Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Jaguar: Hideous, not Gorgeous

So. Jaguar has a new ad campaign called "Gorgeous."

I know this because Geek Boy and I went to see "Pride and Prejudice" last night, and the ad was one of the ones shown before the trailers.

This thing is one of the most offensive pieces of tripe I've seen in my varied life.

For a description, I shall switch over briefly to the prose of Mark Rechtin, who nicely encapsulated the feel of the thing in an article for AutoWeek:

Leggy supermodels recline vacuously on chaise longues. Their unspeakably attractive friends attend a lavish dinner party. The Jaguar resides in the owner's stable, alongside the Agusta helicopter and Lurssen megayacht. . . .

Actor Willem Dafoe repeats the word often in his voiceover narration of one of the ads."Gorgeous makes effort look effortless. Gorgeous has no love for logic. Gorgeous gets in everywhere. Gorgeous pays for itself in the first five
seconds. Gorgeous is worth it," Dafoe intones over a haunting keyboard track.

Rechtin is clearly irritated by the classist tone of the campaign, drily commenting that the ads, which are meant to shore up Jaguar's plummeting sales, "vividly portray the entitlement of the Dom Perignon-swilling elite, for whom material achievement is a given. They also subliminally cultivate the envy of the lower classes, for whom a Jaguar XJ sedan is as unattainable as a date with Penelope Cruz."

What Rechtin is missing here--pretty unsurprisingly, given his own metaphorical substitution of Penelope Cruz for a pricey motorcar--is that this ad also crassly objectifies women in a way that is truly breathtaking. The"leggy supermodels" are at the center of this show, with the association between woman and car being played up in every single shot. Where men appear in this commercial, they are usually just a flash of well-chiselled jawline, a high cheekbone in profile, a gesticulating hand. The focus is either on the langorous, sleek women or the fast, sleek cars, all of them served up to the viewer like so much Beluga caviar.

Given, the supermodels in question are a multiethnic lot, though the more traditionally WASPy type of woman we might expect to be promoted as "a luxury model" gets plenty of screen time. But if this is an attempt at being "alluring and contemporary" (as the campaign press release puts it), it falls flat on its face. Objectifying a wider range of women does not represent an improvement on the time-honored model.

And, as the stalking, lounging, or elegantly slouching women make a display of themselves in oh-so-blase fashion, Defoe is telling us that they "make effort look effortless," "have no love for logic," "get in everywhere," "pay for themselves in the first five seconds," and are "worth it."

If Rechtin uncritically accepts (and even adopts) the appallingly sexist tone of this ad campaign, at least he picks up on some portion of the ad's repulsiveness. The only other piece I can find on this campaign blithely asserts that this ad results from the work of "bright, smart advertising agency counselors" and that "what sells is after all the bottom line for results."

Well, if the reaction of people in the audience last night was any indication, this ad will not be selling any cars anytime soon.

Dear readers, I am used to being the lone malcontent in such situations and have gotten far too practiced at either keeping my mouth shut so as not to disturb the "viewing pleasure" of others or, if I truly can't stand it, muttering sardonically to myself or to a sympathetic companion. I chose the latter route last night.

Fortunately, many other audience members were not so meek as Yours Truly. Though there was jaw-dropped silence throughout the ad itself, the final swell of music and the black screen which signaled the ad's end was greeted with loud hissing and booing. Morgan, who happened to watch another movie in the same theater at a later show, says that exactly the same thing happened when the ad played for that audience.

And that is why I love feminism. Because entire audiences now recognize and vocally reject this hideously unprincipled "what-sells-is-after-all-the-bottom-line-and-high-class-twat-sells" approach to advertising. And because plenty of people are willing to be "impolite" in order to do it.


Let's hope Jaguar's attempts to cure its sagging sales with the promise of firm, young, affluent booty fail mightily. But if you've seen the ad and want to do more than just be pissed off, here's how to write to Jaguar with a complaint.