Is Matthew McConaughey Afforded His Own Standard?

I make no apology – I’m a big Matthew McConaughey fan. To me, he is not only a fantastic actor, but also a great personality. I find it odd that anyone couldn’t enjoy the nutty “alright, alright, alright” side of the one and only man who could probably exist as one of those one named people …. Just, “McConaughey.”

One place that “McConaughey” really shows that personality is a recent ad for Wild Turkey Bourbon. Have you seen this lately? Check it out here: https://youtu.be/lhA8rK_1Duo

Now let’s review it frame-by-frame:

  • Cut to McConaughey walking right toward the camera, the Fabulous Forum right behind him lit up by a fireworks display
  • Then a profile shot of McConaughey walking past a tour bus, cutting down to a shot of him only hip-high, loosely hanging onto a bottle of Wild Turkey. He declares, “We didn’t set out to make a hit,” … and continues to cross the street toward a brick and mortar venue as a classic car passes in front of him, turning right.
  • McConaughey stares at the passing car straight ahead through its rear window, just in sight of its pulsating stereo speakers
  • Cut back to McConaughey profile as he looks to his right to see an open-air nightclub full of happy dancing humans, and then it quickly cuts to…
  • …An attractive ski-capped blond woman, on the phone, walking towards him, checking him out. McConaughey rotates counter-clockwise to affix equal – but far more creepy – male gaze onto the woman, looking up and down with a naughty little grin
  • Clearly tickled as his smile grows wider, he swings around, now holding the bottle of Wild Turkey facing forward, “hit someone over the head” style, with the glimmering label in lights. He states, in continuation of his previous thought, “We just sang our song.”
  • He then finally approaches a man in a suit, with nice hat, sitting pensively. The man begins to sing. This guy is probably some famous jazz or R&B artist, but I of course have no idea
  • McConaughey gives the man a familiar glance (they know each other!) and joins him in a seat just to his right. Frame cuts to a closeup of Matthew’s “McHands” opening the corked bottle of Turkey, pouring it over some ice in a single malt glass. He declares the tag line, “Real Bourbon, no apologies” and cheers clinks glasses with his suited friend
  • Then, the capper: McConaughey starts making McConaughey-like gestures with his left hand. The first looks like he’s sliding his hand up as if to say, “we’re good, man.” Then he starts to do little “trumpet fingers.” It’s classic McConaughey, as if it’s still the last day of school in Austin, 1976, and we never left!
  • “Wild Turkey,” he concludes in voice over…. “It’ll Find You.” And he continues with the “air fingers.” The End.

If it isn’t obvious by now …. I’ve been watching this ad somewhat obsessively lately, and I can’t help but think that ONLY one Matthew David McConaughey could “get away with” an ad like this. I put “get away with” loosely. I mean, this is the same Matthew McConaughey whose performance in his ads for Lincoln motors inspired this satirical send up from none other than Jim Carrey when he appeared on Saturday Night Live: http://bit.ly/2A2L12D

So is Matthew McConaughey really just a charicature? Or is there more than that? I’ve asked several friends for short reviews of the ad, and of McConaughey’s part in it. Here are some responses:

Brian: “It’ll find you like you find your loose change . . . on the floor of your Lincoln.  Is there anything this guy doesn’t think he can sell by simply staring at the camera?  Wild Turkey, Lincolns and beef . . . alright, alright, alright.”

Jennifer: (who I expected to be tougher on this/him, to be honest): “I think he [McConaughey] was more attractive when he was heavier. He just looks really hungry and old with that skinny face.”

Sean: “I haven’t seen an overly dramatic stroll to fireworks that bad since “Meet Joe Black.” But in that instance Anthony Hopkins was going off to die, which come to think of it, is probably the same fate you will have if you drink that swill, Wild Turkey.”

David: “Matthew McConaughey brilliantly transfers his annoying smugness and penchant for inanity from luxury vehicles to middle-brand bourbon, earning him a .08 on the blowharded-ness scale. Pass me the Perrier!”

Finally, in a more curt version of the same disapproval, my friend Nancy simply replied, “Stupid.”

Ok, so largely several friends either aren’t impressed by the ad, McConaughey, Wild Turkey, or something and everything in general. But no comments that suggest the ad is untoward in any way. Still, and I must say, committing to a corny ad campaign for bourbon doesn’t immediately square with his moving and memorable Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” You may recall, a key theme of his speech was continuous improvement. McConaughey said:

“When I was 15 years old I had a very important person in my life come and ask me ‘Who’s your hero?’ I said, ‘I thought about it and it’s me in ten years. So I turned 25 ten years later and that same person comes to me and goes, ‘Are you a hero?’ I said, ‘Not even close!’ She said why and I said, ‘My hero is me at 35.’ You see, every day, and every week, and every month, and every year of my life, my hero is always ten years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m not going to obtain that and that’s fine with me because it keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”

Well, 3 years after this speech, he seems to be chasing public consumption of bourbon, scraggly facial growth, ogling the ladies, and some interesting “air fingers.” It’s true, the ad is cheesy as hell, glamorizes public consumption and the male gaze, and I highly doubt does much for Wild Turkey. But I just can’t shake the idea that if anyone was meant to get away with this, and can make a bit of a chuckler out of this deep heap of cheese, it’s McConaughey.

But does that make it ok? Is the ad harmless, as only McConaughey can make it? Or is this fact an indication that McConaughey is unfairly allowed his own double standard? The detached zany McConaughey being one thing, but isn’t the up-and-down-look he gives that woman something else altogether? Is it fair to view this ad through the same lens as the current issues confronting male behavior, or would trying to paint McConaughey’s rascal behavior here conflate completely different degrees of male bravado / machismo? Is this ad more about freedom and booze and less about being on the prowl?

I admittedly find myself of two schools of thought on this, as you can clearly hear me wrestling with it. The ad is everything I’ve pointed out, but does McConaughey as kooky spokesperson with the jazz hands make me laugh? Yes!

So, my readers – I must solicit your help with these three questions:

  • Is there a separate standard allowed Matthew McConaughey?
  • And what, if anything, do we do about it?
  • OR… Do we not only not care, but in fact COUNT ON, McConaughey being McConaughey?

Now, before you answer, here’s one little bombshell that may or may not affect your thinking. McConaughey isn’t just doing an ad. As early as as the summer of 2016, it was announced that the actor had come aboard Wild Turkey as its “Creative Director!” McConaughey and the iconic company announced that he will write, star in, and direct several ads for the Whiskey brand over THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS. ….

I sincerely hope your comments will find me as easily as Wild Turkey — and Matthew McConaughey — will apparently find all of you.

3 Comments

  1. I have to say, as a die-hard, blue blooded liberal, this (even for me) is a bit ridiculous. In the ad, the woman clearly looks at him, all the way up and down, and smiles. He turns around, noticing that she’s noticed him, and smiles. Are you suggesting that men should live in a world where they should only stare at the floor, even when a woman clearly shows interest first? With all the *actual* sexual assault that his happening in the world, this is what you dedicate ink space to? Seriously shaking my head.

    • Hi John. Sorry you felt this a waste of your time. But you raise the very question I’m raising. Is any of this even worth the ink space? Or is McConaughy just a lovable goofball who we wouldn’t even think twice about being the flirtatious “party guy?” I even ask if I’m conflating issues. You clearly think so, so your comment is valid. But clearly my question may also be? There are a couple things going on that I cover — this was just one of them. My overall question is does McConaughey get his own special treatment?

  2. I’m actually more fascinated by this extension of the McConaughy brand. Not too many celebrities can be defined this way, but he clearly can and he knows it. Lady Gaga is the only other celebrity I know that also serves in a creative director capacity. He also made a short film for Wild Turkey that’s not as cheesy as the commercial, but clearly seeks to define both brands – check it out.

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