Steak and Masculinity

In Roland Barthes’s Mythologies, he writes about “Steak and Chips” in France. Much like his essay on “Wine and Milk”, steak represents much more than a hearty meal. If wine is the national drink of the French, then steak is its counterpart, a meal that binds the culture together. Barthes believes that, in its essence, “to eat steak rare therefore represents both a nature and a morality” (62).

This idea embodies what steak represents in French culture. In present day America, steak holds a similar place in our hearts. For one, there is an economic connection. Steak is connected to class. It is a more expensive cut of the cow, and through purchasing a steak one is stimulating the economy in a positive way. It is “the best possible ratio between economy and efficacy” (63), in the words of Barthes. It is beneficial for the economy, for the cattle farmer, and is a good meal for the person who buys it.

The morality aspect of steak can be seen in this commercial for Longhorn Steakhouse:

Clearly, the advertisement is very masculine. The narrator is male and has a low, rugged voice. Barthes argues that “full-bloodedness is the raison d’etre of steak” (62), which is a sentiment expressed by many Americans. The more rare one orders their steak, the tougher and more manly they are thought to be. When a steak is cut open in a commercial, it is always pink on the inside. The image of the bloody piece of meat roasting on the grill is very evocative of masculinity. Men are supposed to be hunters, and hunters cook and kill their own meat. The rarer the steak, the heartier the man. The cow, a part of nature, that the steak comes from is also masculine. Cows are known to be sturdy, and bulls to be strong. By eating the flesh of a strong animal, the person is also thought to be strong.

The ad also features a dark, masculine color scheme. The lights are not very bright, and the focus is on the food, as there are no people shown.  The music is also very masculine. Like the narrator’s voice, it is rugged and deep. All of this combined with the guitar riffs gives off the image of a tough place, a place for “real” men.

(https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/48/53/af/longhorn-steakhouse.jpg)

The other prominent idea in this ad is the theme of Longhorn Steakhouse: the cowboy. Throughout the video, the symbol for Longhorn, the longhorn cow skull, is shown in flames. Inside the actual restaurant itself is also a western theme. There is a lot of wood, which is reminiscent of a saloon, and there is a star evocative of the “Lone Star” idea. Cowboys, naturally, are very masculine. They are tough and live their lives in the tough way of the old, wild west.

The video also features Longhorn’s slogan, “You can’t fake steak”. The idea of something being false is more closely associated with women than with men because of ideas of makeup and being socially fake to have friends. American men aren’t supposed to be fake. A man is a fact, while a woman is more of an idea. The presence of man is not supposed to be subtle, it is very real. There also seems to be an underlying, sexual message in this slogan. It suggests that while other things can be faked, if a man eats this meaty steak, he will have more sexual capabilities. A man cannot fake sexual attraction, just as you can’t “fake steak”.

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