Victoria's Secret's Racist Titillation StrategyS

A curious thing about the Victoria's Secret commercials and fashion show: Despite the valiant efforts of everyone involved, the results are decidedly not sexy.

Take the Victoria's Secret holiday 2010 commercial, shot by Michael Bay. The music starts out tentative, light, soft, quiet… and then explodes into a fast, hard-hitting frenzy. The models are shot to be approaching the viewer from a low angle, making them look slightly menacing and larger than life. They're also hanging out in empty, deserted locations — no human contact.

There's no formula to bra advertising — La Senza made boobiful music with a sense of humor; Playtex features "real" women joking about what their bras do for them. But Victoria's Secret treats the woman wearing the bra like an object. Just compare the VS commercial to these car ads, also shot by Michael Bay and dug up by Jacob Hall at Cinematical. The music starts out tentative, light, soft, quiet… and then explodes into a fast, hard-hitting, frenzy. The cars are shot to be approaching the viewer from a low angle, making them look slightly menacing and larger than life. They're also hanging out in empty, deserted locations — no human contact.

The question is, who does Victoria's Secret think its bras are for? Are they for women? Or are they for men to buy for women? Using quick-cuts of models busting out of ill-fitting B-cups points to the latter. And then there's the fashion show — which 9 million Americans watched. Dubbed "A Night Of A Thousand Fantasies," the ensembles were, at best, completely absurd. At worst: Racist.

Kia Miakka Natisse writes for The Grio:

All of the ethnic models got to walk the runway in the wild things segment, replete with "tribal" body paint.

When someone sticks all the models of color into a segment called "wild things" it just subliminally reinforces the racist rule that all non-European cultures are abnormal, odd, wild, and deserving of any and all exoticism. It comes off culturally insensitive and pandering, a cheap way of feeling ethnic and diverse without contributing anything concrete. Better to not single out the small collection of models of color and label them "wild." What makes them so different from any of the other leggy beauties? In the end, they all have boobs, and isn't that what we're here for?

Ah yes, one of the oldest, most reliable male fantasies of all: Not only is the woman an object, she's an exotic creature from a "tribe," who probably doesn't speak English. Feel free to slap a bra on her and treat her anyway you like!

Michael Bay's Explosive New Victoria's Secret Commercial (Plus Our Favorite Bay Ads) [Cinematical]
Why Did Victoria's Secret Brand Black Models 'Wild Things'? [The Grio]
Earlier: Witness The Absurdity Of The Victoria's Secret Show