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Bom Chicka Wah Wah! May 17, 2007

Posted by jsaffold in commercials, male gaze, Pussycat Dolls, sex sells, sexuality, stereotypes, tv.

Early this morning, I was dreaming about being on an airplane and the person next to me kept saying “Bom Chicka Wah Wah.” And then I woke up and realized that there was one of the new Axe deodorant spray commercials on t.v. and it was entering my consciousness and incorporating into my dream. See it for yourself…

From the Axe website:

“The Bom Chicka Wah Wah phenomenon is spreading across the noses of women everywhere. When girls smell new Axe with added Bom Chicka Wah Wah they find themselves losing all inhibition…and you’ll see the most discerning of women losing control and erupting with tunes of lust.”

The site also features an all-girl “band” called the Bom Chicka Wah Wahs. At first I thought the Bom Chicka Wah Wahs were real but their only hit is called…appropriately…”Bomchickawahwah.” The fictitious group is of the burlesque variety, something akin to the Pussycat Dolls but with even less actual talent. (Although I have been guilty of singing “Buttons” and “I Don’t Need a Man” by PCD at the top of my lungs…). The BCWWs are all decked out in fishnets and lingerie dancing on top of a bus, and then the ad launches into the BCWWs’ journey into the nostrils of a woman, where they wreak havoc on the “Common Sense” sector of her brain and turn her into one of them. This is one of those things that must be seen to be believed:

This music video was kind of disturbing in its implications–obviously the BCWWs and the concept as a whole are a bit of a joke, I thought. And the lyrics are a MUST HEAR…something about looking for a man and acting so profane…and oh, the lyrics also say that Bom Chicka Wah Wah is “the libido’s mantra.” Learn something new every day!

Talking to some female friends, I found that many of them thought something along the lines of “that stuff actually works.”

“Yeah, but it wouldn’t make you actually like JUMP someone because of the smell, right?”

“Well, actually sometimes it does…that stuff smells GOOD. It’s amazing. They must put like pheromones in that shit or something.”

The Axe commercials and the current “Bom Chicka Wah Wah” pitch is a perfect embodiment of the male gaze. Although Axe is a men’s deodorant spray, the advertisements tell nothing about its actually deodorizing value, only that if a guy wears the stuff, girls will supposedly come up to you on public transportation and start wildly gyrating and saying “Bom Chicka Wah Wah.” Obviously the commercials and concept are intended with humor–Axe does not obviously disable a woman’s common sense.

The commercial induces curiosity not just in male consumers, but female consumers as well. Just as men might want to try the product to see if it really makes girls lose all self control, women might find themselves wanting to get a whiff just to see if it has any actual effects. Axe was the first in a group of three or four similar products that all feature commercials in which a man uses the spray and are subsequently pursued by tens, hundreds or even thousands of women. While some of the commercials are funny, and while scent is a very powerful mechanism of attraction (hence the huge perfume and cologne industries), the success of these products is dependent upon the exploitation of women as powerless over their own actions and unable to control who they are attracted to. Many advertisements use this same concept–if you wear this, if you use this tooth-whitening kit, if you use this conditioner, if you get these highlights, the opposite sex will be attracted to you. I’ve seen commercials in which a woman turned heads with the shininess of her hair, or the glossiness of her lipstick, but rarely will you see a man in an advertisement pursuing a woman so relentlessly and overtly as in these Axe and other similar commercials. While scent is biologically integral in attraction, I think these kinds of commercials take away the concept of women’s agency and having the power to choose who you’re attracted to. And furthermore…what exactly is Bom Chicka Wah Wah?


1. rachaelg - May 17, 2007

Great post.
I find it interesting (especially in the first commercial) that the woman is made to look ridiculous when she can’t control her sexual attraction. She does NOT appear sexy. Don’t get me wrong, she’s gorgeous, but her whole “Bom Chicka Wah Wah” song and dance would be more effective at making someone run away than get turned on. I know it’s all a part of the humor, but something about it bugs me… Like it’s using women’s sexuality to sell a product, but at the same time taking away the power of that sexuality. The man clearly has the upper hand in the situation, not only because a woman is throwing herself at him, but also because she is humiliating herself.

2. sindhu - May 19, 2007

Yeah, I agree, I think the implication of that video–of women as ‘animals’–is kind of disturbing. It also bothers me that it’s so either/or; women are either prudes or animals, and the only way to be sexual is by overtly displaying it by wearing lingerie/lots of make-up/etc. There’s a whole lot of sexuality in between.

3. Shaping Youth » Girls For A Change: The Summit For Passionistas! - October 19, 2007

[…] Campaign For Real Beauty with “Onslaught” and the simultaneous marketing of the slithering BomChickaWahWah sex toy slop of Axe […]

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