Advertisements, photographs, and art bear more than an obvious written message or a call to action. Details like the historical context, the color scheme, framing, and political inclination can indicate numerous connotations that the author did not intend. In advertisements, these elements signal a particular culture rather than a contextualized marketing message. By examining historical marketing campaigns, one can uncover the social context of the visual media piece. This essay will analyze and interpret the 1952 marketing image titled “Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer!”
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Political and Ideological Agenda
Firstly, to thoroughly analyze the message that the visual media communicates, it is essential to examine its political and ideological agenda. Given the time and the business context of the advertisement, the Schlitz Brewing Company did not intend to include any particular political meaning. However, since its beer was advertised to the working-class males and produced in the 1950s, the marketing material aims to communicate the idea of the male-dominant household. People of most significant influence, especially in government, were men, and this power dynamic also transcends to the media of the time. The abstract idea that this advertisement provides is a cliché image of a husband as a provider and protector of the family who is capable of hard, both manual and intellectual, work. A female in this scenario is presented as a mere server of the husband master who forgives her for the carefree and incapable nature out of the goodness of his heart.
Audience and the Intended Interpretation
Given that the advertisement appeared more than fifty years ago, the difference between the modern interpretation and the original intent of the creators is vast. Regardless of how the ad might be interpreted now, the Schlitz Brewing Company targeted a different audience and wanted them to feel particular emotions. For instance, it focused on the majority of the working, middle to high-class American families. Despite the apparent male-dominant context, there is a high chance that the advertisement also targeted women as a regular magazine audience. For them, the beer campaign was supposed to provoke the desire to buy the beer to please over-demanding husbands. The context of the ad implies that it can solve any problem that a woman can have in her routine household chores. For men, however, the advertisement appealed to the typical scenario of redundant family values and provided an option to brighten it with the alcohol beverage.
The historical era of the image is what mostly determines the messages it projects. This advertisement was created in 1952, which falls into the postwar period when people started to rethink the role of family and its values. At the time, the society enjoyed the stable economy and the American dream was restored. A picture of a perfect household was established: women were supposed to become housewives while their husbands worked to provide for the family financially. As a result, many females sacrificed their careers and education to pursue this concept. The image reflects the reality of the period: a family-focused housewife and a working man. Thus, it can be assumed that this picture is a product of the postwar American ideal family concept, specifically the demeaning gender roles of the 1950s that prioritized men.
Close examination of the advertisement can provide extensive evidence for the hidden meaning of the image. When looking at the ad, an audience sees a man and a woman at the center of the picture standing in the middle of the kitchen (Schlitz Brewing Company 1952). A crying female holds a tissue and a burning pan, while the man smiles and points to the table. On the foreground, the table is served with two bottles of beer and a glass, while the background showcases a dirty stove (Schlitz Brewing Company 1952). The framing and the disposition of the objects emphasize the couple, while the details of their clothing and setting give the audience clues to the context.
The framing also separates the space onto two opposing sides: the male and the female. Feminine side on the left displays a messy kitchen with a burning pan, smoke, and a leaking stove (Schlitz Brewing Company 1952). On the right, the man reflects calmness; there is an orderly table with a clean white cloth and lively yellow drapery in the background (Schlitz Brewing Company 1952). The advertisement presents two people and their power dynamic as a center of attention. For instance, the man is significantly taller and dominates the picture, hinting at his overpowering importance.
The color choice of the picture also plays a vital role in interpretation. The surrounding as a whole is bright and colorful, like a yellow curtain on the right and the white stove on the left (Schlitz Brewing Company 1952). A female figure is dressed in colors that complement the setting, implying that she belongs to the kitchen. On the other hand, a man wears a monochrome suit, which indicates that he is alien to the kitchen and only comes there as a guest, or a master.
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The text ties the message of the visual piece together and brings attention to the beer. The caption on the top right corner reads, “Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer!” (Schlitz Brewing Company 1952). This text indicates what the husband says to his wife, and brings the audience’s attention to two bottles on the table. The font is industrial and official, emphasizing the man’s seriousness.
Atmosphere, Tone, and Mood
The aforementioned details of the emphasis, framing, color choice, and text create a caricature mocking atmosphere. Given what the man says, the tone is supposed to appear as humorous, but also derisive. Despite his spouse’s failure as a housewife, a working man forgives her for her clumsiness and lack of skill and turns to the only solution to his family’s incapability – beer. The visual clues like contrasting framing and color choice imply that a woman is frivolous and incapable of basic household tasks. At the same time, the man is portrayed as the ultimate provider of the household who wholly supports the family. His professional occupation and dominance are apparent from his clothing. He also comes across as a superior yet all-forgiving and indulgent figure.
The producer of the advertisement is the Schlitz Brewing Company. As Schlitz beer was the most popular alcoholic beverage in the US multiple times throughout the 20th century, its target demographic included a lot of middle-class working Americans. Given the context of the analyzed advertisement, it was marketed to people with families, both young and old. As an alcoholic beverage that was promoted with masculine appeal, the majority of the clients were middle-aged men who were most likely to experience the family setting and exercise typical gender roles.
In conclusion, advertisements can be a projection of the cultural and political context of the time of their creation. “Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer!” is a reflection of the ideal postwar American family, which is seen in the image’s framing, emphasis, color choice, and connotation. Although the message of the campaign might be classified as overtly sexist today, it reflects the reality of gender roles of the 1950s.
Schlitz Brewing Company. 1952. “Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer!” Web.