Save the Children USA have commissioned an advert depicting a fake shoot where models are asked to say generic cheesy lines in a “sexy” way, and as the advert continues the models are presented with lines giving facts about violence against women and children and asked to read them in a “sexy” way, too. The models discover that they can’t, and the director eventually stops pretending that facts about violence can be convincingly verbalised in a sexy way and everyone learns the lesson that despite not being a topic that lends itself easily to breathy, intimate whispers, violence against women and children is still an important issue.
I don’t get it. I mean, I do get that violence against women and children isn’t sexy. By the same token, pensioners freezing to death aren’t sexy. Being detained in Guantanamo Bay isn’t sexy. Iain Duncan Smith isn’t sexy. Toe fungus isn’t sexy. There are so many things that aren’t sexy in this world that we can still manage to talk about without having tits jiggled in our face first, and I had always been under the impression that violence against children was one of them.
The whole premise of the advert is weird. The conceit is that it is a real shoot with real models responding genuinely to a real director, who has for some reason been asked by somebody to get some sexualised sound bytes referring to violence against women and children. This is a situation that, were it happening in real life, would be indicative that some sort of weirdo was making something creepy and trying to pass it off as art. A lot of people would suspect that a person who would commission such a project probably had negative issues to do with violence against women and children, seeing as they are literally asking for violence against women and children to be sexualised.
I’m unsure as to how showing such a completely improbable scenario (people being asked to make dry facts about violence against women and children sound sexy), in a moral climate that already baulks at the notion of sexualising that sort of violence – particularly the element of it directed at children – is in any way helping to deepen the cultural understanding of this sort of violence. A cynical person – and I admit! I’m one of those – might even go as far as to say that the sexualised angle was one designed merely to cause controversy in order to generate more attention for both the Save the Children charity and the production company who made the advert.
Some might say that Save the Children are a charity that do lots of work with victims of violence and therefore there’s nothing wrong with using viral marketing techniques in order to raise awareness and donations, as the victims they are talking about in the advert will get more help and support because of the advert. However, it’s my view that a charity should not be engaging in even cautious sexualisation of violence against women and children without being able to show how the depiction is helping the victims of that violence. An anti-bullying PSA (for example) might show dramatized violence, but it will come with the message that “bullying is wrong”. This advert does not tell us that sexualising violence against women and children is wrong, it tells us that it’s a difficult thing for some people to do, but that doesn’t mean that violence against women and children isn’t an important subject deserving our attention.
An entirely morally vacant sentiment and one that does nothing for the victims of the violence described, even if some of the money generated by the advert’s publicity does.