Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's Nerf or Nothing! Advertising that brings out the men in the boys.

          Products are made in order to produce money. In order for businesses to make money, they must advertise and sell a product that audiences can relate to. Businesses target either a specific demographic, or various groups, having the youth being the most vulnerable to such marketing schemes. Before a company can even begin to design a product, they must look at society and see what the socio-normative ideals are. When it comes to the company Nerf, the target demographic is the male youth, and Logan, age 12, is a prime target consumer. Male children, such as Logan, who take enjoyment in sports, are raised to take on the socio-normative ideals such as masculinity, sports-fan tendencies, aggression and violence. With the use of advertising, Nerf has designed a whole line of products that target to promote the socio-normative masculine ideals and these ideals solely.
          In today’s society, men, starting at boyhood, are generalized to be competitive and brotherhood-oriented. Within these mindsets, aggression, strength, and violence are expressed; as are teamwork, male bonding and what it truly means to be masculine. Throughout society, “many men…said that during childhood they played sports because ‘it’s just what everybody did.’…they, of course meant that it was just what boys did. They were introduced to organized sports by older brothers and fathers, and once involved, found themselves playing within an exclusively male world” (Messner 127). Having been brought up in such a society furthers Logan to fill the “masculine” stereotype. Nerf realizes this trend in society and will make products that promote “real manhood” starting at a very young age. Logan, like other children his age have interests in sports such as dodge ball and basketball are seen by Nerf as prime consumers for products they produce and will produce down the line. Nerf produces sports equipment, toy guns and competitions targeted to males below the age of 21.
          The advertisements that Nerf uses advocate the brotherhood and ideal characteristics of what it means to be a “masculine” man. What Nerf is covertly doing is creating products to sell “to young working-class males [and the targeted youth] is a vision of masculinity-adventurous, aggressive, and violent-that provides…a standard of ‘real manhood’ against which to judge themselves” (Katz 355). When pictures on the product box and products themselves have aggressive males, athletes, and boys who look very serious are overtly showing examples of the behavior that the socio-normative male are thought to possess and are of value in society. Logan, along with all of the male youth, finds that these products are used only by males, therefore they must use these products too because they believe they cannot be a man without these products. Logan, too, finds enjoyment in using such products and whether the parents who buy these products know what they are promoting or not, they are raising Logan to become the aggressive, masculine and violent stereotype. Nerf does not make only one kind of product, instead they make multiple products that promote violence, sports and athletics, and aggressive competition. Their slogan says it all: “It’s Nerf, or Nothing!”

Works Cited:

“091807b.” 2010. JPEG.

“9F11567619B9F3691064E12F2198499F.” 2010. JPEG.

Katz, Jackson. "Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity." Title Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Ed. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003. 349-358.

Messner, Michael A.. "Boyhood, Organized, Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities." Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Ed. Estelle Disch. McGraw Hill: 2008. 120-137.

Nerf. 2010.

“Nerf.” The Voice of October 29, 2008. JPEG.

“Nerf_ball_using_surelight.” 2010. JPEG.

“Nerf_N-Strike_Longshot_2.” October 18, 2006. JPEG.

“Nerf - TABLOID - Executed Mailman Grass - PRINT THIS.” Ads of the January 1, 2008. JPEG.

“Nerf002.” Coolest Toys. June 16, 2008. JPEG.

“Nerf33.” The Mixtape Monster Blog. May 5, 2009. JPEG.

“Nerfball.” January 5, 2009. JPEG.

“Nerf Dart Tag 2 Player System.” Kidz 2010. JPEG.

Nerf Weather Blitz. July 24, 2006. JPEG.


  1. Jon-
    You did a fabulous job arguing the link between engendering violence and consumerism in young men through the Nerf advertising you focused on.
    Both the collage and the write-up turned out quite well!
    One minor issue: the term "socio-normative" is not one that I'm sure where you acquired. I'm pretty sure you meant "hetero-normative" instead. The reason it's important for me to point out to you, is because it is important to use accurate terminology, especially in your thesis.
    Overall, well done!
    See SOCS rubric on Assessments for my grade-specific feedback.

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