September 25, 2008 / Uncategorized

Provocative ads rile Slate bloggers

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This Doesn’t Make Me Want to Vote writes Nayeli Rodriguez on Slate’s XX Factor.

“These ads for Declare Yourself, which feature a gagged and sobbing Jessica Alba, Christina Aguilera, and Andre 3000 among others, are particularly frightening to look at. By the ads’ logic, if I don’t vote I’m essentially submitting myself to a brutal vigilante silencing technique, like having my mouth stapled or bolted shut.”

E.J. Graff agrees: Is This the Message: Kick Me, Beat Me, Tie Me Up!?

“Ewww, Nayeli, I agree with you entirely: Those ads are creepy. Worse than creepy, really: They’re advertising the sexiness of violence against women. Duct-tape her! Sew up her mouth! Dominate that chick! The voting tag line reads as an afterthought to the main message that rape is just soooo hot. Maybe there’s a secret plan to bring out the misogynists while suppressing the women’s vote?”

Now, I admire E. J. Graff, but I have to wonder—what messages are these ads really conveying? The prevalence of images like these—women in prisoner-type situations, where they are terrified, crying, menaced with the threat of physical and sexual violence—has exploded in recent years, particularly since the revelation of the events at Abu Ghraib and the detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo. It’s as if our national consciousness has internalized the idea of itself as a torturer, a prison guard, a violator, and it is trying to work it out in porn and in torture porn films like Captivity and Hostel and Hard Candy.

I find those films and those images appalling, and yet I can see how the Declare Yourself ads fit perfectly into our present cultural context. Do some of us not feel that America has been held hostage by the Bush administration, which committed acts in our name that we could scarcely have imagined eight years ago?

Those ads seem quite appropriate to me, in a visceral, in-your-face kind of way. I get the message loud and clear.

Here’s a video spot from Free Your Vote in the same spirit:

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