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Sex-War Synergy at AOL

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Posted on Jan 24, 2006
Babes
From AOL

AOL perpetuates the glorification of war—this time via “Babes.”

By Blair Golson

In the wake of a big traffic spike, we’ve beefed up this report on AOL’s tasteless and tone-deaf Babes in Arms feature, which portrays militarism as a sexy and glamorous sideshow.

Over 40 years after writer Paddy Chayefsky brilliantly eviscerated popular culture’s romanticization of war in the film “The Americanization of Emily,” the mass media remains unbowed in its pursuit of exploiting war as a sexy, romantic profit center.

There is plenty of blame to spread around here, but this Jan. 26 offering from AOL is pretty egregious. Appearing in the top-billed “Entertainment” slot of the site’s hugely-trafficked main page, the “Babes in Arms” feature displays a photo slideshow of Hollywood starlets portraying soldiers whose busts are nearly busting out of the uniforms.

The first slide, picturing Jordana Brewster in a bra-peeking scene from the movie “Annapolis,” has a caption that reads, “As James Franco’s superior at the Naval Academy, the gorgeous Jordan Brewster gets to order him around in basic training and elsewhere, if you know what we mean. And we think you do.”

The next, showing Jessica Biel in a breast-squeezing flight-suit from the 2005 movie “Stealth,” reads, “Sure, she can rock a flight suit, but it’s the scene in which a bikini-clad Jessica cavorts in a Thai waterfall that made some folks want to run off and enlist.”

It’s not the sex that’s so incensing: it’s the subtext—that enlisting in the armed forces is a sexy, glamorous thing to do. Apparently the thousands of real-life women and men coming home from Iraq in body bags or wheelchairs have done nothing to dampen the appetites of behemoths like AOL-Time Warner to exploit bloody strife for its sexual and economic potential.

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To be fair, the feature ran under AOL’s “Entertainment” banner, not the “News” tab. And AOL-Time Warner is far from the first media organization to splice sex with war. But calling yourself a peddler of entertainment does not absolve you from the necessity of showing good taste.

This is especially true in the case of AOL-Time Warner (the latter half being a news organization, let’s not forget). Back before the two companies merged in 2000, they couldn’t issue a press release without using the word “synergy” at least 17 times. The whole point of their merging was to do a more effective—and one would hope, responsible—job at serving up content to their audiences.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised then, that the wizards at AOL-TW did about as good a job synergizing “Babes” and “Arms” as they have with the rest of their synergistic endeavors (see: Time Warner drops AOL from its name) Because of course, the larger issue at stake here is the breakdown of walls not only between news and entertainment, but of news-entertainment and advertising. This is the real “synergy” that had the pre-merger folks at Time Warner and AOL salivating: the ability to make the consumption of content, goods and services all one in the same.

You need look no further than the presentation of the “Babes in Arms” feature to see this practice in action.

The most prominent information menu on AOL’s home page is divided up into tabbed menus that read “News,” “Entertainment,” “Lifestyle,” “Marketplace,” and “Science.” But since all of them contain features that are, if not news, at least news-like, the distinctions are basically meaningless.

And so you click on the “Entertainment” tab. The “Babes in Arms” feature pops up. A click on it whisks you away to AOL subsidiary Moviefone. There, the slideshow continues—alongside offers to buy tickets for an assortment of movies—now that you’ve got them on the brain.

In short, AOL has used its news-like portal to piggyback on a deadly conflict in an attempt to sell you movie tickets.

Of course, that’s not the way AOL sees it.

“The ‘Babes in Arms’ editorial feature on Moviefone.com is simply a light-hearted profile of actresses who notably portrayed military roles in Hollywood films,” a Moviefone spokesperson told Truthdig. “It certainly is in no way intended to disrespect the women, and men, currently serving our country.”

Perhaps. But it’s still pretty tone deaf to be saluting fictional female soldiers for their sex appeal when so many of their real-life counterparts are facing quite different realities in Iraq. Especially when you’re only doing so to hawk movie tickets.



If you’d like, you can tell AOL how you feel about this feature. Call the corporate headquarters at (703) 265-1000.


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By Yonk, February 1, 2006 at 6:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Philippe doen’t understand that not everyone wants to live in the Bible belt and be reduced to having sex with their relatives

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By Jim MacKrell, January 28, 2006 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yea, to media minds all women are tough and all men are gay.

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By GaryJ, January 28, 2006 at 9:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

good lord, these are movie characters - NOT REAL LIFE.  Not that I’m a big fan of AOL, but this is Hollywood.  Hollywood only gives us what we want.  They aren’t going to give us something we don’t want because there is no money in it.  This isn’t about making war sexy, it’s about making money.  THAT’s America people! 

side note:  I was in the military ... it would have been nice break to see women like this in uniform, they just aren’t there.  AOL/Hollywood are just selling us our fantasy.  Has NOTHING to do reality.

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By KLW, January 27, 2006 at 4:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Don’t be silly.  Of course that wasn’t Gloria Steinem.  The whole post was obviously deliberately facetious trolling.  Probably one of the mindless Republican minions sent to agitate. 

I think the irony of this story is that it will induce a lot of people (like me) to click through and check out the feature who never would have otherwise… thereby increasing the number of hits for the story and encouraging AOL to keep it up.

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By jake, January 26, 2006 at 11:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

>Boy did you dummies miss the point. It’s not >about glorifying war, it’s about shattering >stereotypes about what’s ‘feminine’ and ‘sexy’ >and highlighting one of the important roles that >women play in today’s world beyond that of >housewife and mother.

How about the stereotype that the media accurately represents public opinion on appropriate gender roles, and what makes an attractive person. A majority of the population does not think that a short, slim, vulnerable woman is the height of beauty.
The only stereotype that matches the above exists soley in the medias minds.

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By Quintessential NYC, January 26, 2006 at 10:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To quote Golson, “It’s not the sex that’s so incensing: it’s the subtext—that enlisting in the armed forces is a sexy, glamorous thing to do.” 

So there are two issues here, right?  One is the objectification of women to sell war and the second is the issue of selling war like any other product.  I’ve given up criticizing beer ads for years, so I won’t even delve into the objectification of women to sell products.

In order to properly analyze the issue let’s step back, shall we?  Would we all agree that we need a military?  Sure.  Now comes the harder part.  How should the military recruit?  The days when it was considered honorable to fight for one’s country are over. So, options include drafting, paying people high dollar (i.e. mercenaries), using compelling arguments like patriotism (ala Napoleon), and finally using standard marketing techniques.  These techniques include, music, flash, powerful imagery, and sexuality to name a few.  We’ve all seen the super cool commando military ads with distortion, heavy metal music, and buffed guys in military ads.  Those always seemed objectionable. The AOL busty ones have really hit our (Golson’s) threshold. 

Would the government successfully recruit without using standard marketing techniques?  Not likely.  No one is going enter a life of psychotic-flashbacks-and-lost-limbs because of his/her love for Bush or stock in Halliburton.

I’m not suggesting that the ends justify the means.  I still think that it’s downright icky to use standard marketing (including sexuality) to lure people into potentially dying.  The government, for example, would not allow drug companies to advertise by way of sexual imagery in order to recruit patients in highly investigational drug studies, right?  I mean, the purpose of the government is to protect people from doing harm to themselves secondary to emotional/psychological manipulation.  Ha!  Isn’t it ironic?  (Like ra-ain on your wedding day)

What am I saying?  I’m saying I agree with Golson.  Mainly ‘cause I disagree with war in general and this war in particular.  If we were using sexuality to recruit for something noble (like beer?), then it’s not so horrible (egregious wink).

Well done.  Look forward to more articles.

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By Philippe, January 26, 2006 at 6:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dude, what’s your problem? So there are some hot women in hollywood. Some of them play various roles, including military. What a surprise. Oh, and then entertainment writers write fluffy pieces about hot things that hollywood has done. It’s not a frickin political statement. Anyway, hope you’re enjoying the west coast, ya mother****** wink

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By CV, January 26, 2006 at 2:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Comment by Gloria Steinem on 1/25 at 1:01 pm

Boy did you dummies miss the point. It’s not about glorifying war, it’s about shattering stereotypes about what’s ‘feminine’ and ‘sexy’ and highlighting one of the important roles that women play in today’s world beyond that of housewife and mother.

Yes, strong, tough, smart, brave women that don’t need to cower behind men and are willing to fight for the values they hold dear ARE sexy, and kudos to AOL for highlighting that truth in this feature.


Is there any way to check back and see if this comment really was from Ms Steinem? The women of the real military are already way past the stereotypes already, without any glam. Compare the publicity still above to any picture of say, Gen. Janis Karpinski or former Col. Anne Wright. They aren’t selling “strong, tough, smart, brave”. The sexy “uniforms” et cetera are the same hollywood overlay that’s used to reach the (male) audience that commodifies women generally. I can’t believe she could miss that. Meanwhile the Militaristic aspect gets a free ride? Women and Children are far and away the most often vicitmized by wars. If Gloria S actually wrote this post, something odd has happened to a once brilliant mind.
Peace
CV

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By Shamus, January 26, 2006 at 11:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your right Gloria nobody tinks dat babes is sexy. So way to go AOL fer pointin dat ting out here. I also tink its a great ting dat stars like Angelina are fightin for our rights in Irak.

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By Roger Drowne EC ... ( A Buffalo ), January 25, 2006 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ck it out

” Buffalo In Arms ”

The Movie is on the way… Be in it !

It Is NOW… OPEN ALL NIGHT… on line

http://www.TheBuffaloParty.com

Thank U, Stop by and say hello 2,

Buffie, Buffer and all the little Buffs

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By Karen Tracey, January 25, 2006 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Isn’t it amazing that all these “revelations” about the war’s winningness is observed from afar, a very afar? How come those with the biggest mouths of support, do so from the furthermost point?
But mostly, how come no one answers questions these days and no one MAKES them?

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By Gloria Steinem, January 25, 2006 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Boy did you dummies miss the point. It’s not about glorifying war, it’s about shattering stereotypes about what’s ‘feminine’ and ‘sexy’  and highlighting one of the important roles that women play in today’s world beyond that of housewife and mother.

Yes, strong, tough, smart, brave women that don’t need to cower behind men and are willing to fight for the values they hold dear ARE sexy, and kudos to AOL for highlighting that truth in this feature.

Report this

By Susan Block, January 25, 2006 at 5:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Isn’t it disgusting how sex is used to sell war, even as depictions of sex as lovemaking (ie., adult pornography) are being hunted down and criminalized?

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By blowback, January 25, 2006 at 5:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Perhaps when this is reduced to looking like this, then Hollywood will start making films like this.

BTW, I hope it never happens.

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