Ad Space: Patriarchy – Brought To You By Xerox

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Xerox copier machines

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
Makes office work so easy, even your bimbo secretary can do it.

This 1960’s ad is what we, in our modern vernacular, call “problematic”.

Now, yes, it’s clearly tongue-in-cheek. It’s playing off the cliché of the ditzy female secretary who’s hired to be an object of lust for her male boss, but it’s not seriously suggesting that men should buy Xerox copiers to make that a reality, no more than Red Bull is suggesting it’ll literally grow you a pair of wings. That sort of hyperbole is just standard practice for commercials.

The thing is, while the ad is clearly aware that a secretary kept around solely to please the boss’s libido is a fantasy … its attitude towards that fantasy is “But wouldn’t it be great if that’s how things really did work?” So, yes, problematic.

What really fascinates me about the ad are the cadences of the woman’s speech. In trying to sound as pleasing as possible to men, she enters into some unnerving territory. Her speaking manner is one part breathy sexpot, one part obedient robot … and one part confused little girl. You could write a whole college thesis on why that combination exists, but I don’t have time for that here.