While I generally enjoy at least some of the Super Bowl ads every year – the eTrade ads come to mind – this year there was one ad that I not only did not enjoy, it infuriated me. That would be the Teleflora Valentine’s Day ad.
Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima was the sultry star of this ad. And while many people thought it was either drool-worthy or funny, I could not believe the message given to the thousands of viewers last Sunday evening.
Lima is pictured getting ready for a date. She slowly pulls on her stockings, applies lipstick, glancing provocatively at the camera on and off throughout this routine.
That is, in my opinion, bad enough. But I admit that I have become so used to those sorts of images on screen and in print that it barely registered with me. The rub was in the punch line.
At the end of the advertisement, Lima is shown with a vase of flowers. She looks at the camera and says, “Guys, Valentine’s Day is not that complicated. Give and you shall receive.”
I thought I had seen it all. Apparently not.
I was furious! In one of the most watched events on television, women had just been told that indeed, good treatment by a man – gifts, a nice date, etc. – demands payback. And payback equates to some sort of sexual favor!
It was insulting to our intelligence. Apparently women are the sorts of creatures that can easily be teased into sexual acts of one form or another by something as small as a bouquet of flowers. Sounds like Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of porridge.
But worse yet, it was insulting to our humanity both as males and females. Are men really so tied to their genitals that they would stoop to giving gifts merely to get sexual pleasure in return? This isn’t about oneness or fellowship with another human being but merely purchasing pleasure with dinner and roses? Is that a fair portrayal of men? They don’t really care about enjoying an evening with a woman unless there is some physical reward at the end of the night?
The female side of this all should be obvious. Are we merely objects that can be purchased with a night out and a bouquet? Are we, in fact, for sale? And if we receive something beautiful from a man, does that mean we owe something to him?
Relationally, is this the sort of ‘give and take’ that we are talking about when we think about equal partnership? Are male/female relationships to be characterized by mutual self-giving or by the exchange of products, like everything else in the marketplace?