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Rhys Hayward

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Professor Robert Clapperton

ENGL 104

February 22, 2011
The Man Your Man Should Be Like: The Old Spice Man

The Old Spice commercial “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”, has recently become a viral hit on YouTube. It was successful enough to even give the man in the commercial a title of “Old Spice Man”. But, what does the commercial, along with the nature of the Old Spice Man, say about what society’s view on what masculinity is, or how a man should act? Using the Marxist perspective, I argue that the objective of the Old Spice Man videos is to place himself as a role model for males, to be seen as the ultimate in masculinity. It also perpetuates the image of the ideal male, thus promoting in both men and women the idea that buying Old Spice products will help a man be more like this model. I will argue this through the personification of the Old Spice Man, the humorous exaggerations used in the videos, and the emphasis on his physical form.
The Marxist perspective, defined by Sellnow, is the notion that “…material condition and economic practices shape the dominant ideology about who ought to be and who ought not to be empowered.” (Sellnow 71). The Marxist perspective also incorporates the idea of the “model” and “anti-model”. With respect to the Old Spice commercial campaign, this refers to how the commercials use the Old Spice Man as the model for males. Conversely, it demonstrates the anti-model – what a man should not be like, as being the qualities he doesn’t have.
The majority of videos of the Old Spice Man were made in the summer of 2010 as part of an advertising campaign. They were unique in the sense that the videos did not directly advertise the product. Rather, the videos simply answered questions posed by the community. The videos were a huge success, with Old Spice having a 107% increase in sales in the month of their release.
The personalization of the commercials allows for the Old Spice Man to be able to relate to
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other people, despite the obvious fictionality of his character. By making personalized responses, The ads give the Old Spice Man a human personality, rather than being a figurehead for a brand, like Mr. Clean. Most of the commercials are made as a direct response to a person’s tweets or comments on previous videos. For example, in one video, the Old Spice Man Answers a question posed by a viewer: “Is it dangerous if a snake licks your skin?”. The Old Spice Man responds with a humorous quip about the euphoria experienced by snakes who are attracted to the Old Spice body wash. By making humourous or offbeat responses, it demonstrates the Old Spice Man’s ability to connect with people, thereby removing his image of being a corporate spokesperson or figurehead.
The Old Spice Man further shows his personality in the deeds he has done. In response to a request from a viewer, the Old Spice Man proposed on his behalf to his girlfriend. By taking part in, and being requested to do such an important act as proposal, the Old Spice Man further incorporates a trustworthy personality. Furthermore, since he is being trusted with a life-changing aspect of someone’s life, this advance trustworthy qualities in him.
In addition, the objective of the Old Spice commercials is to place the Old Spice Man as the model figure, whom all men should strive to be like. This can be seen in his interactions with celebrities. Several videos are of him responding to celebrity tweets towards him. In one case, the Old Spice Man made four video responses to Alyssa Milano, in which he flirts with her, going so far as sending her flowers. By flirting with a celebrity, he demonstrates his confidence, as well as creating an association between him and celebrity.
Furthermore, the name of “Old Spice Man” itself indicates how the image of the ideal man is tied to Old Spice product. The name “Old Spice Man” was not given to him by the makers of Old Spice, but rather by the consumers who watched his commercials. They made the connections between the suave, physically fit man, and the Old Spice Products. Thus, the traits exhibited by the Old Spice Man, by the very nature of his name, reflect that of the product he is trying to sell.
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In addition, the common motto used by the Old Spice is “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”. By using “could”, this sends the message that the Old Spice Man is a preferred model which men should be aiming for, as well as what women should want their men to be like. Since he uses Old Spice, this also implies that the way to become like the Old Spice Man, or at least smell like him, is to use Old Spice. It also implies that specific scents, in this case Old Spice, are rigidly defined as manly or not.
Not only do the Old Spice videos place the Old Spice Man as a model figure, but they also indicate what qualities he has which make him this model, and thus what a man should look or do to be socially accepted. The many extravagant stunts mentioned in the videos serve to show what qualities the Old Spice Man has, and by association what real men should have. For example, most videos have him describing outrageous deeds he has performed, or exaggerating his looks . These obviously fake vents are used to evoke a humorous response, but also have the purpose of reinforcing the stereotypical ideals of a man. In one such video the Old Spice Man talks of how it is physically impossible for him to wear a jacket due to his “wildly exaggerated body-muscles”. Even though it is impossible for this to be true, the message is still clear: He is very muscular, and thus real men should strive to be physically fit too. This upholds the socially accepted view on men being strong and muscular.
Similarly, the acts he claims to have performed are also impossible and extremely extravagant. In one video, he claims to be “saving dozens of children trapped inside of an orphanarium that was swallowed by a whale that was frozen inside a glacier that has geologically morphed into the world’s largest volcano”. The concept of rescuing children from this ridiculous scenario serves to show how the Old Spice Man fits the role of stereotypical hero, thus upholding the social norm that men should also be heroic and brave.
The Old Spice Man has made several videos talking about taming or being friendly with animals. In one such video, in response to a question about how many teeth sharks have, the Old Spice
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Man refers to his time apprenticing a shark dentist. In particular he discussed one shark, Romadongron, as if it was an old friend of his. This unorthodox familiarity with what would normally be considered a dangerous animal, indicates that the Old Spice Man is their equal. Through this, it is also implied that real men should also be unafraid of wild animals.
Old Spice Man videos also advocate the idea that a man should be charismatic and befriend anyone. In one video, the Old Spice Man talks about his “..friend Naobot and other Jupitarians”. The impossibility of the Old Spice Man befriending aliens demonstrates how he is universally loved. Thus, this sets a standard for men too in that they should also be able to charm anyone they meet.
In his video responses, the Old Spice Man also makes many remarks about his physical form. By doing so, he instills a sense of what a real man should look like. Many videos have him label his body parts with the prefix “man”. For example, he talks about his “man-ankles” or “man-chest”. Since the Old Spice Man is physically fit, this implies that the model man has his kind of ankles or chest, and thus must also be physically fit and muscular. This label perpetuates what looks a man should have. This dichotomy also sets the qualities of the anti-model, things not like the Old Spice Man, to be weak and not masculine.
The way the Old Spice Man interacts with women also is a sign of what social qualities a man should have. Going back the videos involving Alyssa Milano, he is able to flirt wih someone of Alyssa’s calibre because of his confidence. This emphasizes the message that a man should be a confident figure too, and not be afraid to flirt with any kind of woman. Furthermore, in one such video, he is seen producing a bouquet of roses and writing a love letter. The Old Spice Man’s actions here imply that the man should have the dominant role in the courting of a woman; He should be the one making the first moves.
These remarks also demonstrate another quality the Old Spice Man advocates as desirable. Throughout the videos, he is always describing his body in a complementary way, or talking about how
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women adore his body. For example, in the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ad, The Old Spice Man talks about other men in relation to himself: “Sadly, he isn’t me. But if he stopped using lady-scented body wash and switched to Old Spice he could smell like he’s me.” By adding “Sadly” he implies that men should desire to be like him, showing confidence in his image. This indicates that, aside from being physically fit, a real man should also feel confident about his body and acknowledge it. It also directly states that using Old Spice will help a man to accomplish this. Furthermore, this line also describes qualities of the anti-model. In contrast to Old Spice, which allows a man to smell like the Old Spice Man, the model of a male, using “lady-scented” body wash causes a man to lose those traits and is considered less masculine.
Lastly, the Old Spice commercials also support the idea that a man should be place in a role of a provider. In one commercial, the Old Spice Man asks women a rhetorical question: “Do you want your man to smell like he can bake you a gourmet cake in the kitchen he built with his bare hands”. Again the Old SpiceMan links the smell of old Spice products with beign a man who could make this for his woman, the bread-winner. As he says this he is holding a cake while sawing through a board, giving the impression that the Old Spice Man has these qualities. This again shows how the percieved model male is the Old Spice Man.
Overall, the Old Spice video campaign uses the figure of the Old Spice Man to uphold the hegemony of the normal male and female. The use of humor, along with the personalized videos, allows the Old Spice Man to attain of image of a real person, rather than just a corporate mascot. The ridiculousness of some of the acts he describes dictate the qualities a man ought to have, and what to avoid. The personality and qualities of the Old Spice Man also advocates the standing hegemony of male and female roles. The videos help define the characteristics that make him into the model, and anything against that as being the anti-model.

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