It isn’t news that car advertisers and car enthusiasts often rely on scantily clad women draped over or caressing cars in order to capture certain men’s attention. And these ads work! They lure us in, seduce us, and create a sense of longing. But what exactly are we yearning for when our eyes are glued to the page or screen—the car or the woman?
We are all familiar with the saying, “sex sells,” but what is it that makes the pairing of sexy women and cars seem so normal and natural to some people? I don’t have an answer for that, but this woman/car coupling is being challenged. One example is the GlamGalz website that features what could only be referred to as before-and-after pictures, with the “before” featuring women on cars and the “after” featuring men on cars in similar poses.
The typically conservative Toyota recently released a commercial in Japan that also challenges this connection, but it does so with a twist. Their commercial for the 2012 Auris, not sold in the states, features a Ukranian model wearing red bikini bottoms and a short black jacket that eventually comes off and ends up on the floor. After that, all we see is the model’s backside, red undies and all, walking toward the car, of course!
Then the model turns around and looks straight into the camera. If we weren’t tempted into watching the commercial before, the opportunity to see her naked and disrobed keeps us hooked. She gazes at us seductively, and we gaze back at her.
If the viewer is a “real” man, his breathing quickens as the camera pulls back ready to reveal boobs(!). He anticipates a full frontal view. And he’s not disappointed.
However, once the camera lens widens, we’d be sure to hear an audible gasp coming from his mouth with the protestation: “Wait! That’s a man!”
Uh, oh! There goes any confidence you had in your ability to tell the difference between a man and a woman. For straight men, this shock of recognition challenges cultural and gender norms. For other viewers, however, it might be a welcome change. For me, I just felt a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that a number of men had an April Fool’s moment.
Toyota’s sexy new commercial takes advantage of Ukranian model Stav Strashko’s androgynous looks. They rely on our sexist expectations and then, BOOM, they shock us! Here is the full video:
I applaud Toyota for being so bold and wish they had the opportunity to share it with a wider audience. There is at least one man’s reaction to the ad on which I couldn’t resist commenting. A male writer at Autoevolution
, Mihnea Radu, seemed downright angry and maybe even a little embarrassed over his anticipation and eagerness to see what he thought he was going to see.
Radu refers to the commercial as being a sham and dishonest: “The videos are actually a form of deception,” he writes, “as they initially offer imagery of what is perceived as female beauty.” If he was deceived, then it proves that the sexist objectification of women exists and serves a particular function for heterosexual men like him—they are designed to arouse men and to capture their attention.
But Radu is angry, because he was fooled! His embarrassment over being deceived by what he thought was an image of female beauty prompts him to rationalize his response. While he thinks Japan is “highly civilized,” he also feels that they release a lot of “weirdness across the internet.” This statement reveals that he thinks androgynous men are odd or strange or that the Japanese are because they feature one in a commercial.
Next, Radu surmises “that Japan is more open to transgender imagery,” and implies that this is a bad thing when he ends his sentence with the assertion, “this would (sic) commercial would surely have been banned in Europe or America.” Hmmmm….now I wonder who he thinks is more civilized?
Radu makes a case against Toyota’s bold new ad by comparing it with previous marketing tactics: “Toyota cars are usually marketed as being good for the whole family,” but, he implies, this deception apparently taints their more wholesome reputation. Is it the ad’s sexiness and full frontal nudity that makes the Auris off-limits for a family or is it that Toyota links it with a transgender man whom he tags as weird? I would like to suggest that it is the latter, since most heterosexual men do not find images of nearly naked women disagreeable. After all, when sex sells, the only acceptable kind of sex is heterosexual. So why would a “normal” family buy a car linked with “weirdness” and “abnormality?”
Finally, Radu claims that the “ad somewhat cuts against the grain of traditional values, and somewhat limits the mass-market appeal of the Auris hatch.” Somewhat? Somewhat?! I would be interested in knowing what he means by this. Does he mean to say that it “somewhat cuts against the grain of traditional values” only insomuch that it fooled him into thinking he was watching a woman? And if that was the case, then it would have been alright had it been a woman, because then the commercial would have maintained that steadfast and time-honored tradition of presenting women as sex objects?