2012 Acura Commercials

These 2012 Acura TL commercials feature two star athletes, Ashleigh McIvor and Calvin Johnson.

I think these commercials were made beautifully. They are refined. They are visually pleasing and well made. The music is good. They’re interesting and get the point across.

But there are also some problems.

The tagline is, “Aggression in its most elegant form.”

Ashleigh McIvor is a Canadian freestyle skier and an Olympic gold medalist. So why is this traditionally beautiful (fit, skinny, blonde, white) female being reduced to her body when her athletic and other accomplishments are so impressive?

The tagline “aggression in its most elegant form” creates the notion that McIvor, like the car, is fundamentally better when she is refined, dressed up–and not doing her thing (actual career, sporty life, etc). Since McIvor is a woman, this notion can be read as applying to all women: Women should be beautiful and only aggressive in a sensual way.

Calvin Johnson is an NFL wide receiver for the Detroit Lions.

All I can say is, way to play to black male stereotypes, Acura! Yes, Johnson gets dressed up. But the African American male body is also stripped and objectified (as only a body). And Johnson is fundamentally linked to aggression through the WASP patriarchal voice over. Everyone knows the stereotype of the violent, aggressive black man, and though Johnson’s career is football, the link is still there.

The fact that these Acura commercials feature only a black man and a white woman is troubling. Additionally, both McIvor and Johnson are dressed by other people; they passively stand in front of the camera, which dilutes their personal agency.

Additionally, these ads glamorize aggression, which, when released in the real world and not in the world of sports, can be destructive.

I’m sure the Acura people meant well, but they widely missed the mark with this ad campaign.

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