Ads grab attention via shock value, not personal value

The more I think about it, the more I’m sure that the American society runs on shock value.

Let’s not pretend we don’t love the thrill of an odd demonstration on the Quad. We live for days when someone interrupts our large lectures by pretending they’re Superman and running out of Foellinger. And though I’m sure no one particularly LIKED seeing Janet Jackson’s lady bits on TV. Still, after eight years, we talk about it in class examples and newspaper columns. We are an adrenaline-filled species; even the most quiet of us humans can’t stand to be bored for long.

Of course, advertising has picked up on it over the years and have provided us with some interesting tidbits. We’ve been given everything, from Super Bowl commercials with dancing dogs to sexy (if not wildly inaccurate) Axe commercials. But where’s the line of commercial advertising? When does it go from slightly uncomfortable to just plain upsetting?

Why don’t you ask PETA?

On Monday, PETA ran an online ad talking about the awesomeness of switching to being vegan. Particularly, how going from meat-eater to vegan-lover will turn you from a regular sex-haver to Sex-God-Extreme. Nothing wrong in this logic, yet, right?

Maybe. Except the ad goes one step further. The guy’s girlfriend is portrayed as being beaten down from her boyfriend’s intense, mind-blowing sex. And not “lie in bed for five minutes and then take a nap” beaten down. I’m talking neck brace, full-out limping, seriously injured beaten down. The girl clearly did not enjoy any of the “tantric” sex her boy gave her; in fact, she looked downright miserable.

Now, I have nothing against the values that PETA holds with veganism. Though I myself am a cheeseburger-guzzling, chicken-nugget-stuffing carnivore, a couple of my friends are vegan, and I’m happy that they’re happy with their choices. And I didn’t know being a vegan increases one’s sex drive, but if it does, then power to all that are meat and cheese free.

However, I do have a problem with PETA extending the shock value rule to producing a video that makes it seemingly OK to beat up a girl during sex. True, the direct, main message of the ad is not to promote violence against women. But indirectly, that’s what they’re doing.

They could have gone any route with this. In fact, they could have just totally focused on the issue that the kid is now a sextremely good lover and left it at that. There was no reason to bring in a battered girl.

Initially, I had a hard time deciding if I even wanted to touch on this issue. Yes, I was super upset when I read about it. But I didn’t know where to go beyond the rationale that the ad is awful. People who are vegans aren’t going to stop being vegans because of the ad (as they rightly shouldn’t), and we don’t have the power to pull the ad off the Internet if we wanted to.

But there is something we can do. We can recognize the hypocrisy of ads like these, allow ourselves to actually be shocked by certain elements and take the message with a grain of salt. And I’m not just talking about PETA (because I am by no means prepared to lead a revolution against them, trust me), but any other organization that has what they’re portraying contradict what their values are. And we should support more organizations that have more to do with our personal values.

Let’s face it: We’ll always be addicted to the thrill of something controversial. But we should always remember what we stand for first.

Tolu is a junior in Media.