The Bacardi-owned Scotch whisky company Dewar's has pulled all versions of an online advertisement called "Meet the Baron" after bloggers pointed out it was offensive and, well, just plainly hateful toward women. The ad was supposed to be an introduction to a character called "the Baron," a proxy for the brand and all-around wingman who valiantly saves his chum from the advances of a woman in a bar, depicted here as overweight and forward. However it was supposed to play, it didn't, and before its untimely demise this morning, someone even made a compelling argument about how certain shots from the Dewar's commercial seemed to echo a violent stretch of Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange adaptation from 1971.
Here's what happened: "Meet the Baron" recently began running as a sponsored video post across several sites and on the liquor company's social-media pages. Though it's been pulled, we've seen the spot: It begins with the Baron, who races a sporty convertible through a desolate cityscape at breakneck speed. He arrives in the nick of time to pick up his buddy. They wear suits, they grimace, they need to go drink Dewar's and hook up with beautiful women. So it's nighttime, they're at the bar, the lights are dim, and you can practically smell the El Niño system of foul body spray wafting in the place as everyone gets their drink on, then, blammo! — What's this? In walks an overweight woman in a red dress, who begins her approach toward the buddy.
Luckily, the narrator tells us, the Baron is the kind of guy who, in battle, "wouldn't just take a bullet for you; he'd be the one throwing himself on the explosives." So, he blocks her approach.
And, after some unspecified heroism, the red-dress woman has been vanquished offscreen somewhere, and the Baron and his bespoke-shirted bro are left to toast to the finer things in life, specifically, "Swedish bikini models," who now conveniently join them for a drink while Dewar's mascot Claire Forlani looks on scornfully/approvingly/distantly/vacantly from the balcony.
The original commercial and the "extended version" have now been shuffled behind password protection or scrubbed offline completely, but a snippet of the ending lives on.
The ad is clearly and ridiculously tone-deaf, but it wasn't until Canadian writer Johanne McInnis, who goes by the handle Whisky Lassie, started a petition online calling "Baron" sexist and stupid — and demanding its removal — that people started paying attention.
Other spirits writers jumped in, letting McInnis know she was in good company; on his blog, Fred Minnick called the ad "tasteless" and wrote that the spot may even be in violation of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States' "Code of Responsible Practices," which seeks to halt offensive stereotyping and discrimination in liquor marketing. MediaBistro and Business Insider took issue with the message.
And so, after trying to mount a feeble Twitter defense claiming viewers were supposed to think the blonde woman was undesirable not because of her physical appearance but actually because she was some sort of "evil villain" (she does nothing in the clip to indicate this), Dewar's pulled the ad.
We heard your responses to "Meet The Baron" and have chosen to remove the video from YouTube.— Dewar's (@dewars) December 10, 2013
But not before writer Christine Sismondo noticed another strange aspect of the commercial at the Huffington Post. It turns out that the Baron's introduction ...
... is oddly reminiscent of this particularly chaotic sequence from A Clockwork Orange.
After the gang plays chicken with oncoming traffic, there is a tight, square frame around Alex's face. It's nearly identical to the one framing the Baron. The color scheme is extremely close. And, then there's the narrator, who has the same cadence as the man about to commit the ultra-violence.
She concludes it's too similar to be coincidence, and the writers must have thought "it was a good idea to make a reference to a film about gang rape in a commercial about men going out to drink and pick up women."
Intentional or otherwise, Dewar's has spent this morning responding to writers directly over their critical posts, standing by the notion that their "Drinking Man's Scotch" campaign features a "strong and successful female icon as the spokesperson for the brand," but also, reading between the lines, pledging that the Baron's next act of "camaraderie" won't be so offensive.
Liquor companies need their spokespeople, and a kinder, gentler Baron would be a start. But nothing would be more affirming than Dewar's making a new commercial for its Scotch, one that recasts the "evil villain" in the red dress as the hero of the story. That would be really toast-worthy.
Baron Dewar - Crash Landing Of A Glasgow Superhero [Dramming]
How Booze Ads Fuel Rape Culture [Huffington Post]