August 16, 2010

Allstate: Teenage Girls Are, Like, Sooo Reckless

In the advertising world, teenagers are simultaneously courted for their high ratio of disposable income, and discriminated against as a means of making older consumers feel comfortable buying a product. This is something that I find truly bizarre. I'm not insinuating that we live in any sort of post-discriminatory culture, but I am still surprised how accepted it is to just openly bash on teenagers. Take, for instance, this Allstate commercial posted by Lisa over at Sociological Images.
This commercial openly affirms a number of stereotypes about teenagers. It opens with a shot of a pink SUV cruising in a movie theater parking lot. Obviously it's pink, because pink is the color of idealized femininity, something all teen girls strive for. Also, it's a custom color, implying that this is not a hand-me down car or a used car. This giant gas guzzler was bought for our protagonist, who clearly doesn't care about the environment, or people other than herself. Like all teens, she's, like, soooo spoiled.

In the car, the "teen girl" speaks in internet lingo, saying things like, "my BFF Becky." Gasp in horror, onlooking adults, as she denigrates the English language! When she finds out her best friend has kissed her crush, a problem all-consuming in her tiny teenage world, she throws her bedazzled phone into the backseat. Look how little respect she has for her possessions! Gosh, teenagers are so unappreciative!

The video culminates with the teen crashing her behemoth of a stereotype-wagon into a modest, gray parked car. Adult Woman is pissed. She was just trying to do some shopping in her humble vehicle, but teenagers and their hit-and-runs are always messing up her day. The teenager in the car advises, "Get Allstate, you can save money and be better protected from mayhem like me."

Mayhem is defined as "needless or willful damage or violence." Watch out adults, teens are out to get you! We care about ourselves, don't care about our stuff, and certainly don't have any sense of responsibility when it comes to minding how we conduct ourselves in your world.

Seriously, though, all of these things are ridiculous. I think that you'd be hard pressed to find other television advertisements that so conspicuously mock a group of people through stereotypes. This commercial would never make it past production if it were meant to mock men older than 85, a demographic that causes more than twice as many car-related deaths as the teen girl demo.

This video is just one more indicator of how teenagers are one of the last true frontiers of discrimination. We have no significant income or power, so feel free to wreck on us as much as you want! Or don't... after all, media like this sets an expectation for people of all ages as to how is acceptable/expected for an adolescent girl to act. That is, if you don't want us behaving like this, stop telling us that we do.

And it's not just an isolated incident.

36 comments:

  1. I have had the same thoughts (although not so eloquently spoken) about this latest series of commercials from allstate. I find them appalling for the reasons you state, and I appreciate your naming this blatant discrimination.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm interested in the intersections of class lines here - the Allstate commercial portrays a stereotype of an middle-upper class teen girl as blithely ignorant and self-absorbed.

    Where do I see commercials that portray the kind of teen girl I was? (lower, working class/queer/brown) Public Service ads for HPV vaccines, suicide hotlines, and Truth.com/above the influence ads.

    So I guess if you're a teen girl, you're either a mallrat or a promiscuous suicidal drug-user.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I bumped into your website recently and I love it. I admire what you're doing about trying to break the stereotypes of teenagers. I'm twenteen and teenage years are definitely the years where media plays a huge impact on our lives. My age is slightly bothering me because it just occured to me that I'm not so young anymore lol. I don't know if that is because there is no '-een' at the end of twenty or because of personal growth but as the saying goes "you're only as young as you feel" eh? Anyway, I'm rambling but I just wanted to say I think you're doing a fantastic job. And I'll be back :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is fantastic. It's great to see someone in my age group so eloquently explaining what is wrong with this sort of thing. Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think it is a terrible ad (the whole series sucks, and they do criticize middle aged men too in another spot), but I don't think your comparison example is entirely accurate. The incident in the commercial is clearly referring only to property damage, not personal injury. As I understand it, part of the reason for the skew in the auto death numbers is that men tend to be the drivers in high speed situations, which is where death is more likely to happen. Take a look at the occupants of other vehicles on the highway some time. Very rarely will you find a vehicle with a woman behind the wheel if a man is present. I have a feeling you'd also find that there tend to be more passengers on average in male-driven vehicles than in those driven by women, which would contribute to the number of deaths if a crash happened. It would be interesting if you found a similar chart when it came to accidents resulting in at least $X in property damage.

    All that said, I too find it irksome that insulting women (especially young ones) is still considered a-okay, especially when it comes to driving.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I completely agree with you especially the part about 85yr old men and how if a commerical targeted them it would be age descrimination. Not all teenage girls are spoiled beyond belief and nowadays with so many texting car accident horror stories not many girls have the audacity to do such a thing.
    Also teenage girl insurance premiums are much lower than teenage boy insurance premiums because teenage girls get into less accidents than teenage boys but where is the commercial targeting them huh? And now that we have said something about this completely inaccurate commercial and try to point it out to people they will simply say that we're just feminists and we think the male population should be killed off etc. etc. Because we have the strength to say something about this horrid portrayl of ourselves we must obviously just look for things in the media to target with our ever so feminist ways.
    Women (at least teenage ones) get into less accidents than men (again teenage ones) so drop the women can't drive stereotype. We can drive just as well as if not better than you. And have the balls to ask for directions!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I see where you're coming from, but I think you're taking this ad too seriously. Yes, it perpetuates stereotypes and everything you've said above. But this commercial is exaggerating a stereotype for humour. All State took a stereotype that most everyone loves to hate and further mocked it.

    I don't know if you drive or not, but I know when I'm driving I judge people on the road based on the vehicle/driving habits I see and choose whether I should get closer to them or not. While this may not be a good thing, when driving you have to make quick decisions and making judgement calls that usually derive from stereotypes like above. I see All State mocking this judgement call.

    Personally, if a big-ass pink truck hit my sedan in a parking lot I'd judge the driver as this stereotype. All State is just turning that judgement call around to say their insurance can protect you from 'mayhem,' aka: anything reckless. And also for the record, inexperience can be seen as recklessness, which is why teenagers/early 20s are depicted like this.

    ReplyDelete
  8. YEH LIGHTEN UPPPPPPPPPPPP.
    wehwehweh. poor teenage girls.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jamie, I´ve just discovered your blog. I am a teacher at a high school and I was really impressed when I read your profile and your posts.
    I´ll make sure my students get to know your blog and your ideas.
    Greetings from Spain!
    Rosa (http://inglesiesollosgrandes.blogspot.com)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Another fantastic post, Jamie! Your writing is so lively and engaging. We love reading you over here at the POC!
    --Shana Friedman, SCPOC Facilitator
    www.scpoc.blogspot.com
    www.facebook.com/scpoc

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Jamie
    I must say from the perspective of someone my age (not a teenager) and gender (not a girl), and low level of sensitivity for such sociological blunders as this ad campaign, i find this guy kind of funny. But I totally feel where you're coming from and must say that I find it refreshing to hear the breakdown of stereotypes that i'm unknowingly processing when i watch this commercial. I don't disagree.
    Good luck with college shopping. A bit of advice, those free-standing wire clothes hampers for your laundry are crucial! way better than a laundry bag.

    Jared

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree with Atom. I do see where you're coming from, but I think you're reading way too much into this. Why assume that AllState is projecting these traits on all teenage girls and not just a subset? I automatically assumed the exact opposite of what you did: that this ad is mocking a very specific type of teen girls, the type that was glorified by many mass media outlets not that long ago. The ad may be a few years too late, but to me, that's the culture it was referencing.

    Also, as Eve pointed out, this series of ads does mock other groups, such as middle-aged men.

    On a more positive note, there are ads out there that respect and celebrate teenage girls, such as the latest ads from Verizon (possibly another wireless carrier, but I believe it's Verizon) that depict teen girls talking about how their voices matter, too. A little simplistic, yes, but how deep can you get in a 30-second commercial? What about the "One Less" ads that encourage teens to talk openly with their doctors and parents about their sexual health?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I don't think we're blowing this out of proportion. We're simply stating that this stereotype is not true there aren't facts to support it. If you want to use a stereotype in your commercial do some damn research. Have some facts to support it. We're just saying we're sick of being treated less in society because of an age old stereotype and now we're finally speaking up and using facts to support our arguements.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just today I saw my friend Anna, who just got her license 2 weeks ago, driving in my neighborhood. She waves and then goes around the traffic circle the wrong way! I think the commercial is funny, although I really don't think it is a good image for Allstate, which before has shown emphasis on family.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I find it really odd that they have to have a guy speaking for the teen girl. It's kind of like saying women can't speak for themselves--men have to articulate what we want to say. Even the angry lady doesn't get to speak--she just pantomimes a bit.

    I agree, this isn't the way Allstate should go--they had a better family-focused ad campaign before this.

    Also, Jamie, kudos on the blogging. I've been following you since The 17 Magazine Project, and I enjoy what you have to say. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  16. As a young woman your age, I agree that this is a portrayal of a stereotype but I have no problem with it being used to catch attention. Most teenage girls I know who have just gotten their license that either get into a fender-bender or get a speeding ticket within a month of getting their license. I'm sure this happens with teenage boys as well but it's more relatable with a girl-typed character. Not all teenage girls drive recklessly or get in any type of car accident (I have been driving for 1.5 years and have not gotten any tickets or into any accidents) but there are a good number of those who do. Sadly, it's publicized more than male driving but that is the way life is and you have to deal with it sometimes. No matter how hard you try, there's always going to be sexism in media AND in life.

    And Jenny, this commercial is one of the many in the "Mayhem" series of Allstate commercials in which this man portrays many types of things that could destroy your car (the puppy that destroys your backseat & then they show him chewing out the foam from the backseat of a car). You should watch the extended version.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love your breakdown of this commercial. It irked me, too! I'm a teenage girl and I can't think of a peer who is that frivolous, and I certainly know no one who says "O-M-G" or "B-F-F"... at all.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have hit one car due to me not being an experienced driver. (And I almost hit a person, because my brakes weren't working properly... Oy.)
    The number of adults who have hit or almost hit me? Somewhere in the 100s. I got pushed off the road by a semi (middle-aged male driver). I was stuck in my parking spot at a grocery store for 5 minutes because mothers with children in their SUVs kept whipping around the corner and not letting me out. I eventually pulled halfway out of my parking spot, and they kept trying to squeeze by me.
    I have a huge issue with bad drivers. It's a speed MAXIMUM, not minimum. Turn signals are important. Follow the signs and lines on the road.
    My car getting wrecked is one thing; I can get another one of those. But I really like my life, and those are a little harder to come by. I like to drive in a respectful way... A way that says "Hey, other people on the road, I believe you like your life as much as I like mine... so I don't want to get in the way of you living by doing something stupid." I wish more people had the same mentality.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I loved your analyzation of the ad! Another one that I've noticed which is about a girl who's either a preteen or just become a teenager is a Tide ad about this little girl who wants a pair of jeans that are "only 100 dollars". Your article about the "Mayhem" commercial inspired me to look closer at advertisements and how they portray teenagers and young girls in a negative or stereotypical light!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hey I thought this was a pretty dayuum awesome post and I linked to it in my blog with a response. Loving your critical eye, it always amazes me when people can logically cut through things that don't make sense.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Too funny...in a few years tell me how you feel about it – i.e. when you are not a teenager anymore.

    I know this may come as a shock to you but you will continue to age and, in time, understand why the world views teenagers they way we do.

    Everyone older than you was once a teenager too. We get it. We knew we were the smartest and most misunderstood group on the planet too. We knew we could fix the world. And then we grew up.

    It's okay....you'll understand after you have a few years under your belt. Continue to believe your age group is the most misunderstood, persecuted, discriminated, blah, blah, blah group on the planet. By the time you are able to contribute to society in a meaningful way, you’ll be old enough to appreciate why the world views teenagers the way we do.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think you are taking this commercial more than a little bit too seriously. It's a joke, which is completely obvious if you watch the rest of the commercials staring Dean Walters. Part of the reason it is funny is because of the ridiculous generalizations it makes.
    One thing I have realized over the years is that before you react to something like this, you need to think of where the writers are coming from. It is highly unlikely that the people who wrote the copy for this commercial were out to bash on young female drivers. Take an advertising class, learn about the industry, and write a few ads and then reevaluate this ad.
    I also agree with what Anonymous posted on Oct. 16th. While I am not too far out of my teen years, he makes a good point.

    Anyway, I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I understand that this ad was purely taking advantage of the stereotypes that are already out there, but I, too, find it quite offensive. No, I am not offended because I think it is sexist or because it attacks a certain age group. I find it offensive because no one seems to think twice about its bashing of young girls. If it were mocking the stereotype that Asians are bad drivers, or if it somehow made fun of black people or Jewish people or whatever other group of people, there would be lawsuits and all of the civil rights leaders would be up in arms. The point is, Allstate shouldn't be able to get away with freely mocking one group of people when it is not acceptable to poke fun at other groups of people.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The World is not out to get youJanuary 17, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    I agree with AbiH and somewhat with the Anonymous comment above me. on the one hand, so you got made fun of in a car insurance commercial...so what on the other hand they dont really make fun of other groups of people, except for guys in the commercial where the guy is distracted by the hot girl running on the side of the road but then again i guess you'd say that that is sexist too because the man driving is objectifying the woman running by oogling at her as he passes. that fact of the matter is that generally speaking guys find girls sexually attractive and if theres a good looking girl running on the side of the road we might look a little longer (which may be dangerous) but thats not to say that we are seeing her as a piece of sexual meet we are just distracted by an appealing sight to us. i for one have crashed my car because i was oogling a motorcycle on the side of the road what guys are distractable and girls can be emotional FACTS. the only way to avoid these stereotypes is to have everyone of that group act in a counter way to them (that is not to say all girls should start blogging about how outraged they are but rather, if its not true than no girl should have a pink car bedazzled phone and pink shades) thats just never going to happen though so the easiest and mo,st effective thing to do is something that i think everyone in the whole world should be able to do: LAUGH AT YOURSELF!
    If everyone could laugh at themselves then this ad would be hilarious and they could have one where he pretends to be an asian driver or a black driver or jewish driver or a gay driver or anyone he wanted and we could all say "hahaha i know thats not exactly how i am but it does have some ounce of truth in it." and if you can tell me that this commercial has no truth to it at all then i must call you a liar my friend for i have been in a car where a scenario quite similar to this has taken place.

    So please, do not feel like every ad and costume design is created in order to degrade and/or exploit you, you aren't that important. People poke fun at people all the time and generalizations are made because they are based in some piece of truth somewhere, but if you can learn to laugh at yourself then maybe just maybe you can get past the idea that people hate you and see that without you thing would just be more boring because of the humor that you (or whatever subsequent groups you belong to) brings to the table.

    oh, and Anonymous it is not only acceptable to poke fun at other groups of people but i think it should be encouraged to the point at which we can all see our fallacies and flaws and laugh at them together. All of you attacking the advertising industry are no better than them, they just have much more money than you so they can put it on tv and in magazines. you just group here and gripe about the shit they did to make money.

    In the end if we can laugh at ourselves then no one else can laugh harder and we can all shut up and be happy

    ReplyDelete
  25. do you know what. i think this is a load of absolute bullshitt. i dont know why all you loosers think your so big talking about teaanage girls n'all..grow a pair yeaahh..¬¬

    ReplyDelete
  26. this is to the person above.. if yu'v got something negative to say.. then say it to our faces. we'l see who laughs then when we stick a needle up your arse!

    ReplyDelete
  27. LOOL you foolish little shitbag! do you know who i amm?! NO..didnt think so ¬¬ where you from i coming now!

    ReplyDelete
  28. as a matter of fact.. yur name is khaleeda begum.. because
    1. yu are sitting right next to me and..
    2. yur writing asif yur chinese so that means yur khaleeda begum.
    so shame and stick that information where the moon dont shine. thankyu.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Olryt okaii..Khaleeda begum yea? naaaaah my name is khaleeda "chinx stah" begum!! Get it right yeah ¬¬ but ju know what...i know who you are n'all..Hazera Choudhury!! Yeaahh yu thought i didnt know ineeh...naah mans on chinx alert *.*

    ReplyDelete
  30. I've got a teen daughter. She drives well (by my teaching tyvm), but be honest; teen drivers win no awards for safe driving. For all I've taught her, she'll still do dumb stuff, no matter how much I taught her, trust her or love her.
    Girls do drive better than boys, but you think one commercial you find "offensive" is gonna change any insurance policies? Highly doubtful. All this PC stuff isn't going to affect them one bit. Your parents will still pay the same higher premium because of you. Welcome to the real world.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I know this may come as a shock to you but you will continue to age and, in time, understand why the world views teenagers they way we do.

    Or maybe she won't. Not everyone grows up to be a prejudiced jerk.

    I find it rather sad that some of the people defending the ad have completely ignored the chart in your blog post. I guess they prefer their own "facts."

    ReplyDelete
  32. My Lord...it's a commercial!!! They make fun of Christmas trees that are tied to the top of mini vans backwards...I don't see them pissing and moaning...ha haaaa! Lighten up and see the humor in stereotypes kids!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Also this is in no way sexist ... Why do people always have to make mountains out of molehills? It's a J-O-K-E. They're having a man speaking for the girl because it's funny and he's their spokesperson so he plays everyone. smh...

    ReplyDelete