Go For the Black Can, Dude!

Campbell’s seems to be outdoing itself in its efforts to create the Manliest Soup in the World. Look at what I found at the grocery store, complete with uber-manly label and everything:

Campbell's Fully Loaded Soup

This line of soups isn’t exactly new; they seem to have been around since last year, along with their super-manly slogan: “When you’ve got EXTREME hunger… go for the BLACK CAN.” I just happened across it because I’m recently unemployed and I have strep throat. These two things combined mean that I’m drinking lots of soup. It’s cheap and it doesn’t make me scream in pain when it goes down my throat. I should probably be drinking broth, not this chunky stuff; my girlfriend kept texting me while I was in the store, “Don’t buy that soup. It sounds disgusting. Get broth and toast.” However, I felt like I owed it to you, dear readers, to purchase a couple cans for anthropological purposes. OK, and I find the idea of “Rigatoni and Meatball Soup” to be weirdly appealing AND disgusting.

Also submitted for your examination, the recent commercial for this soup:

Clearly we’ve gone off some sort of irony cliff here, just like the parasail in the commercial. Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics, shall we?

He’s hungry for danger, he can take the heat
Fully loaded man’s got balls of meat
Over the edge, flying through the sky
Fully loaded man, he could probably dieeeeeee…

Time to slam a fully loaded can
A fully crammed dinner feast,
For a meat, veg and pasta fan:
Fully Loaded Can!

I couldn’t not laugh. Time to slam a fully loaded can… rhymes with meat, veg, and pasta fan? I’m not even going to touch the second line. Plus, at the end Steve Zahn meets up with his buddies: a guy in a Goretex harness who throws his mountain bike in his eagerness to SLAM a BLACK CAN of MEAT, and a chest-pounding dude in an ill-fitting Evel Knievel outfit, who was apparently jumping over rows of buses in the forest. Then Zahn crushes a soup can in his fist. YEAHHHH. Do you want some soup with your testosterone? I also love the idea that LESS liquid = MORE masculine. To have the physique of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, you must be thoroughly dehydrated — except for some oil, naturally. So your soup must contain mostly hard chunks of solid matter, not liquids. Fluids are for girls!!

I’d like to think this represents the implosion and collapse of the Men Must Eat Meat to Be Men advertising deluge, but let’s face it: they’re still selling meat. Even when it’s turkey or chicken. Every can of this stuff has an EXTREME amount of some kind of meat. It’s tongue-in-cheek irony, so they can get away with two things at once: lampooning the cult of hyper-masculinity that produces burger-flavored soap and razors with six blades, and selling guys more meat.

Campbell’s has been doing this for a long time though. I thought about it for a second and realized that my earliest association with Campbell’s Chunky Soup were this series of ads starring a football player and his mom:

Sadly, I couldn’t find the original commercial that started this series. In that spot, McNabb (and I think they’ve had many football stars in this role) is about to go out on the field of battle like an exemplary manly man, when his mother starts yelling at him. Uh oh! Maternal castration! She’s trying to stuff him back in her womb! Oh hahaha, not to worry. She just wants him to finish his soup. Plus, it’s BIG CHUNKY SOUP for men. A football player can eat it, and so can you, men watching football on television. Ahhhhh.

I’m probably giving the advertising creatives responsible a little too much credit, given that they’re still well within the norms of their industry, but I’m kind of amused by how these ads manage to straddle a fence. Like far too many “be manly” ads, they play on cultural anxiety over masculinity, but also while poking fun at the whole thing. I mean, what choice do they have, really? They’re selling SOUP, and they were back in the 80s, before there was special men-only chapstick and men-only (insert ridiculous grooming product that doesn’t need to be gendered here).

What do you think?

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Oh yeah, I almost forgot my review of Campbell’s Chunky FULLY LOADED Rigatoni & Meatball “Soup.” Consuming this product is basically like heating up leftover pasta and meatballs in thin tomato sauce. Pretty bad meatballs, too. Have you ever eaten Chef Boyardee? It’s like a big can of that, but slightly better and significantly more expensive. I think I would rather just eat pasta and tomato sauce. My girlfriend wanted to know if the soup made me into a man, a subject she seems to have a vested interest in. It did not, as far as I can tell (I mean, who knows these days) but I suspect this might be because I already tried doing that gender years ago, and failed thoroughly at it. Someone else who’s not a man and hasn’t already tried should do this experiment. I have not eaten the “Turkey Pot Pie” flavor, but I expect it to be slightly better and more expensive than say, a frozen turkey pot pie. Wow, the wonders of modern technology, our lives are improving all the time, aren’t they?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Please note that they have already canceled one flavor of this. They got rid of “Beef Stroganoff.” I can’t imagine why, unless it’s because that sounds like the most disgusting thing I can possibly imagine. Campbell’s now recommends on chunky.com that you eat Beef Stew instead. Thanks, Campbell’s Soup.

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43 comments for “Go For the Black Can, Dude!

  1. July 21, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    I especially love the “spread the warmth” right at the end of the commercial, because it’s so very opposite and… well, warm sounding in contrast to the rest of it.

  2. Nentuaby
    July 21, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    That spot does a remarkable job of pointing up the difference between satire and parody.

  3. July 21, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Good way of summarizing it yeah. It’s absolutely not satirical, or critical in any way, but it is a parody. A self-parody, really.

  4. July 21, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    I alwayss thought Dinty Moore was the manly soup, or stew, or whatever. I get the feeling that stew is more manly than soup.

  5. DW
    July 21, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Worst. Commercial. Ever.

  6. kb
    July 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I don’t know, I liked the rigatoni and meatballs. admittedly, I am not now, nor have I ever tried to be a man. so I guess that’s a soup failure.

  7. July 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    That’s because stew has less liquids and LIQUIDS ARE FOR GIRLS.

  8. July 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Ah, I can step up as “haven’t already tried being a man, currently a woman.”

    *cracks womanly knuckles*

    *eats dull soup*

    Well, still a woman.

    It’s really funny. In our family, of course, I’m the meat eater (Don being a vegetarian), and all those “eat this manly meat NOW!” ads make me go “Let’s go get some meat!” and he’s just repulsed by them.

    Obviously this is because I’m the one who wears the pants in this family. (He wears shorts.)

  9. lilacsigil
    July 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    It’s a direct parody of a Solo ad, not just of masculine HOT SOUPS in general.

    (But I don’t like salty foods, and also I’m a girl, so I guess this isn’t aimed at me anyway!)

  10. July 21, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    I’d never heard of Solo until just now, but I guess that’s because it’s Australian. Is this ad from Australia too?

    The Solo ads are even more hilarious, I have to say, mostly because they’re more straightforward and less winking. Definitely recommended if you want to know HOW TO BE A MAN:

    Splashing through river with trusty steed!

    Land sailing over suspiciously jump-cut cliffs! With electronic beeps!

    Whoa that river rapid was SO TALL huh

    Oh no he dropped his SOLO while shimmying on a rope in his shorts, requiring an extra-long guitar wail as he jumps off… like a man!

    This one seems to be the direct ripoff for the soup ad

    Wrestling an alligator who wants your non-fizzy lemon drink!

    “Light on the fizz, so you can slam it down fast!”

    and wow, that is one of the worst theme songs ever, especially with the super-long guitar wail in some of them.

    The music reminds me more of this tune from Orgazmo though (set to my friend Derek’s anime music video of Full Metal Alchemist, because it’s more hilarious):

  11. Henry
    July 21, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    I can’t speak to all this other stuff, but Chef Boyardee is freakin delicious. Almost as good as Spagettios w/ meatballs – cold, straight out of the can.

  12. lilacsigil
    July 21, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Yes, the ad is Australian! I didn’t know Solo wasn’t sold in other countries! But yeah, solo ads were hilarious, and “a solo man” was slang in my high school for “a wanker” both in the literal and figurative senses.

  13. Kai
    July 22, 2009 at 1:48 am

    My god, Holly, how are you supposed to get well if you’re eating this crap?! Now I’m not trying to Asian-shame you or anything, but come on: clear broth, ginger, silken tofu, wood-ear mushroom, noodles. Green tea. All that salted-up drained-out starchy-creamy-chunky stuff produces mucus and extra digestive exertion!

    As for that “black can” label, wow is that a confused font combination or what? “Campbell’s” is 50s Beaver Cleaver. “Chunky” is 60s Rawhide. “Creamy Chicken Alfredo” is 70s Howard Johnson’s. “Fully Loaded” is 80s motor oil. “New!” is Olde. And yeah, just to accentuate your point about “liquids are for girls”, they’re eating soup with a freaking fork. It’s like a bad acid trip while watching Howdy Doodee or something.

  14. July 22, 2009 at 3:43 am

    DW, it’s a bad commercial, but not nearly the worst commercial ever. I doubt it’s even the worst soup commercial ever.

  15. norbizness
    July 22, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Fully loaded is a phrase I’d expect to hear in a Kaopectate or high-fiber cereal commercial.

  16. July 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I have, at my husband’s request, tried these damn soups – several flavours. He readily admits to not having much in the way of a discriminatory palate, but I can’t take the stuff – in addition to being bland, and having that terrible canned meat taste, they give me awful indigestion. He thinks they’re okay, but only in a pinch, and only if there’s nothing more appealing on the shelf. The supposed manliness of the cans doesn’t seem to affect him either way, except that he’s unwilling to pay more money to be manly.

    I dig the aesthetic appeal of the colours – more products should be packaged in black and red, then they’d match my kitchen – but again, I don’t think of black as that manly. It’s more of an emo soup, which is appropriate, since the only time either of us mainline soup is when we’re feeling poorly or mopey.
    For that price, I can buy several cans of Chef Boyardee and get basically the same results, so bleh. Anyway, I prefer it when he makes his awesome tuna salad for dinner.

  17. July 22, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Holly, I love you. (In a non-threatening-to-your-girlfriend sorta way.)

    Stroganoff soup sounds, um… interesting. Stroganoff has been one of my absolute favorite dinners for much of my life, but watering it down enough to make it count as “soup” sounds disgusting. Sort of like those flavored waters – if I want water, I want water. If I want flavor I’ll drink a damn juice or soda. I can already get “flavored water” at the Coke fountain at McDonalds.

  18. July 22, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I wonder if ex-gay groups will try to extend their business into fixing trans women with stew. It could happen.

    I propose we film a documentary, where we eat NOTHING but manly stews, Yorkie bars and Pocky for Men, and see if after a month it has done anything to our self-concept of gender. We could call it Super Gender Essentialize Me As A Marketing Tactic and play the festival circuit.

  19. July 22, 2009 at 10:05 am

    I’m waiting for Hand Soap For Men, by the way. And Toothbrushes For Men. And then Pillows For Men (preferably filled with rocks and covered in camo dye). I suppose they already make Nose Hair Clippers For Men…

  20. July 22, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Well, they already have toothbrushes for meterosexuals, so it can’t be far off. It also seems manly soap is finding a place as a niche market.

    Remember, in the words of Homer Simpson:

    “I’m a white male aged 18 to 49, everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are.”

  21. eastsidekate
    July 22, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I love this post! I’m confused at the gendered reprocutions of soup, though. Can masculine women eat this soup? Should I tell the butch lesbian at one of my fave local restaurants that she needs to toughen up her soup by getting rid of all those dainty spices? Lastly, what about meeeeee? I’m femme. Is there a company out in Oregon or Vermont that makes an holistic, organic floral soup in a glitter-based broth? ‘Cause I’d totally buy some if it would give me longer, shinier hair.

    Of course, this reminds me on the SNL advertisement for “Schmidt’s Gay” beer, featuring Adam Sandler and Chris Farley. I’m not a huge fan of comedy aimed at 10 year-old boys, but I still smirk at the thought of ‘If you’ve got a big thirst, and you’re gay…’

  22. July 22, 2009 at 11:20 am

    manly soap
    Ha! Manly soap — the very idea! Real men smell like days-old sweat and motoroil. If they need to get cleaned up, they either spray themselves with a powerwasher or scrub down with steel wool and lye.

  23. Harumph
    July 22, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I’d actually be interested in making that “documentary”… could be fun and subversively delicious.

  24. scootermom
    July 22, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Didn’t have my glasses on and thought the soup can was a joke because it said “Fully Larded.”

    I do often wonder what IS in canned soup ….

  25. Bitter Scribe
    July 22, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Give them a break. They’re trying to make guys feel good about the fact that they can’t cook and can’t afford to go to a restaurant for meat and/or pasta.

    Attention scootermom: I’d worry more about what’s in frozen pot pies, which came up earlier in this thread. I’ve seen them being made, and let’s just say that “fully larded” would not be much of an exaggeraton.

  26. Dreamweasel
    July 22, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I couldn’t watch that clip without being reminded of this classic from The Onion:

    >New Texas-Style Yogurt to Feed Man-Sized Hunger for Yogurt

  27. July 22, 2009 at 11:56 am

    “And Toothbrushes For Men.”

    I have one of those. It’s like using a jackhammer on my teeth. And I feel far more manly after brushing. But no flossing, dental floss seems so…girly. ;)

  28. July 22, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Haha dude, now that Campbell’s label is just making me think of semen. Chunky? Fully Loaded? Photo of creamy white stuff? Ew! Guess that’s one way to evoke “manliness”!

  29. Nentuaby
    July 22, 2009 at 12:30 pm



    Oh, you think you’re joking. :P

  30. July 22, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I am out-ironied by reality. Again. It’s so hard to keep up.

  31. July 22, 2009 at 1:04 pm


    You know… *wheels turning in my head*

    You could only watch Spike TV, read FHM, and consume products and media specifically and implicitly marketed as a Men’s products (as opposed to, say, sports, which are just assumed to be only of interest to men)…

    Oh, if only I was one of those people who followed through on ideas instead of just having them.

    p.s. How could we forget the granddaddy of them all, Swanson’s Hungry Man Dinner?

  32. Kai
    July 22, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Hehe, there’s really no way to out-irony reality when it comes to branding and selling Manliness. Okay I haven’t seen a Pillow For Men yet, but you know it’s coming! It’ll be like a stiff dark form made of NASA space-foam technology or something. Maybe Tempur-Pedic will sell it on TV showing a woman in a bikini jumping up and down on it while a can of motor oil doesn’t spill.

    As for Soap For Men, I will admit that those Irish Spring commercials always annoyed me. These days, however, we have Hard Working Hands hand soap for men, which actually looks like a quality product!

    What didn’t work out so well was the attempt to sell dolls for boys. Kinda fell flat.

  33. Henry
    July 22, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    They already have soap for Men. Gojo, Lava, Fast Orange, to name a few.

  34. Reader
    July 22, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Too bad it isn’t really Steve Zahn. I’d eat a can for Steve.

  35. Nentuaby
    July 22, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    You know, in retrospect, I brought up Boraxo because of Thomas’s mention of Real Men “scrub[bing] down with steel wool” and then Henry mentioned a few other similar brands… But none are gender-targeted at all, unless I’ve missed an ad campaign. They’re just ‘heavy duty,’ mostly meant for cleaning up after things like mechanical maintenance or landscaping. Calling them ‘for men’ is more reinforcing the ‘power tools vs. laundry’ stereotype than anything.

  36. Ariel
    July 23, 2009 at 1:18 am

    So I guess then the only thing for me to do is eat half a can of this and half a can of regular, wussy, broth-based soup. androgyny in a bowl.

    I think there is a book deal in that, @gudbuytjane. MY YEAR AS A MAN. Only not.

  37. exholt
    July 23, 2009 at 2:24 am

    I alwayss thought Dinty Moore was the manly soup, or stew, or whatever. I get the feeling that stew is more manly than soup.

    My family and those of my childhood neighbors literally lived on large cans of Dinty Moore whenever they were on sale. We’d buy enough to last 3-6 months and often used a can as a base for creating a watered down beef stew with some form of pasta like pasta shells thrown into the mix so one can can last for 3-5 days worth of meals. Mmmmm…brings back tasty memories…:)

    Comparatively speaking, most of these chunky soups are too watery….and the can sizes have noticeably shrunk. Would think that if it was supposed to be manly that they’d INCREASE can sizes and drop the smallest portions from their product line…..

  38. exholt
    July 23, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Like far too many “be manly” ads, they play on cultural anxiety over masculinity, but also while poking fun at the whole thing. I mean, what choice do they have, really?

    Wonder how this video is related……

  39. Meg
    July 23, 2009 at 3:31 am

    LOL. This has to be one of the most ridiculous marketing trends ever. Especially in this case! I remember when Campbell’s Chunky Soup was advertised as a man-soup, as opposed to that watery, wimpy regular version of Campbell’s Soup. Now, once they’ve realized that nobody has really bought their genderized ideas about Chunky vs. Regular soup… they’ve decided to rectify this by trying it all over again? It didnt work the first time; do they really think it’ll work now that they’ve recolored the label and added the words “fully loaded”?

  40. July 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm


    Obviously we need to develop binary-smashing food items, like stouwp, or androgycheese.

    We would do well to follow the progressive lead of Goober, which has been striking down the peanut butter/jelly binary since 1968!

    Also, I think that book would more accurately be titled My Year as Jimmy Kimmel (unless you included a tendency to believe in moon hoax conspiracies, then it could be My Year as Joe Rogan).

  41. July 23, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I cannot believe this is not some sort of ridiculous comedy skit…Honestly soup is manly?

  42. Napalm Nacey
    July 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Solo lie. It IS fizzy, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s freakin’ tangy and it’s VERY lemony. My favourite lemon squash lemonade, actually.

    This soup ad really reflects a thread in Australian culture of mocking the 70s/80s “Manly Sweaty Outdoorsman” stereotype of Australian men, but it strangely, at the same time, reinforces it. Aussie men have a lot of pressure to be these tough extreme-sports types, as the outdoors is an expected way of life here, especially including any sort of sports. So I find ads like the Chunky Soup one a welcome relief to the background noise of media. Plus, I think, as the city-dwelling Aussie guys strive to be more sophisticated and urban, they’ll continue to mock the ol’ Crocodile Dundee idea of the Australian man. It’s a celebrated idea but I think most guys know that it’s a rare man that can measure up to it. Maybe Steve Irwin. Or Harry Butler. Or the guy that is like Harry Butler but goes fishing a lot up north.

  43. July 27, 2009 at 11:43 am

    UPDATE: I feel I should report that I ate the SECOND can of Campbell’s Chunky Fully Loaded soup. It was Turkey Pot Pie, and it wasn’t that great, in part because the “pie crust” parts were more like dumplings and not quite doughy enough. However, it DID turn me into a man this time. Just so you all know, I am changing my name to “Zeke” and will now only be blogging on Feministe about being an ex-gay, the men’s rights movement, how unfair it is that Asian girls don’t only date Asian guys, how men should have a say in other people’s wombs or else child support should be abolished, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

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