Tell us a bit about the show?
Dear John… revels in comedy's power to expose the ludicrous, vapid and damaging stereotypes that are prevalent in the media today. It is an evening of rip-roaring parodies, hilarious spoof songs and irreverent over-dubbing. We depict the actors that star in, viewers in front of and the producers behind sexist adverts. As part of international women's week at 3MT, Dear John is a fundraiser for the inspirational charity Independent Choices.
Where did you get the idea from?
I was standing at Oxford Circus tube stop facing an advert for Go Daddy.com. A beautiful, blonde women, was covering her otherwise naked body with a sign saying "GoDaddy.com". With no other information about the product, I assumed this must just be a website for daddies to look at naked blondes. Looking into it, I discovered it's actually website for registering domain names...... And I was bewildered as to why a naked women became the brand image for the company?????
This advert was so ridiculously offensive and sexist that I laughed, out-loud. And I felt much stronger. I realised that laughing in the face of sexist adverts is a weapon to defend ourselves against them. And that's really where "Dear John..." came from.
Why do you think so many adverts are sexist?
Ha! Wow...How long have you got? Firstly, I don't believe advertisers always set out to promote patriarchal ideologies. But sex sells! Advertisers - exploit, perpetuate and so profit from the fact that attractive bodies grab attention and stimulate desire. Women's bodies, in particular, are used to sell products from bras to custard. One off-shoot of this is that unrealistic ideas of what women should look like are perpetuated, and these manifest in female anxiety and insecurity. Advertisements then exploit this insecurity by implying that the way to cure body anxieties is to invest in their product. Or in the case of adverts targeting men, advertisers suggest the woman is the man's 'reward' for buying the product. Tragically, women portrayed in adverts for men appear stronger, confident and more assured than they do in adverts targeting women. This deepens women's insecurity and then perpetuates the success of adverts targeting women. What I don't know is why on earth we actually buy into sexist adverts? Adverts which perpetuate beauty ideals and patronise us to believe that as women we're always "almost" there! Almost "perfect".
How do you make this funny?
Firstly, sexist adverts are often pretty laughable anyway. But, secondly, I like to think we approach sexist adverts in same way caricature artists approach drawing a face, taking the most prominent features and making them larger than life. A favorite sketch of mine is our Victoria Secret underwear advert. We keep the sexy underwear, raunchy movements, high-heels and lingering looks but recast it with men. Or we give an insight into the gaudy boardroom pitch for the GoDaddy adverts…what other ideas was this up against?
Who is the piece aimed at?
The women from the domestic violence charity "Independent choices", People who like to laugh and particularly people who recognise the social pressure and expectations on achieving femininity.
Why go and see it?
Not only will Dear John... be a hilarious mid-week night out, giving you the chance to laugh in the face of sexual stereotyping. But importantly, £3 of every ticket goes towards the amazing women at the domestic violence charity "Independent Choices".
Stephanie Singer was speaking to Glenn Meads
Dear John... is at the Three Minute Theatre, Manchester on 6 March.