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Nike Overestimated our Intelligence

20-Sep-2000

Did you catch the Nike commercial that ran during the Olympics? That is, it ran during the Olympics until the image-conscious company responded to protests by yanking it.

The spot opens with a lone woman in shorts and a sports bra at the bathroom sink in a cabin in the woods. As the soundtrack crescendos, a man in a hockey mask bursts through the door wielding a chainsaw. The woman screams and in a moment familiar to anyone who misspent their youth in the darkness of a theater as I did, flees into the night. She hurdles a downed tree and accelerates away from the madman, who by now is panting. In the end, the winded would-be attacker disgustedly quits his pursuit and hobbles away dejectedly. The final tagline is: Play sports. Live longer.

The negative response to this spot was swift and unequivocal. Somehow, it was interpreted as demeaning to women, dismissive of violence aimed at them, even accepting or encouraging it. Nike quickly apologized and promised not to continue airing the advertisement.

WHAT?? I saw the commercial several times and I loved it! Apparently my feminist meter needs recalibrating big-time to let this misogynistic abomination by.

That... or it's not really misogynistic at all. Slasher movies are notorious for characterizing women as weak and as victims, who are punished for expressing any sexuality. This commercial turned the clich´┐Ż on its head by portraying a strong, self-reliant (and sexy) woman thwarting an aggressor with her athletic prowess.

It's apparent to me that the reward of the women's movement (and perhaps every civil rights movement) hasn't been a genuine evolution in the way people regard each other at all. No - the years of attitude adjusting and consciousness-raising seems merely to have produced an army of trained howler monkeys who cannot distinguish a satire from its target. Sadly, Nike made a commercial that was smarter than its audience.

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