Remember that icky 80s duet between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, duelling over a girl both claimed “to be mine”? Well, Toyota went ahead and made an even creepier version for their latest Kluger TVC, in which a grown man and a 10 year-old battle over the boy’s mum.
The premise goes: European-styled car is driven through the city by European-styled woman. She, and the car, catch the eye of a suave man on the sidewalk, and he gives her an appreciative eyeball – until her son, in the backseat, winds down his window and delivers a possessive glare that somehow admonishes and turns off the man, all at once.
10 negative Bechdel points should be awarded just for the phallic lipstick shot alone.
This woman has been written both as an object of desire and an object of possession, with zero personal agency. As far as the ad is concerned, she exists solely to chauffeur her son around and get perved on.
In the eyes of a male writer, perhaps these alone are noble-enough traits for a woman to hold. But characterising her as a possession who has no personal agency beyond that determined by the men around her is both problematic and harmful for audiences to watch. What does this ad tell little boys about their mums? What does this ad tell men about women? And worst of all, what does this ad tell girls and women about themselves?
Being an object of beauty for the consumption and ownership of men is not a grand aspiration, nor a worthy one, yet that is exactly what the crux of the narrative implies.
Women are more than props in the lives of men. Let’s start writing them that way.