Friday, February 1, 2013

Dear Audi

This post contains a description of sexual assault.

Dear Audi,

I saw your new commercial the other day.

Here's how you describe it:
A slightly insecure teenager is unhappy about going to the Senior Prom without a date. But when Dad lets him borrow the new Audi S6 for the night, he gains more and more confidence with every mile, arriving at the Prom a changed young man.
Here's how I would describe it:
A teenager is getting ready to go to the prom, but he's feeling self-conscious about going alone.  His mother tries to tell him that it's fine to go alone.  His father tosses him car keys.  He drives to the prom.  (There's some odd moment here with a girl yelling at him from another car, but since I can't understand what she's saying or why, I don't know what the significance is.)  He parks in the principal's spot (bad-ass alert!) and strides into the prom.  He walks right up behind the apparent prom queen, grabs her, and kisses her.  Judging by the "wow!" sounds in the background, this is supposed to be a great moment.  The prom king (presumably the prom queen's date/boyfriend) charges over.  We next see our "hero" back in his car, now with a black eye, looking happy.  There's a brief shot of the prom queen smiling, and then a shot of the guy in the car howling at the moon in celebration/victory/triumph.
Let's replay the key moment here again: he walks up behind her, grabs her, and kisses her.

It's a crowded, noisy, busy, dark room.  She's busy speaking with her friends and doesn't see him come up from behind.  She has no idea that he's even in the room, much less directly behind her, much less about to touch her.  Suddenly, someone she doesn't realize is on the premises and hasn't had time to recognize has seized her and is holding onto her and kissing her.

This is what we call sexual assault.

There's no indication that she wants this to happen.  There's no indication that she expects this and every indication that she doesn't.  There's no indication that she even knows who he is, given the "popular girl at school is so shallow and in her own world that she doesn't even recognize the nerdy guy who sat beside her in class all year" theme we keep seeing in movies/on TV.

Even if, generally speaking, she'd like to kiss this guy, there's no real chance for her to recognize that he's the one kissing her.  It happens too quickly and with no warning.  (Is his scent so overpowering that she smells it and recognizes him immediately, as he grabs her?  This isn't an Axe commercial.)

To sum up: Guy feels insecure, guy's dad lends him a bad-ass car, guy feels more confident in himself, guy commits sexual assault, guy gets punched in the face, guy feels great about it.  Then you slap on an image of the prom queen smiling, because some complete stranger sexually assaulted her and wow, wasn't that dashing and romantic of him!

Then these words come onscreen:
Bravery.  It's what defines us.

Let's not play around.  You just called sexual assault brave.

It isn't brave to commit sexual assault.  It isn't daring or courageous or heroic.  It's criminal and common and wrong.

Do you know what's brave, actually?  Reporting sexual assault.  Admitting to yourself that you were sexually assaulted.  Telling someone about it.  Standing up and announcing it in public.  Testifying about it in a courtroom.  That is brave.  That is daring and courageous and heroic.

Oh, and while I have your attention: I'm not entirely thrilled with your gender stereotyping, either.  The boy's mother tries to tell him that he'll be fine, because women are nurturing like that, but it doesn't have any effect, because moms, man, they just don't understand, they're so out of touch, they don't get the harsh reality, am I right?  But the boy's father, a man of few words, a man of action, he gets it; he just tosses over those keys, and that solves everything.

I hope that you'll reconsider your disgusting advertising choices.  I hope that you'll stop promoting criminal behavior as romantic.  I hope that you'll learn the difference between "bravery" and "sexual assault."  Coincidentally, Liss at Shakesville opened up a discussion thread the other day about bravery.  Here's a sample comment from whistlewren:
I was brave when Ieft an abusive relationship of seven years last year. 
I had been trying for years. I thought it was just leaving, actually packing my bags and finding a place of safety, that I needed to be brave for. And I did it! I left! I was ecstatic! I was shaking uncontrollably the whole time but I got out that door, and got myself and my two kids to a friend's house. 
Then came all those other things I hadn't counted on. Going to court to apply for restraining order. Going back to court to stand in the same room as my abuser to defend the restraining order. Finding legal advice I could afford. Finding a refuge to stay in when threats to my friend from my ex made it unsafe for us to stay there. Commuting 2 hours to work via public transport each way to work with two kids under five because the only refuge that had space was many suburbs away. Fighting in court for supervision on access visits when my ex started custody proceedings. Not jumping whenever my phone rang. Facing friends, other parents at school, my boss, all of whom now knew everything. Finding a therapist I could afford for my daughter and for me. Having to see and talk to my abuser every week at handover after the supervision period ended and he got unsupervised access. Doing all this while trying to keep up with my study, negotiate extra hours and pay, getting my daughters epilepsy diagnosed and dealing with PTSD, and the general panic of making ends meet, finding childcare, getting more temporary housing... 
It has been a big year :-) I never thought I could do even a half of what I have done. I learnt early on in the year that bravery isn't necessarily about not being scared. Sometimes it's about being so scared you can hardly move, your limbs are shaking so much, but you just breathe as best as you can, do it anyways, and collapse in a heap later on when it is safe to do so. Preferably with friends, and chocolate.
With love,
Frank Lee

1 comment:

  1. Just saw the commercial for the first time tonight during the Superbowl and I was stunned by the time it panned to that quote about bravery.

    Not at all shocked by other YT commenters thinking it was 'romantic,' and 'sweet.'