For a man in the 21st century, the most hegemonically masculine programming available for consumption in mainstream media is sports. Enjoying sporting events and being able to speak intelligently on them is a currency between men in society. For major networks catering to athletic spectators such as Fox Sports 1, the key component of engendering steadfast, loyal viewership from sports fans nationally is the creation of a boys club- an atmosphere that’s the pinnacle of American middle-class masculinity, with competitive sports, cold beer, fast cars, and hot girls. To remain inclusive to the vast majority of men of America, the demographic target seems to be an overtly masculine middle to upper middle class. Brands like Chevrolet, Gillette and Budweiser that ran advertisements during the seventh game of the World Series in 2016 hail viewers to identify with traditional and simplistic mainstream ideals of masculinity (adweek.com). The advertisers do their part in creating the niche atmosphere by pumping their brands full of the boy’s club atmosphere that major sports networks work tirelessly to cultivate and maintain. In the same manner that Sarah Banet- Weiser claimed Nickelodeon hailed children and created an insider circle through messages of independence and resistance in a “kid’s world,” FS1 maintains a male insider circle through messages in the advertisements they air after hooking viewers in with the programming they like; these messages include objectification and isolation of women, personal physicality, and overt sexuality.
With enticing programming including the NFL, FS1’s personal branding strives for irreverent and fun, in opposition to it’s greatest competitor ESPN which it deems considerably more droll and academic (BusinessInsider.com). However, both major networks are home to the same brands and ideologies to hail followers with traditional hegemonic masculinity. Michael Messner makes an astute observation about masculinity in sports media noting its claustrophobic ties to alcohol consumption (The Male Consumer as a Loser, pg. 1). Alcohol advertising is a notorious source of the perceived ideals of traditional masculinity, objectification of women and thus overt sexuality are two primary ideologies of alcoholic media. A great example of this phenomenon is Bud Light’s 2004 “Sleigh Ride” ad. A couple on a candlelit date on a sleigh attempt a romantic evening until the horse farts which creates a blowtorch of the candle and singes the woman’s face, hair, and shirt to the horror of her date. While she herself is purely an object of sexual fantasy being notably more attractive than her middle class, average hegemonically masculine counterpart, because she is also the butt of the joke the ad isolates women and creates a male insider circle two- fold. The Budweiser Clydesdales are the pinnacle of physical presence; implicitly replicating these brand values and attributes on the networks they air ads on, such as FS1. Bud Light’s 2007 “Fist Bumps are so Last Year” campaign also evoked the physicality element of traditional masculinity as a sequence of men and two objectified women slap each other across the faces (coed.com). The immature, tongue-in-cheek atmosphere of campaigns such as these inspires a low pressure, relaxed environment for the male insiders as well. Women are not hailed in the same manner as men by the masculine cultural codes of playful fighting and thus are isolated from the brands and network, strengthening the bonds of “insider ship” the men then experience in being able to engage. The “average man” depicted in ads such as the “Sleigh Ride” Bud Light ad or their earlier “Cedric Date” ad that aired in 2001, creates an additional level of relatable comfort in identifying with the hyper-masculine, boyish atmosphere. This atmosphere of childish ease and irresponsibility further comforts male consumers as they enjoy programming.
The implications of the creation of such a mainstream glorification of this “mass-culinity” is the objectification of women, pervasive acceptance of violence, and a rejection of any male performance that isn’t this hyper-masculine ideal. Due to the fact that women are to heavily sexualized and fantasized, the perception seeps into large-scale media that disrespect and objectification of women is acceptable. Then, on any programming attempting to attract a masculine audience, these same ideals are perpetuated. Additionally, if men dislike athletic shows it is frowned upon by society, which expects only a limited and stunted range of expression from men within it. The same can be said of any men who aren’t physically competent. Brand advertising on FS1 such as Nike remind men that they, as well, must retain a physical capability they idolize on the televisions before them. If they do not, again mainstream society chides them. However, there is also a reward within ads as well retaining these ungifted athletes as well. They are positioned above women who take the ultimate hit, denigrated to take the fall in advertising such as Bud Light’s and keep the maximum amount of male viewers involved in the consumption of Sports Media. Without the female fallout, there would be an isolation of athletic men due to the worship of professional athletes that the team cults perform annually.
20 Best Budweiser and Bud Light Super Bowl Commercials, coed.com, Jan 16, 2015
Here’s Fox Sports 1’s Definition of ‘Fun’ – The Buzzword Sports Nerds are Ruthlessly Mocking, Tony Manfred, Business Insider, Aug 19, 2013
Top 10 Reasons Fox Sports 1 Will/ Won’t Beat ESPN, Business Insider, August 21, 2013
The Cubs’ Game 7 Win Is The Most Watched World Series Game in 25 Years, Jason Lynch, Adweek, November 3, 2016
The Male Sports Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events, Michael A. Messner & Jeffrey Montez de Oca, Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2005
The Nickelodeon Brand: Buying and Selling the Audience, Sarah Benet- Weiser