There's a new video featuring supermodel Bar Refaeli as the victim of a date-rape drug, but it's not a PSA warning about the dangers of Rohypnol. Rather, it's an ad for a new Israeli app designed to help diners pay their restaurant and bar tabs more quickly.
The original video, left, ends with an apparently drugged Refaeli being led into a darkened room at a restaurant by the waiter who has drugged her. He places her on a counter and stands in front of her, brandishing a large knife, which he sharpens dramatically, with a comically crazed expression on his face. Elsewhere in the room, several other women are seen bound and gagged.
The first part of the video isn't much better. It features a waiter who, having noticed Refaeli eating alone, tries frantically to woo her throughout her meal. When he realizes his efforts (which have included singing and swearing, and uninvited touching) have all failed, the waiter tells Refaeli that he's put poison in her food. The scene in the back room with the knife follows.
When the Times contacted MyCheck to ask what they were thinking, the company edited out the final 20 seconds of the Youtube version of the video that featured the scene in the darkened room -– but left the entire clip untouched in the Hebrew version on their own website. MyCheck CEO Shlomit Kugler said "Our aim is to entertain, not to hurt anyone's feelings," adding that "personally, I think it is very funny."
As tech writer Matthew Kalman told the Times, Kugler's claim that the video is funny illustrates an old problem in the Israeli high tech industry: the gap between technical sophistication and basic social awareness. "They simply don't understand the mindset of the people they're trying to sell that technology to," he said. In this instance, at least, that's an understatement. Leaving aside the total unacceptability of playing rape (and, given the knife, perhaps murder) for laughs, it's not clear how the ad highlights the MyCheck product. Perhaps the point is that women have a better chance of escaping predatory waiters by paying the bill remotely using the app? If so, it's a bit of an oversell.
The video isn't just an advertisement; Kugler claims that it's designed to help Refaeli "launch her acting career." MyCheck's CEO ought to know better; Refaeli (who was for years romantically linked to Leonardo DiCaprio) already has an acting career, having starred in the Israeli TV series Pick Up in 2005 and the 2011 English-language thriller, Session in Israel.
Refaeli isn't just a hired model-cum-actress for MyCheck. She's an investor, part of a team that has sunk $1.7 million into the company. On Tuesday, she tweeted about "my new startup MyCheck" coming to New York. Whatever the disastrous thinking behind the MyCheck video, it seems that unlike her character in the clip, Refaeli was fully consenting to its creation.