Last night, between watching Steph Curry and the Warriors lose to LeBron James and the Cavaliers, I caught ads for a new ABC drama called Quantico. It’s supposedly about a female FBI agent—though I think it’s really a soft porn? Maybe of the BDSM fantasy sort?
Looking up the non-nude ads for Quantico this morning, the show looks interesting. It follows an FBI recruit-cum-agent named Alex Parrish (played by Priyanka Chopra), who’s framed for the “largest-scale terrorist attack in American history.” Of course, Parrish is innocent and must clear her name.
There’s some 9/11 realism as well as a mystery to solve, plus plenty of sexual tension (she sleeps with a fellow FBI recruit in his car before training without realizing he’s in the program too. Very Grey’s Anatomy!). It’s a show with a strong female lead, and I’m into that. But instead of showing its main character in the suits you might expect of an FBI agent, Quantico chooses the very unexpected and edgy route of hypersexualization. In one commercial Chopra appears nude, seated and draped in an FBI flag. In another, there’s a close-up of her lips and then the camera pans out to her sexy face, then body, dressed in jeans, a white tee and a black leather jacket this time at least, in handcuffs.
I mean, was she undercover as a sex worker? If so, cool. But… according to the trailer above, she wasn’t. So what’s with all the use of her body to sell a show about a terror-based political crime? The close-up of her lips? I literally felt like the ads were asking, “Do you want to sleep with her? You do, right? You should watch this show.” Which if ABC was selling Magic Mike or something, fine—but Quantico is about a terror attack! I should add here that Chopra is not a newcomer, she’s one of the highest-paid Bollywood actresses, winner of the Miss India and Miss World pageants. She released an album in 2013, which included songs with will.i.am and Pitbull. Chopra’s a big deal, known for her beauty and sex appeal, but still.
ABC is my safe haven for TV watching. I skirt IRL plans to watch Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Fresh Off The Boat, Blackish, Nashville. I loved Revenge, an adoration I’ve documented. And I’m not alone. ABC markets and caters to the ladies. We’re (whether we like it or not) probably the reason The View in its recent awful reincarnation is still on air. We, the vaginas, apologize to America. But these Quantico ads felt like ABC was awkwardly trying to see what it might be like to market to dudes, 17.8 million of them.
Here’s how I felt the pitch meeting went:
Executive one: OK, we’re intro’ing the new show during the NBA Finals but it’s Game 3 so no one really cares about the ads, we’ve gotta draw them in.
Executive two: I know it’s a show about the FBI, a quasi 9-11 attack slash murder mystery surrounding a threat to the fabric of America, but let’s make the ads… sexy.
EO: Can we take all of Chopra’s clothes off? Will the censors allow it?
ET: Of course! But we’d have to cover her in something that says Quantico…
EO: A flag?
Come on ABC, I know you had to make a spot that pulled in the gargantuan NBA Finals audience. But that crowd has women too. Can you not?
Contact the author at Hillary@jezebel.com.
Image via ABC.