Pop-Culture | Posted by Alec A on 07/18/2011
The Biebs Throws An Abstinence-Scented Curveball
Celebrities frequently make a quick buck on the side through endorsements of high-end scents, or even expand their own brand through eponymous perfume lines. Now Justin Bieber, of all people, is trying his hand at making the world a sweeter-smelling place. Bieber’s recently released perfume, however, is a complete reversal in the brand-development of feminine scents.
So let’s take a look at the usual perfume branding model. One notable example is the treacly, melodramatic endorsement of Chanel No. 5 by Nicole Kidman:
The advertisement opens with a salty, masculine Latino intoning his most solemn paean for the mysterious and beautiful Nicole Kidman, who quickly succumbs to her savior’s rugged good-looks and recklessly abandons her fame (if only for a short while, o cruel fate!) in order to hole up in the pigeonniere of a non-descript, appropriately ramshackle dwelling with only a bed and stained sheets. The message is: “Spray yourself with Chanel, and you will have a life-altering romance and a good romp in the sack – with a Latin man, to boot!”
Perfume advertisements are highly sexualized, and colognes are not free from this trend either:
The brutality and shear strength of the waves mirror the hardened abs and finely scalloped back muscles of this Italian gent. Use “Acqua di Gio,” and you will be sexy, and you will dominate.
Britney Spear’s “Curious,” one of the best-selling perfumes of all time uses a similar, overtly sexualized message in its advertisement:
“Curious” will make its user more confident in pursuing a cute boy by asking: “Do you dare?”
All of these scents have one thing in common: their potency will inspire romance, and, more importantly, sex. Whether through renewed courage, self-confidence, or pure weak-female sex appeal, each brand offers their own love potion using similar imagery.
That is why it’s so strange that Justin Bieber’s advertisement for “Someday” does not fall in line with the rest:
The smut is practically nonexistent, and instead of offering sex, Justin Bieber offers this young girl what appears to be a purity amulet. After poking around the official website, I gleaned that one of these necklaces comes with every bottle of perfume. This combined with the very title of the perfume evokes a reverse message: “Someday” you will be able to have me. Whether or not this “me” refers to Justin Bieber, or the blonde girl in the commercial remains rather ambiguous and alters the meaning depending on your standpoint.
Perhaps the “me” is Justin Bieber himself, which means that Justin Bieber (and this is a 17 year old close to the zenith of his sexual potency) will one day deign to pair with you, and all of the others who purchase his product, and until that time, you are to save yourself for him. If the “me” is the girl, than the implication is that the girl will someday have relations with a man, but not just yet; the scent is an investment in the girl’s romantic future and thus, her purity.
The one thing that all of these commercials have in common is the promise of companionship. The type of companionship varies, and the methods of promising it are manifold. What’s interesting is that Bieber’s commercial tells the story of some contemporary courtship adapted from the medieval commonwealth of Elinor of Aquitaine. It is highly romantic and has a diminutive sexual element in comparison to the other brands.
It is clear that Justin Bieber is pushing his own rather conservative beliefs through his marketing: his infamous ill-reviewed interview in Rolling Stone made surface a number of his stances including his distaste for abortion of any kind, his belief that homosexuality is merely a lifestyle choice, and that one should wait until you find someone you love in order to have sex, which implies that one should probably wait for marriage. Therefore I’m more prone to believe that Justin Bieber is promising himself to the girl who purchases a bottle of his scent, and that girl will prove her adoration of him by waiting until they meet.
It’s clever marketing: it takes advantage of the preteen demographic’s inchoate knowledge of sex and fills their young pitter-pattering hearts with sugar-coated promises of eternal love through moral righteousness. Justin Bieber is God, and, more importantly, parents will buy this perfume for their young daughters because they don’t think it’s slutty like Britney Spears. Buying Britney is taking the apple; Bieber is the garden itself.
The downside is that Bieber is manipulating an all too widely shared belief that abstinence is the answer. Though that is certainly one point of view, I don’t think for a second that trying to avoid the question of sex – and the responsibilities to your partner and to yourself – is particularly wise.
“Someday,” though a seemingly innocuous extension of the Bieber empire, throws years of trying to expand sex education, and modern feminism into the fire. To proselytize the belief that a woman must wait for her deified husband to deflower her (and perhaps just by removing the ugly flower cap of the bottle, the girl derives some small hint of febrile pleasures to come), is anti-feminist and anti-individualist. Though Bieber lacks blatant sex-appeal, he tries to defraud women whereas our most famous buxom blondes at least try to give women power using their femininity that needed a little ancillary push.
Alec also writes his own blog, the BAM blog.
Read other posts about: abstinence, abstinence-only sex ed, Britney Spears, Britney Spears Curious, celebrity brands, Feminism, Just Bieber Someday, Justin Bieber, Nicole Kidman, over-sexuality, perfume, purity, sex, sex ed, sexuality, sexuality and perfume brands, Someday perfume, teenage feminism, tween marketing, tweens, virgin-whore dichotomy
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