The Real Message Behind Audi’s Super Bowl Ad Isn’t Exactly An Uplifting One

Is this the daughter of our handsome protagonist? Don’t get it twisted; the dad, not the daughter, is our protagonist. The daughter is an object of desire. Not sexual desire, but objective desire. She’s something you want to have, not the person you want to be. But I doubt this is the daughter. Let’s look at the visual language. She’s got a coarse, chunky prole face, obvious braces, and an old-style varsity jacket. In other words, she’s poor, just like the fat boys. And just in case you can’t read the message, they’ve actually put stripper glitter on her face — or the suggestion of it, at least.

The inclusion of this other girl seems like a staggering error, because she gets dusted right at the start of the race. If this story is about girls overcoming all odds, then having another girl who is at the back of the pack doesn’t serve the narrative. But the narrative, I assure you, is quite operational. Have you figured out yet what this spot is really about? {…}

Well, if you’ve been reading along, I think you’ve figured out what the real message of this Audi advertisement is, but just in case you’ve been napping I will spell it out for you: Money and breeding always beat poor white trash. Those other kids in the race, from the overweight boys to the hick who actually had an American flag helmet to the stripper-glitter girl? They never had a chance. They’re losers and they always will be, just like their loser parents. Audi is the choice of the winners in today’s economy, the smooth talkers who say all the right things in all the right meetings and are promoted up the chain because they are tall (yes, that makes a difference) and handsome without being overly masculine or threatening-looking.

At the end of this race, it’s left to the Morlocks to clean the place up and pack the derby cars into their trashy pickup trucks, while the beautiful people stride off into the California sun, the natural and carefree winners of life’s lottery. Audi is explicitly suggesting that choosing their product will identify you as one of the chosen few. I find it personally offensive. As an owner of one of the first 2009-model-year Audi S5s to set tire on American soil, yet also as an ugly, ill-favored child who endured a scrappy Midwestern upbringing, I find it much easier to identify with the angry-faced fat kids in their home-built specials or the boy with the Captain America helmet.

From: The Real Message Behind Audi’s Super Bowl Ad Isn’t Exactly An Uplifting One

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92 thoughts on “The Real Message Behind Audi’s Super Bowl Ad Isn’t Exactly An Uplifting One

    • I find it personally offensive. As an owner of one of the first 2009-model-year Audi S5s to set tire on American soil,

      No signaling in that sentence tho!

      But he’s a reliable purveyor of an “everyman ideology”, tho, yeah? Sure.

      Post modernism all the way down.

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          • Actually, I take that back. I’m critiquing someone who’s critiquing someone else’s work. Which is pretty consistent with what (I THINK, anyway…) you’re referring too.

            So by that standard, you gotta do some work to establish that the original critique deserves any serious consideration. Non post-modernly, of course. :)

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              • Yeah, I can’t help but see that post-modernist meta-analysis is a bunch of whooey.

                I’ve been pretty consistent on that since you and I started arguing together here at the ole OT.

                I also thought that you, once upon a time, thought that subjective definitions of reality were also problematic for policy, culture and governance, what with all the emphasis on “testability” and so on.

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                • There’s a lot of reality that is nothing but subjective. There’s a lot of it that we say is testable because we don’t want to deal with the fact that our tests are based in a handful of assumptions/axioms that are, themselves, untestable. So we make it testable within our framework of what is testable, but, there are a lot of assumptions that are shared that make those results acceptable.

                  There’s fewer and fewer of those assumptions left.

                  Guess how many of them are left within the field of… what would we say this commercial is in the field of?

                  Sociology?

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                  • So, I take that as you abandoning, and obliquely apologizing for, your reflexive emphasis on “testability” over the last six years whenever a liberal would propose a policy you don’t like.

                    Fair enough.

                    I’m not talking about that tho. I’m talking about rejecting the idea that person gets to make their own semantics for a word, or their own meaning for an action, on the premise that there are NO objective meanings in words or actions and reality actually is subjectively defined.

                    You can go down that road if you want to. I won’t.

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                    • “Testability” is limited to that which is repeatable.

                      If you’re down with that, good. We can move on.

                      I’m talking about rejecting the idea that person gets to make their own semantics for a word, or their own meaning for an action, on the premise that there are NO objective meanings in words or actions and reality actually is subjectively defined.

                      There’s a level of that upon which you and I agree.

                      There’s a level on this which you and I agree that we can’t agree. Like, not because we don’t want to, but, like, in theory.

                      I’m down with us both keeping the former in mind as we interact knowing that the latter is the state of affairs.

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          • That isn’t post modern. That is bills to be paid so gotta put a piece together that is topical and generate clicks. Those Audi’s don’t buy themselves doncha know, well at least they don’t have a robot for that yet.

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              • It’s like i don’t’ even know what post-modern is supposed to mean anymore. The word is unmoored from any commonly agreed upon meaning………….ohhhhh mannnnn.,………head explodes.

                But really, its just bad media analysis.

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                • It’s not the deconstruction of cultural reality, but objective reality. There is no semantic value you can assign to a term that ins’t a “text” which someone interprets as implying (oh, for example) the patriarchy. That’s why you get all the jokes about Newton’s Principia being nothing more than a tool of oppression created by the patriarchy.

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                  • Btw: I say that as someone who believes the patriarchy is real! It’s just that I don’t believe that an analysis of the patriarchy reduces to viewing words as “texts” but instead of the real, actual (non-linguistic) power imbalances that obtain in the world, regardless of how you “textualize” them.

                    Hell, I could “textualize” them away, if I wanted to. Who’d be able to demonstrate I’m wrong with their “texts”???

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                    • Here’s the quotation in full (buy the book!):

                      One phenomenon feminist historians have focused on is the rape and torture metaphors in the writings of Sir Francis Bacon and others (e.g. Machiavelli) enthusiastic about the new scientific method. Traditional historians and philosophers have said that these metaphors are irrelevant to the real meanings and referents of scientific concepts held by those who used them and by the public for whom they wrote. But when it comes to regarding nature as a machine, they have quite a different analysis: here, we are told, the metaphor provides the interpretations of Newton’s mathematical laws: it directs inquirers to fruitful ways to apply his theory and suggests the appropriate methods of inquiry and the kind of metaphyiscs the new theory supports. But if we are to believe that mechanistic metaphors were a fundamental component of the explanations the new science provided, why should we believe that the gender metaphors were not? A consistent analysis would lead to the conclusion that understanding nature as a woman indifferent to or even welcoming rape was equally fundamental to the interpretations of these new conceptions of nature and inquiry. Presumably these metaphors, too, had fruitful pragmatic, methodological, and metaphysical consequences for science. In that case, why is it not as illuminating and honest to refer to Newton’s laws as “Newton’s rape manual” as it is to call them “Newton’s mechanics”?

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  1. Audi is the choice of the winners in today’s economy,

    So what? Doesn’t every product sell itself on supposedly making the buyer prettier, smarter, more popular or smell better?

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  2. I had to watch the ad a couple times on the tiny embedded youtube player to see the “stripper glitter” girl. At first I thought the Golden Daughter was her and I was all “Wait, she doesn’t have braces.”

    Eh, meh. I neither found it awful in the way the TTAC dude did, nor did I find it inspiring at all. Yeah, great, dad. You have an Audi. Hoo-ray and a tiger for you! You’re implying you’re a better person because of the car you chose?

    I found the ad deeply unconvincing. Then again: even when you win the rat race, you’re still surrounded by rats, so.

    I dunno. I remember catching more crap as a kid for a lot of things other than being a girl – being an egghead, having the wrong brand of jeans, being emotionally immature and crying easily. Most of my tormentors were fellow females. That may be why the “poor oppressed girls” rhetoric does not always work that well on me.

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    • Girls and women seem to police their fellow girls and women more than boys and men. There are plenty of boys and men that get tormented by other boys and men for being off but it seems less deep and it doesn’t seem to have the those who deviate in the most minor way fashion.

      A few months ago I was riding the subway home from work and listened to two women speak very disapprovingly of another woman for dating the wrong type of man. The man’s offense? He was short. I can’t think of any similar incident happening with men.

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      • I’ve long said that “girl bullying” (which consists largely of snide comments, backhanded compliments, shunning, and spreading rumors) is worse than “boy bullying.” Not all of my male friends agree with me on that.

        The worst boss I ever had in my life, years and years ago, was a woman. I think women take out their insecurities on other women; that was what was going on there.

        Another thought about the ad: I was probably unconvinced by it because I don’t see a car as a way to signal my virtue or worth as a person. What I want in a car is something that will reliably start up every time I need it to, something that is relatively safe to drive, something that won’t be ruinously expensive to maintain, and something I can haul field gear or a couple weeks’ worth of groceries in. So I’m probably not in Audi’s demographic.

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      • A lot of the male version, back in the day, was about perceived or claimed perception of signs of gayness. Now that gayness is much more widely accepted, I wonder how that plays out.

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  3. Nothing makes me want to become a hermit more than an Internet round of “OMG wasn’t this a super-progressive commercial” followed by someone else saying “Wait actually……”

    Same thing happened with Budweiser….

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      • The funny thing is that I profess to be more capitalist friendly than many of the people I know who get teary-eyed at these ads. My view is that the purpose of an ad is to sell you a product and it will do so by any means necessary.

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    • Budweiser’s ad at least had a connection to company lore. It was a generic founder story even though it was completely inaccurate as actual history. The actual Adolphus Busch was born into a prosperous family and received a very good education by the standards of the time. The Audi ad is just soft pop liberal sentiment.

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          • I didn’t say that conservative businessman wouldn’t buy Audis. I merely stated my assumption that they aren’t the ones buying them currently. Kind of like Volvos, being more commonly associated with liberals. It would be an interesting survey. Let me also add that I didn’t think the ad carried the message that the author seems to think it does.

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    • The essay was written from an odd place politically. It was a combination of the American conservative disdain for coastal elites and classic left-leaning class politics against the wealthy along with Social Justice writing about body-shaming. There was a small but definite MRA tinge to it to.

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  4. I missed all the good adds….I was chatting with the guests. Dammit. Based upon news reports, maybe the game was better than the ads this year :)

    BTW, both the ad and the analysis makes me NOT want to buy an Audi.

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  5. Years ago, back when I worked in an office of a big company, I used to hate the ‘water cooler talk’ about Super Bowl commercials the day after they game, in the same way I hated it when people at Super Bowl parties would tell me they were only there to watch the commercials, not the football game. I remember thinking at the time that surely there was nothing worse than having to hear hours of insipid talk about 30 second Madison Avenue adverts trying to sell you sugar water or cheap beer.

    Now I’m realizing that there is something worse than that: people having deep, serious, artistic and/or political conversations about 30 second Madison Avenue adverts trying to sell you sugar water or cheap beer.

    So, ya know, kudos to this writer who has just managed to cleverly crack Audi’s “people who buy our cars are better than other people” code — or as it’s also know, the basis of pretty much every car commercial ever in the history of the planet.

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  6. I think my biggest problem with the commercial was the editing. None of the big actions scenes had time to breathe–every cut got exactly the same time. “Looking back and forth” reaction shots had just as much time as “drifting around a corner”. I had to watch twice to understand exactly what happened in the handle-brake “car-fu” bit, it’s just “she pulls the brake, then there’s…a dust cloud? Oh, she’s okay now.”

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    • This has been a thing for years. Often you can find the 90-second version of the Super Bowl commercials online. It’s amazing how much better the longer versions are, mostly because of the freedom to edit better. One in particular that stuck out for me was the Mercedes ad with Willem Dafoe as the devil. The 60-second version got the message across and included all the famous people they had paid for but lacked any particular feel; the 90-second version felt like a little piece of properly-done art.

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  7. Oh, dear, I can’t find it anymore, but someone–I think it was The Last Psychiatrist, maybe at their sub-blog–wrote…

    “There are four stages of heroic fantasy. First, you *are* the hero. Then, you *become* the hero. Next, you *could* be the hero if you wanted or needed to. Finally, you *create* the hero.”

    The blog post then goes on to talk about how the demographics of American media consumers suggest that we should look for more fiction of the type where the main character is a mentor for (or savior of) a young person who, as a significant part of the story, performs some powerfully personal act of the sort which the main character advised them on earlier in the story. Often this person will be a girl, but generally they will be at least physically weak compared to the people causing them problems.

    This was done in the context of the movie “Hanna”, but it seems relevant to this Audi commercial.

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