American Eagle "Introducing AerieMAN" (2016) 1:40 (USA)

The real you is a sexy man. Or are you? Is this a joke or is it real? Just when I thought we'd invented a new form of advertising: Poe's Lawvertising, nah, I remember the time of year and it's just another April Fool's joke. It was meant to be a uh, light-hearted take on body positivity which American Eagle takes very seriously. Which almost makes sense, kind of, because the video sure seems like it's trying to be funny in a really ironic self-absorbed millennial kind of way. But the problem is, if you are trying this hard to be funny, and then you later claim that you take body positivity seriously, well, it doesn't hold up because it actually seems like you're making fun of fat dudes. The whole thing's a bit open to misinterpretation.

And while women have always had it bad in the objectification department of advertising, men are perpetually portrayed as dumb, as in dumb dadvertising who can always be blamed for raiding the pantry who only do stereotypically man things who can only give up their beloved sports to go shopping with the girlfriend if they see the beer beacon at the end of that ordeal. In other words, your rationale doesn't matter. By making fun of dudes, you have made fun of dudes.

The reason I mention the later claim that American Eagle takes body positivity very seriously is because the April Fool's joke kind of blew up in their face once it hit social media. The problem is compounded now, because the intent was so misinterpreted it made Twitter lose its shit, and once you've offended the easily offended-- especially those who aren't your target market and have never shopped in your store--it's game over.

So then American Eagle had to do some underwearsplainin'* and go, "hey y'all no really, calm down. While it's true we never gave a crap about body image until 2014 when we jumped on the bandwagon and stopped retouching our female models for Aerie, now we're totes gonna do the same for the bros, too. Check out their website announcement about the campaign.

It's safe to say some aspects of #AerieMAN were just for laughs, but body positivity for girls and guys? That's something we take very seriously. In addition to donating 25K to NEDA, a non-profit that supports those affected by eating disorders, we're making a commitment to stop retouching men's underwear and swim by the 2016 Holiday season. For real.

This might have started out innocently enough as a jokey way to let people know Aerie sells men's underwear. But then it all went horribly wrong. Now I don't know if the whole pr spin and donation was always a part of the mix, or if that was a PR damage control reaction to the pitchfork crowd on social media or not. I would not be surprised if it was the latter as the pitchfork crowd will never be happy unless your head is on such pitchfork. I'm surprised they didn't try to get someone fired over it.

Either way, I'm glad April Fool's Day is over.

*Underwearsplaining or *Underwearsplainin' are terms I just coined for this article. They are my gift to you.

Client: American Eagle

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Dabitch's picture

The models who start the shoot are so perfectly cast, I mean the blond and brunette with their backs turned. Already there, I knew.

David Felton's picture

I don't get it, and I'm not going to make any effort to. Is this for real? It it a joke. I don't give a shit any more. And FYI, all this 'body positivity' is cute, but for most people the best way to feel confident and sexy is lost 20lbs of fat and put on 10lbs of muscle.

Of course no one wants to hear that, everyone wants easy solutions. I got in shape and all it took was three months of dedication, healthy eating, daily struggle, and making myself go to the gym after work every day. Don't feel like going to the gym? Tough shit, you're going. Neck hurts? Tough shit, you're going. Headache? Tough shit, you're going.

This is part of the reason I believe that the majority of men don't buy into the body positivity myth. Being out of shape doesn't feel good, and one feels less confident as a result. A new pair of underwear isn't going to change that.

Also does anyone else find it hilarious that the blonde guy - who looks like a beautiful sculpted model - says:

"If you're confident in yourself and you're happy... then that's what is going to come across as beautiful to other people, not what you look like."

This is one of my pet peeves, because it's complete bullshit; not just a total lie but a total deviation from everything we know about the world and about how the world works. Millions of years of evolution doesn't just suspend itself because you're feeling confident and happy. We live in a totally superficial world, and this is the biggest piece of shit myth advertising has been peddling since day one.

Tl;dr: 'Spray this Axe and get laid' has become 'Just be confident and get laid'. They're both lies, and I hate lies in advertising.

Dabitch's picture

It's meant to be a parody, and it works pretty well at the start, but then it skids off course - because there are people who seriously believe that shit about feeling confident, oblivious to the fact that the best confidence comes from having a strong core from working out proper, like you say. Like Kidsleepy points out it can't take body positivity seriously and mock it too. That reminds me of when a student entered the Future Lions with a pisstake on cynical advertising, there's a disconnect.