The American marketing machine once again showed its talent for misogyny during the ads that played before and during Superbowl XLIX. Surprisingly, this year the worst offenders were not Victoria’s Secret (I mean, at least they actually sell women’s underwear, so it’s not totally inappropriate for them to advertise by showing underwear on women) or Go Daddy (who went with promoting puppy mills in an advertising fail which was pulled at the last minute, instead of sexualizing top-caliber female athletes).
No, the worst of the “best” commercials that I was forced to watch thanks to working in marketing was the ad for the Kia Sorrento featuring Pierce Brosnan. When I saw Pierce, I was overcome by nostalgia. I loved his run as James Bond, and I grew up with Remington Steele. His portrayal of the ne’er do well with the heart of gold ruined my sense of appropriate relationship expectations before I even hit puberty:
Did the man pretend to be my boss? Check.
Does he have a dark and secret past? Check.
Has he blackmailed me into accepting him into my shoestring organization? Check.
Does he have dark hair, blue eyes, and a hint of an Irish brogue?
We should have just started with that, I guess, because that’s enough right there.
I settled into the commercial, which was a fairly amusing sendup of Brosnan’s acting career. The spot begins with his “agent” describing a new role, while Brosnan imagines action-adventure scenes. The role is actually that of Brosnan driving a Kia Sorrento for a car commercial, while doing fairly mundane things like driving sedately on a snow covered road up to a quiet cabin while looking at wildlife and narrowly avoiding moose.
Until this point, the commercial is an innocuous, mildly cheeky way of poking fun at both Brosnan himself, and the spate of car commercials where celebrities drive cars while waxing philosophical. Matthew McConaughey, I am looking at you. Whatever you are smoking, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to be driving under its influence.
But at the cabin is where things take a turn for the worse. Brosnan suggests that the cabin is rigged to explode upon his arrival, and the agent assures him that there are no explosives, but that there are definitely fireworks. Then the cabin door opens, and a lovely lady appears, obviously waiting to welcome Brosnan inside.
So? I hear you asking. Movie stars are expected to be surrounded by a bevy of lovely ladies. It’s all movie magic, anyway. And therein lies the seed of my discontent. The rest of the commercial was dedicated to stripping away the expectations placed upon us by the movie and advertising agencies. One by one, Brosnan’s fantasies of speeding down a highway, battling snipers and tanks, and big explosions a la Michael Bay were shot down. Which one was left? That of the model waiting to meet the hero at the end of his adventures.
Worse yet, Pierce Brosnan comes complete with his own leading lady, American journalist Keely Shaye Smith. Smith is beautiful, but undeniably wears a larger size than most actresses. However, I would certainly have been more swayed to consider purchasing a Kia if Brosnan had pictured his own wife when the agent suggested a romantic interlude. By this point, we know that the role is for a car commercial and most of the “Hollywood” bits are all in Brosnan’s mind. If this were my husband, I would be angry at the suggestion that he’d probably be thinking of someone else when given half the chance.
This ad was problematic on so many levels. It made me dislike someone I’ve been infatuated with for more than 30 years. It made me feel Kia as a brand can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy, and it made me feel like a wife can be considered expendable if she’s chubby. Sorry to say it, Kia, but my interest in your cars has definitely been shaken, not stirred.