so apparently people aren’t drinking sodas anymore. which is SHOCKING because surely i drink enough soda to keep the soda industry afloat but apparently no. and lo, coca-cola is branching out… to milk. (as i also pretty much keep all the cows in business, this officially makes me a trend setter.)
this (1) seems ridiculous because aren’t all the new fad diets completely anti-dairy? (or is that just gwyneth?) and (2)… well, they’re not exactly going about it in the awesomest of ways.
so it looks familiar except for the fact that monroe was wearing proper clothing and these women appear to be caught in windgusts of dairy.
here’s the daily mail‘s description:
and, of course:
so, amongst the many great tragedies of our time (along with “marilyn monroe reading” and whatever the weird thing is going on with jackie’s pink suit) is, i would argue, monroe’s recent association with skirts blowing up. this is what her name has become shorthand for, thanks in big part to a certain duchess…
but she’s certainly leader of the Public People Who Wear Flippy Skirts And Fail To Put Weights In Their Hems brigade…
so that’s that status of monroe in our daily lives. just as jackie onassis refers to sunglasses, so monroe refers to skirts flying up in the air and revealing underwear. (yes, that was dire rhyme-y. it was unavoidable.)
which brings us to fairlife and The New Milk. (which is a little like the new math, which went NOWHERE, remember?)
now, i don’t want to brag, but i drink more milk in one day than most adults probably drink in a month. this is not an exaggeration or a claim, it is a truth.
so i’m somewhat qualified to talk about how people look when they drink milk. i, for instance, have been caught drinking milk and it has looked like this…
you guys, even the daily mail has noted the disconnect between the banality of daily milk drinking…
and lemme just say, we are in DANGEROUS WATERS when THE DAILY MAIL calls you out on the absurdity of your ad campaign. just saying.
except they’re not really critiquing the ad campaign so much as women wearing milk dresses and the business sense of putting all your eggs in the basket of New Milk. the daily mail is not known for its subtlety but i feel they are extra not subtle here.
to recap: the daily mail is cackling into the dark over the stupidity of the idea of marketing a new milk at double the cost of the old milk when americans don’t even really drink milk. which, well… fair point.
so, over the weekend, the guardian had a piece on how these ads are gross. a number of provocative questions were raised.
Is this milk for drinking, or are you just expected to pour it lavishly over your head as you sit at the breakfast table, pouting sexily at your dry cereal? Why don’t men seem to be invited to partake in this new gastronomic experience? And given the enormous levels of dairy wastage likely to ensue, can you really justify charging double the price for it compared to normal milk?
but, because i never come to things directly, i’m intrigued by a slightly sideways thing here and i want to dig into that.
(btw, yes, this post sounds as though it’s a transcript for a public lecture i’m giving on new milk and marilyn monroe. i am not and it isn’t. i’m just apparently incapable of writing today without sounding very pedantic. do forgive the teachiness!)
this new milk is marketed to women, quite clearly. and yes, the marketing campaign is decidedly retro. but it strikes me, in its use of the pin-up imagery of monroe, that it is more evocative of alcohol adverts.
come now, as miss bingley told elizabeth bennett, let us take a turn about the room…
there’s the whole women being sexily independent while men watch thing:
women being sexy for men:
women making wholesome drinks for men…
and women drinking as a sign of their independence totally apart from men (though she’s got to have a pool partner, non? who’s drinking that other drink, hmmm??):
or to attract a man:
you could seriously write a dissertation on women and martini & rossi vermouth.
yeah, allllllllllllllllll that happened.
and do NOT get me started on vodka.
THOSE GLASSES WERE NOT MADE FOR HOLDING WOMEN.
ok. now’s when i’m realizing how far afield i’ve just strayed and that i have to bring it all back together and it has to mean something.
so, let’s recap. what do we have?
marilyn and “marilyn moments”.
the reality of drinking milk vs. this imagined ridiculousness where drinking milk is a “marilyn moment”.
ok, so, i’m particularly interested in the question of why monroe. not in a john maloofian way of omgwhythiswoman??!? but in the deeper sense of what monroe is being used to do here in these dairy ads.
on the surface it is precisely because of she’s a quick and easily accessible cultural referent as well as a pin-up.
but milk and monroe.
these are obviously sexist ads. there’s no corresponding set of men slathered in daily with their pants coming down. no sexy shots of men.
it’s like the milk mustache campaign combined with girls gone wild. which is not cool.
but, again, i’m just circling the issue of why monroe?
what is happening here with monroe? how is her image being deployed?
i’m tempted to stay on that surface and think it’s as easy as her being such an easy reference. but then, as signaled by my use of the word “easy” twice in 14 words, that seems too easy. so i’m also tempted to think there’s something weirder going on.
something in the connection between milk and monroe. in what the milk people are doing in using monroe here. let’s think this through… (good grief, this is becoming like a math proof or like a close reading of lacan, but we’ve come this far! let’s go forth, persevere! it will come together in the end!)
so milk is a wholesome drink in that we initially get it from our mothers, it’s usually what you drink as a kid, it accompanies cookies, and most people stop drinking it when they become adults until they start developing osteoporosis, at which point they then drink it medicinally.
ya’ll. none of that is particularly sexy.
the images here, then, through the reference to monroe, are sexing up milk. they’re sexy shots and, in being sexy and by calling upon monroe’s image, they’re applying a veneer of sexiness to a wholesome drink.
(i was going to turn to jennifer aniston and smart water for a comparison but aniston appears to be topless in half those ads so that didn’t provide any sort of contrast but only opens up a whole new line of thought about WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH SEX AND BEVERAGES? and so i’mma back away. we’re in it to win it with monroe…)
and yet there’s something wholesome about monroe too, is there not? something innocent and vulnerable, which is, in huge part, the reason for her massive appeal– that combination of sexiness and innocence, both in the extreme.
that is the marilyn moment. sexy and, crucially, also vulnerable, all at once.
that duality is reflected in the “marilyn moment”: when your skirt blows up, the blowing up of your skirt is perceived as titillating, sexy, but you are exposed, you are vulnerable.
framing it as “a marilyn moment”, in the instance of kate middleton say, seems to tie it into a tradition of sexy women’s skirts blowing up. we’re all supposed to look up to kate middleton because kate middleton is desirable (she is married to a prince) and her attractiveness is proven by the fact that she had a “marilyn moment”, which directly links her to the sexiness embodied by monroe.
but the other side of the “marilyn moment” is that exposure.
those women in the milk ads, they are exposed. like kate middleton or kim kardashian or anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of having their skirt blow up with the press corps present. that, most likely, wasn’t intentional.
the “marilyn moment” is sexy because it is a moment of going up-the-skirt. and it makes the woman to whom it happens vulnerable for precisely the same reason.
the “marilyn moment.” i’ve been alarmed by how frequently and casually this gets used now, not just in the daily mail but in real life.
because i like monroe and i think she should be taken seriously and all too often she is not.
and because i write about women and i don’t think anyone should be reduced to that one time their skirt blew up in a movie just as no one should be reduced to their sunglasses or their shift dresses.
and also because what the “marilyn moment” implicitly points to is just as not awesome as the explicit sexism of these ads. to call these moments “marilyn moments” makes a joke out of monroe and whoever’s skirt happened to blow up on a given day.
the phrase “marilyn moment”, just like the phrase “marilyn monroe reading“, needs to be banished from our vocabulary. because when we start delving into what it might mean, how is used and operates, it is symptomatic of larger problems in how our society thinks and writes and talks about women.
it’s demeaning. to monroe and to women. because the phrase freezes monroe at the point of her skirt blowing up. and when it’s applied to women in the present day whose skirts are/have blown up, it’s covering a moment in the aura of monroe’s glamor, a moment that isn’t so much sexy as, if not a violation, then certainly a trespass.
we are seeing something we are not supposed to see and without consent.
you could argue i’m taking this waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too seriously. OLINE THEY’RE JUST MILK ADS!! and they are just milk ads. just as these are just celebrities who don’t have the sense to sew weighs into their hems and she’s just an actress who died a long time ago. but the point i’m making is that all of this points to something else, something decidedly nasty and, thus, difficult to articulate, most especially because it is a matter of women’s clothing and, therefore, does not happen to men.