Hitman Sniper and Zombie Blood: Drinking Masculinity6 September 2011
There was once a day – I’m thinking of the late 19th century – in which special drinks with dubious medicinal effects were sold on the basis of overconfidence in scientific breakthrough. What has changed isn’t the wild claims and general quackery, but the kind of willful ignorance we as American consumers exhibit as we buy such products. We know that 3 mg of Echinacea isn’t going to restore our entire psycho-somatic equilibrium. But it sure feels good to buy a pretty can of sugar water labeled “Overdrive.”
As long as we’re buying 16oz containers of fantasy, why not market them with a gendered identity in mind? With gender is more and more an ornamental accessory to our lives, we can finally drink ourselves into manliness. Such has become the reality of 7-11 stores everywhere. Marketers have pegged young males as the primary consumers of energy drinks, so much so that you’ll never see something advertised as “manly.” That would unpoetic, stating the obvious. Instead companies sell the feeling, offering something akin to the experience of primitive hunters amplifying their own power by consuming the life-essence from the slain. Accordingly, we’re offered a veritable smorgasbord of dude-drinks with names like “Mountain Dew Game Fuel,” “Adrenalyn Stack,” “No Fear Bloodshot,” “TAPOUT,” and (my personal favorite) “Zombie Blood Energy Potion.”
“Of course I’ve been awake for four days straight. I’m an assasin-dunkmaster-executive-rockstar-bodybuilder-fratboy-ninja-warlord-executive who drinks zombie blood for breakfast.”
Not to leave anyone out, there are a handful of opened up for women’s energy drinks: “Redline Princess,” “Pink,” “Vixen Energy Drink.” But the fact that these libations broadcast their femininity as loudly as possible just underscores the fact that marketers by and large have oriented sales to the peddling of masculine identity. Kathleen E. Miller found that college undergraduate men on average consumed 2.49 energy drinks a month, compared with a modest 1.22 cans of the stuff among women (Journal of American Journal Health 56:5 [April 2008]).
Miller does not claim a 1:1 correlation between energy drinks and irresponsible risk taking, but she warns that energy drink consumption is a good predictor of “toxic jock identity.” I wasn’t aware that “toxic jock identity” was a condition, but, dear me, it sounds serious. If only the energy drink industry would devise thirst-quenching technology with extracts to offset the symptoms of such macho ridiculousness in the first place.