This article originally appeared in The Lombardian, a Tallahassee-based blog. Since then, I’ve had Tecate. It’s alright.
Enter a new beer (to us, not the world), originally marketed to America’s Hispanic population but now finds itself launching into more ambitious advertising: Tecate. Taglines like “Blame your manfidence” or “Always bold, never flashy,” direct themselves to what I think one could aptly call values of machismo, a hallmark of Latin American literature and a set of male identifiers shared by many cultures.
The package of masculinity is a controversial one, especially today. I shudder to link a Buzzfeed article, but in 12 Reasons Masculinity is Terrible for Men, the author brings up some important points in a roundabout way. The impression is men fight, men are reckless, men work dangerous jobs, men are lonely. The male identity as a gender role is one riddled with violence and acclaiming sexual and physical experience and recklessness as a metric of brotitude, and exposure to danger is like, totally radical brohamme. Machismo is today reminiscent of those more inappropriate components of masculinity, and the ensemble of commercials might lead one to believe Tecate continues that tradition.
Tecate’s Spanish commercials heavily feature Sylvester Stallone, who on first glance is a big shot macho star from films like Rocky and Rambo (both, interestingly, showcase some of the dangers of masculinity: little social support, proximity to violence, drug abuse), but even he has grown into a dignified, older male statesman actor and general all-around dudebro mascot. His presence hearkens back to a time of danger, but that danger is confined now, at least in Tecate commercials, to the ring, stadium, or boundless skies.
More still, is a great commercial featuring Diego Maradona giving a man the courage to build his own football stadium, which blends the positive characteristics of masculinity — in this case, woodcutting, individuality, and stadium construction — with the brotherhood teamwork inspires and the glory and camaraderie football brings to its audience. The message is less about old-age masculinity and more about being bold enough to make your own decisions, and not just the decisions when standing in the aisle choosing a beer, (manfidence), but decisions like choosing to live an honest life and be a good person. Even Tecate’s advertising is fairly understated as far as commercials go, perhaps a testament to the identity the brand seeks to cultivate.
But you’ll hear it here first. I don’t think the young adult in me would drink Tecate because of its manly message. In fact, many people I know have had it, and I refuse to believe it’s because of the masculine message. I’ve heard the taste is relatively pedestrian (I can now personally attest to this), but it (and most large brands, though this isn’t intended as a bad thing) is a fairly pedestrian beer. Heineken acquired Tecate along with the Dos Equis and Sol brands in 2010, so it’s certainly not being treated as a remarkable revelation by beer enthusiasts. The beer is from Mexico, and pop culture enthusiasts such as myself are only too inclined to babystep out of our comfort zone and try a slightly less well-known product that will provide the same satisfaction, but think this a little different. Drinking is certainly masculine, but the method by which Tecate seeks to acquire your business is not, at least in the traditional sense. Its advertising slogans, graduated ever so slightly from platitudes, still possess a meaning.
The value of Tecate comes not from its taste, but its advertising. Tecate’s advertisements are often related to boxing, but this serves to highlights a focus on measured boldness and inclusion at the party (fueled by booze), and both ideas serve to denature masculinity from its original trappings. Gone are the components of overt violence and irresponsibility, replaced by a more sedate, socialized boldness, which may be the best way to describe its flavor anyway. In today’s world, the real danger is left up to the can’s ubiquitous Black Eagle, who soars through the clouds seeking out his fellow, humble indulgers.