In this 2012 clip from The Ellen DeGeneres Show, host Ellen mocks a new product, Bic for Her, a line of pens marketed to women. She points out various attributes of the pens: that they come in “lady colors” pink and purple, are “designed to fit a women’s hand,” and “cost twice as much” as other pens. She then, jokingly, tells the studio audience that she was asked to star in a commercial for the pens. The show then cuts to a skit, a parody commercial in which Ellen plays a mother, walking along the beach with her adolescent daughter, having a “heart to heart” conversation about growing up and using Bic for Her pens. The bit was part of a larger public reaction against Bic for Her pens, including many satirical user-generated reviews on Amazon and much commentary on blogs and other media outlets.
Make a list of some of Ellen’s jokes. What makes them funny? What stereotypes do they undermine? What jokes are comedic exaggerations and what jokes rely on facts? What jokes get the biggest response from the studio audience? How does humor — and in particular, Ellen’s style of humor — function as a form of critique?
Why do you think Bic made these pens? In addition to making pens, the company Bic makes other small, disposable plastic products, including razors. It has long sold razors that are marketed and packages as either for men or for women but are otherwise identical. Why did these products never face the public scrutiny that Bic for Her pens have? What other products are naturalized as being for one gender or another? What strategies do the companies use to gender these products?
What actual commercials for what kinds of products does Ellen’s fake Bic for Her commercial parody? What elements can you identify from real commercials? How does Ellen’s costume in the parody commercial differ from her clothing as host?