, I’d like to add that Miller sent me an unapologetic response that’s well worth reading: http://sorryeveryone.tumblr.com/post/3695109521/update-re-angry-letter-i-sent-millercoors

    • That response never even mentions gender, which is pretty interesting. They must have intentionally avoided it, because there’s no way that they could have missed it.

      • My favorite part is “many twenty-something, legal drinking-age men enjoy and are responding positively to the [sexist, bigoted] campaign.” You don’t say!

        • I’m sorry, are the opinions of “20-something, legal drinking-age men” somehow any less important or intelligent than your own? I’m not far removed from my 20s and I didn’t find the commercials sexist or bigoted. One I found amusing, the rest just dumb. But just because a certain segment of the population enjoys something doesn’t mean it’s automatically wrong.

  2. Yeah, these commercials are horrible. They blatantly encourage both men and women to shame men into fitting the extremely narrow confines of traditional masculinity.

    “well, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that you were leveraging already-existing gender biases to try to shame men into drinking your beer.”
    This sentence was about as close to perfect as the come. I’m very happy that men are taking issue with these horrible ads.

  3. wellokaythen says:

    I haven’t been on the dating scene for over a decade, but my impression is that there are not many women out there who decide to sleep with you or not based on your beer brand choices. (Although here in the Pacific Northwest, a discriminating taste in microbrews might be on a woman’s checklist.) A cocktail seems to be a much better conversation piece. If you are buying a beer brand “to get hot chicks to flock to you,” you truly have no idea how the universe works.

  4. Jon, I’m glad you took the time to brilliantly slay these awful commercials. Playing Devil’s Advocate, however, in two of these ads I don’t think Miller is mocking people “for the grand crime of being themselves.” For instance, I don’t get the impression that Skinny Jeans Guy’s pants are a crucial part of his being; his stance that they are “in” indicates that his behavior is merely affected. Same with Scarf Guy (they should have nixed the scarf and had him wear a knit cap in 90 degree weather).

    On the other hand, while openly mocking these gentlemen is fair game, Miller instead makes it an issue of gender, that their horrible fashion choices are unmanly, so ultimately you are correct. I just think that with the right execution, these ads could have actually worked. It’s like if someone tried making a parody of Tom Brady’s awful Uggz commercial, but the punchline ends up being that he’s gay. Good source material, failed (and insulting) result. Again, not defending Miller’s terrible commercials; I just find it interesting how they could have amusing if done by more talented people.

    Okay, I’ve thought about this stupid commercial too much. I need a non-Miller beer.

  5. Nobody thinks likes this nor do they give a f*ck. You really think these dipsh*ts that come up with these commercials know what goes on in a bar or a club?

  6. Big Beer Ad Exec says:

    Notice how none of the comments mention the beer itself or how it tastes? How we’ve effectively taken attention away from our flavorless watered down product? My work here is done.

  7. Oh Jesus, stop bitching already!

    First of all, no guy I know buys his beer based on advertising. Not a single one. These commercials have ZERO impact on our respective views of masculinity. They are beer commercials and beer commercials only. They’re on par with most car commercials and the morons who sit side-by-side in matching tubs while talking about erections.

    Second, I’d make fun of the guy wearing a women’s scarf too. He looks ridiculous. Same goes for the skinny jeans guy. I have a male, heterosexual friend who puts lemon juice in his hair in the summer and wears ridiculous, trendy clothing like skinny jeans. He’s been a friend of mine for more than 10 years. And guess what? We make fun of him at every turn. I don’t feel bad about this at all and he laughs along with us before ripping into me for something or other. Because that’s what my group of guy friends does. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve been friends forever and love each other dearly, but if you wear a women’s scarf you’re going to hear it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Just friggin relax already. Holy hell. If you’re really that opposed to it then change the channel, but to come on here and claim that making fun of guys in skinny jeans is bad because it stops them from “being themselves” is just crazy. If skinny jeans really make up that much of your personality, then you have bigger problems than these stupid commercials.

    By the way, the scarf commercial was amusing.

    • “First of all, no guy I know buys his beer based on advertising.”

      I can’t speak for the people you personally know, but through the scope of the American population at large, television commercials are profoundly effective. Commercials sell the product they’re supposed to sell, but they don’t stop there. They sell every thing, every message contained within the commercial. Here, they’re selling the idea that you’re less of a man if you carry a bag.

      That’s obviously ridiculous, just like Miller Lite is a crappy beer. But just as people drink the crappy beer, they absorb the crappy message. You know?

      • The problem is we all define manhood differently. Frankly, if you carry a bag I have to be honest and say I probably would judge. Just like wearing a scarf or skinny jeans. I’m not sure if it’s being “less of a man” or just being a really obnoxious, douchebag hipster.

        I think we hear the message, but I truly don’t think we absorb anything. And if we do, these commercials don’t form the foundation of a belief system regarding masculinity. They might reinforce or go against some preexisting beliefs we hold, but I really don’t think they’re seeping into our subconscious and shaping our views on life.

        • If you have a son, you’ll use their beliefs, and apparently your own which is aligned with them (convenient, but not a coincidence). You’ll shame your kid for anything unmanly he does, in the hope of preventing his being gay, or his being in any possible way seen as feminine. Shame on you.

  8. I don’t see the problem. If the CEO of Lite Beer (or anyone else) wants to cross dress, sit down to pee, wear ladies perfume, switch when they walk, talk with a fake lisp, or whatever other gender-blending behaviors they prefer, those are all legal and valid choices he is free to make.

    Likewise, rejecting those things are also valid choices. Nobody’s forcing him to watch ML’s ridiculous commercials or buy their beer. He and the rest of us can and should vote with our feet and wallets.

  9. [email protected] says:

    I think they are referring to boyish versus manish… not gay versus straight.

    Regardless… drinking ANY light beer is pretty wimpy

    Actually I wonder do you think gay people are wimpy?

    Perhaps you are revealing YOUR prejudices by associating those two things.

  10. I read in Advertising Ad how Miller were giving up on these ads… it’s about time.

Trackbacks

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