Here in the feminist blogosphere, we spend a lot of time calling out sexism in the media, especially in advertising. Contrary to popular belief, this is not because we are screeching harridans, but because most mainstream advertising is hella sexist. That’s why I was extra-psyched to see this new Acer electronics ad featuring Megan Fox as a budding marine biologist who is not, at any point, reduced to a piece of ass.
Fox has a reputation for being, well, a fox, which is no doubt why she was asked to do this spot in the first place. She has graced the cover of countless lad mags and landed—and lost—movie roles based on her status as a sex object. However, the Acer commercial flips this notion on its head by showing Fox actively rejecting an underwear photo shoot for a chance to learn to communicate with dolphins. It’s tongue-in-cheek, sure, but it also features a sexy female celebrity with agency who uses her brain power and determination to get a job done instead of biting her lip, unbuttoning that lab coat, and posing for the male scientists in the room while they figure out how to talk to dolphins.
When feminists call out sexism or any other bullshit in pop culture, we often hear something along the lines of, “Lighten up! Companies need to be sexist/racist/homophobic/offensive to sell products. It’s just a joke! NOTHING IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU SCREECHING HARRIDANS.” Though far from perfect—those nerdy scientists aren’t busting up stereotypes by any means—this commercial is the kind of mainstream media that I for one *do* like to see. It’s clever and polished and charming and starring a celebrity spokeswoman (and a celebrity spokesdolphin), and it doesn’t rely on sexism to get the job done. In fact, it upends our sexist expectations and reminds us that there is in fact a way to make media that doesn’t shit on women. Who knew? (We did, obviously. Hi there.)
Of course, some of the coverage of this new Megan Fox ad has already fallen back on tired tropes. AdRants’ Steve Hall put the word “brilliant” in quotes when describing Fox as a scientist (you know, because she is pretty and female and therefore “smart”) and mentioned that he’d like to see Fox in a crop top and a miniskirt again soon. Oh, and that she’s probably doing more legit commercial work because she’s a mom now and therefore needs to cover it up. On the other, non-douchey hand, Fox herself says she did the spot because she loves computers, and because “it gave me an opportunity to show a different side of myself.”
Acer’s previous spot in this campaign featured Keifer Sutherland on a Jack Bauer-style quest for the perfect cupcake. Having a sense of humor and challenging gender norms at the same time! It’s possible, folks—even for mainstream advertisers.
Now how possible do you think that talking dolphin scenario is? Because that would be awesome.