A few years ago, at a Las Vegas convention for magicians, Penn Jillette, of the act Penn and Teller, was introduced to a soft-spoken young man named Apollo Robbins, who has a reputation as a pickpocket of almost supernatural ability. Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, “a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole,” was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn’t have much to work with.
“Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.”
Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.
“Fuck. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair.
Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen.
This’ll make your day.
Robbins was the pickpocketing consultant for Leverage, and appeared as a character named “Apollo” (gasp!) in “The Two Live Crew Job”.
Roald Dahl once wrote a story called “The Hitchhiker” about a guy very much like Robbins, and it’s been adapted a few times. It’s collected in “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”, which is itself a pretty good anthology.
The last time I made a post about this ad, I apparently got five reblogs which never showed up on my dash.
I try not to read criticism. No, rephrase, I try not to read destructive, as opposed to constructive criticism. Any response that starts with a condescending tone, or starts off by telling me I’m missing the point, probably isn’t constructive. Nonetheless, I’m taking a closer look at the spot.
Let’s look at this objectively; the point of the commercial isn’t the woman. It isn’t the man. It isn’t even the car. It’s how the man’s desire for the car leads him to anthropomorphize it. Not to objectify women. He is, in fact, doing precisely the reverse. He is adding human features to a car.
1. Guy walking down the street.
2. He sees an attractive woman, and stops to look at her, with mild surprise.
3. She catches him looking, and he looks away guiltily. I’m not sure what’s supposed to be reprehensible about looking at a pretty lady.
4. The woman begins berating him for looking at her, in Italian. ”What are you looking at? Uh!?” sez Youtube’s comments. I think the language barrier is really important here; it emphasizes her remoteness, her unavailability. She is telling him off in a language she cannot reasonably expect him to understand, for looking at her, and - well, that’s all she knows.
5. She asks him the question again, strides over, pushes him against a light pole, and slaps him. He seems confused, shaking his head in denial of whatever she’s saying. Now, there have been multiple experiments on this, so suffice it to say that a dude hitting a woman in the face is likely to have someone intervene or call the cops, while a woman hitting and berating a man is largely ignored. And I don’t seem to recall any complaints about this part of the commercial.
6. The woman, let’s call her Fi, touches the man in a romantic way, invading his personal space. “Are you undressing me with your eyes?” she purrs. “Poor guy…you can’t help it?” At this point, Fi utterly dominates the composition of the shots, which makes sense, because she’s dominating the guy, who is effectively an afterthought.
What he wants doesn’t actually matter; he has given her no real indication of any desire other than merely looking at her, which is ambiguous at best. The only reason we know that he’s receptive to her seduction is that it’s the entire point of the metaphor. If this was real life, he could be gay, in a committed relationship, or simply not sexually or romantically interested in her. Please note that by this point, she’s already ignoring that he denied interest by shaking his head.
7. “Is your heart beating? Is your head spinning?” she asks, in Italian, then pulls on his tie. “Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?” He nods, dazedly, his mouth open in a stunned sort of way. Even if he understands Italian, there’s a difference between one physiologically showing signs of interest and wanting, intellectually, to have sex with someone. He still seems dazed and confused, and she completely owns his personal space.
8. She scrapes some of the foam off his coffee cup. Some of it falls onto her chest, which she acknowledges with a glance, dabs a drop on the man’s lips, pulls him toward her as he leans in for a kiss-
9. Reality ensues. Our “hero” has been leaning over a car, and he looks quite silly. The metaphor, of course, is that the man’s desire for the Abarth is comparable to his desire for a woman. This is exaggerrated, of course; if anyone literally saw a nice car as a woman hitting on him, they would either be in some sort of magical universe, or having a mental delusion.
Our “hero”, ironically, is more objectified than the woman. He doesn’t say a single word in the entire commercial, despite his desires being what’s driving it, no pun intended, and has basically no agency. She is in complete control of the situation, and he’s portrayed as helpless before her desires, a plaything to be used and discarded. If the genders were reversed, people would be complaining about sexual assault, barring the woman being quite visibly stronger than the man. Even here, she’s taller than he is, and she initiates and controls their contact, usually physically. It’s actually an inversion of the archetypical Western view of relationships; where the man is responsible for initiating and expressing romantic and sexual desire because That’s What Men Do, and women are not supposed to express their romantic and sexual desire because that makes them a “slut”. You’d think that social justice advocates would’ve commended that.
No, wait, it involves a man finding a woman attractive, so it’s sexist.
I can think of no way this can reasonably be interpreted as sexist; not only is objectification objectively not occurring, but a man finding a woman sexually attractive is not inherently sexist. There’s indication that the guy was even thinking of Fi in a sexual manner until she bought it up, and, again, this didn’t really happen. There is no woman for him to interact with. It’s an applied metaphor, even within the “‘Verse” of the commercial.
So, bottom line, in this video, not only is a woman not being objectified — unless you can objectify a metaphor — but the car in question is actually being anthropomorphized. The metaphorical woman is question is actually objectifying the man; making assumptions about his desires without clear communication, invading his personal space, and oh yes, assaulting him. If the actions taken were not a metaphor, then I would have serious problems with it, but not the same as most people do.
This video isn’t objectifying women by the comparison any more than Brian Griffin from Family Guy is necessarily criticism of liberals, intellectuals, or people who buy Priuses.
Now I’m just going to wait for the Internet to start complaining about Magic Mike, which has basically been advertised as “HOT DUDES AND SIX PACKS, LADIEZ”. No, wait, that’ll never happen. I searched for it just now, and I found a post that was literally “It’s okay for women to drool over this because men get every other movie and TV series ever!”
Which is strange, because one of the leads, Matt Bomer, stars in White Collar, whose promotion has been largely based around how physically attractive he is and how blue his eyes are (very!), and no one gave two craps. Also on USA, Common Law stars two very good-looking men. The prettiness of Elliot Spenser on Leverage is almost as emphasized of that of Sophie (whose basic character concept is “hot exotic conwoman”) to the point of being one of the central plots of an episode, IIRC.
Would I want to be a male stripper? Nope. Does the commercial’s horde of screaming women make me uncomfortable? Yes, and not just because I’ve been harassed a time or two myself. Would I complain about men being objectified because I don’t want to be? Nope. Is objectifying these men necessarily sexist? No.