Gerard Butler caught up in ‘toxic masculinity’ row after South African beer ad starring tee-total star is banned for gender stereotyping

January 25, 2021 | Endorsements

He is depicted as the macho action hero for our generation and has been tee-total for almost two decades, but Gerard Butler has been caught up in a gender stereotyping row, leading to the banning of a South African beer advert.

The Paisley-born actor, famous for his lead roles in films such as Olympus Has Fallen and Machine Gun Preacher, fell foul of advertising standards with his TV ad for Diageo-made Windhoek beer.

They banned the commercial for suggesting real men, like 51-year old Butler, drink real beer.

Butler agreed to take part in the ad despite having his well-publicised battle with the booze. He went tee-total after a spell in rehab, checking into the Betty Ford clinic in 2012.

He claims not to have drank alcohol since then.

Butler is seen casually dressed and bearded while enjoying a pint at the bar with the slogan: ‘It’s time for the perfect beer.’

The beer campaign features the tag line, ‘Keeping It Real With Mr Gerard Butler’.

The beer brand used a ‘gentle looking’ man who succumbs to the pressure of ‘macho’ movie star Gerard Butler, said South Africa’s Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB).

The ad features Butler, described in the regulator’s decision as ‘a macho looking movie star’, remonstrating with a bar patron who asks for a slice of lime with his Windhoek.

‘Hey, that’s a Windhoek. It’s 100% beer. You don’t need any lime,’ Butler tells the other customer, before turning to the camera and says, ‘Keep it real, Joe. Keep it real.’

The man he takes to task, says the ARB, ‘is a gentle looking, red-headed man – two characteristics that might typically make him a target for teasing in a toxic environment’.

By showing a man deciding against having a lime with his beer, Windhoek is entrenching toxic masculinity, the regulator ruled.

The interaction between the two, the regulator ruled, sends an unavoidable message that is not acceptable in advertising, especially because it does not actually come out and say that real men drink real beer.

‘The reality is that it is exactly the unspoken nature of the communication that makes it particularly dangerous – the gender stereotype portrayed as so normal that it does not even require explanation,’ said the ARB.

It took issue with both ‘the entrenchment of the role of men as having to behave in a certain way’ and ‘the entrenchment of male behaviour that is bullying, and what has come to be labelled as “toxic masculinity”‘.

The decision cites a clause in the ARB’s code of advertising practice that bans ‘gender stereotyping or negative gender portrayal’ unless it is ‘reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom’.

Heineken, the brewers of Windhoek, had argued its central character had ordered a lime out of habit, ‘and when he tasted the Windhoek Lager without the lime, his response was one of appreciation. He does not react with offence or shame’.

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