After (and actually, before) the SuperBowl, there was a lot of talk about a Volkswagen ad and whether or not it was /is racist. The discourse was interesting to me, because I am the kind of person (as you’ve probably noticed) who is interested in precisely that sort of thing.
What was more interesting to me, however, is that I didn’t hear – or see – anything about this ad:
(Click here for the link)
Can we talk about why this ad is offensive?
Like the tagline “Bravery, it’s what defines us”?
Because nothing really says bravery like walking up to a girl – who, it’s pretty clear, is not this guy’s girlfriend – and randomly planting one on her?
Because that’s okay, right? That’s totally fine. It’s especially totally fine, I think, that she doesn’t appear to object. The ad indicates that she kind of digs it. She doesn’t say anything, she doesn’t do anything, and the indication is that, if there is someone who DOES object, it’s her boyfriend – he seems to be responsible for the black eye that our Audi-driving “hero” is proudly sporting at the end of the ad.
This ad disturbs me. It disturbs me because the girl, like the car, is borrowed property that, in a moment of "power", to which the Audi driver feels entitled. It disturbs me because approaching her sexually is a symbol of privilege – like the car. Like the principal’s parking space. She’s something that is taken because he feels as though, in a moment of boldness, he deserves it.
You might be thinking, wow. You are way overthinking this commercial. And maybe I am. But the creepiest, saddest thing about this ad? Was the lack of commentary. As though we’re okay with what I’m going to call rape culture – oh yeah, I said it – to the point that the Audi driving teen should be PROUD of what he did, and as though questioning it as being inappropriate is a marker to looking for a place to criticize when “This is how people are.”
It shouldn’t be how people are. It shouldn’t be not only okay, but somehow laudable, to approach someone sexually – and let’s not be obtuse, because that’s what happens – when it’s unwanted or unexpected.
This ad? Is not okay.
What do you think?